Stop comparing yourself to other startups!

This post was inspired by a tweet of mine:

The “Y for X” Collections

Currently the trend is most commonly used when describing new startups focused on the on-demand economy.

It’s so popular that even Product Hunt has gotten in on the action. They’ve got three of these collections on the site, Airbnb for X, Uber for X and Birchbox for X.

Here’s how Product Hunt describes these collections:

Airbnb for X
Live your life with this collection of collaborative consumption services

Uber for X
A collection of on-demand services to save you time

Birchbox for X
Get anything in a box, every month.

I also did some quick searches on Google. I was surprised to see that there are 870,000 search results for “Airbnb for X”, 117,000 search results for “Uber for X” and 36,100 search results for “Birchbox for X”. Seems like a popular way to describe certain groups of startups.

Them for X Equals Us

Even founders are describing their startups using these analogies utilizing successful later stage startup names:

[Insert High Growth Startup Name Here] for X

This approach makes the receiver of the analogy compare your startup to whatever their understanding is of those other companies.

What Investors Hear

When you compare your startup to another one it can marginalize your startup in investor’s eyes. Even though these examples are doing 8, 9 or even 10 digits in revenue they don’t have the lion’s share of their market, aren’t public yet and still have a ton of growth ahead. If you start by comparing yourself to these other companies, it can make you seem smaller than you can be to potential investors. It’s better if the investor comes to these analogies on their own with the mindset that those comparison startups are high growth companies that haven’t reached their full potential yet.

What Consumers Hear

When you use analogies with your own customers you might have to explain what the other startup does especially outside of the bay area and major cities. They might not have heard of Uber, Airbnb or Homejoy yet. Uber is currently available to 43% of the US population. Airbnb has had over 17 million total guests. These companies are still growing and haven’t interacted with the majority of consumers yet.

There’s a Better Way

Describe the problem you solve for your customers. It’ll help investors and consumers more than an analogy based on another startup they may or may not have heard about. Even these successful startups that are used as comparisons began focused on a target group of people for both supply and demand. So they initially focused their marketing on just a specific segment of their overall market and seemed like small opportunities to investors.

It’s very likely you are solving an important problem for customers and you have a point of view on your business. It’s that point of view that you should be emphasizing when describing your company.