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To All The Davids Fighting Their Goliaths…

It’s inevitable, unavoidable, inescapable, and bound to happen. Chances are that at some point, many entrepreneurs will face their Goliath. And it will be a fight for the survival of… biblical proportions.

Not in all cases, the challenge will stem from an adversarial and deliberate attempt to crush the nimble competitor. As Aaron Dinin recently wrote in The Founder of Vimeo Taught Me How to Compete Against a Huge Company Like Google — “Your startup won’t be able to take down a company like Google, but you can still build something incredible with the right strategy”

And Aaron explains: “Imagine you’re an entrepreneur busy building your startup. It’s in a fast-emerging industry, and lots of companies are competing to be the market leader. Everything seems to be going well for your startup and it’s growing nicely when, out of seemingly nowhere, Google comes along and buys your biggest competitor.

Your competition went from being roughly on the same level as you to suddenly having the resources of one of the largest and most powerful companies on the planet. Now what? How does a small, underfunded, poorly-resourced startup compete against an enormous business like Google?

Back in the early days of online video, Vimeo and YouTube were direct competitors. In fact, Vimeo was first to the video sharing market, but YouTube started getting more traction, Google bought them, and, as they say, the rest is history. YouTube went on to firmly establish itself as the world’s number one video sharing platform”.

Now, I don’t know if Vimeo ever approached Google and talked about a possible collaboration before Google acquired YouTube. Only Jake Lodwick, the CEO of Vimeo at that time will know. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, a happenstance, and not the classical “Machiavelli Maneuver”…

But if not, entering into a critical strategic negotiation with a Goliath and being prepared to make a sharp U-turn if needed — makes a lot of sense to me. Is being able to pivot before your startup falls off the cliff such a bad idea? It is not — and having a Plan B doesn’t make you paranoid, either….

So, to paraphrase the legendary song by The Who “Tommy Can You Hear Me” — I can say with utmost certainty: “I can hear you, I can feel you, and I can see you”. We have all been there — so, consider your concerns… validated.

Moreover, according to Oprah, it’s all about the… “VALIDATION” anyway. As Melanie Curtin so succinctly summarized in her recent Inc. post:

“When Oprah spoke on career, life, and leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, she touched on this. In particular, she said that all your arguments come down to three questions, and three questions only:

  • Did you hear me?
  • Did you see me?
  • Did what I say mean anything to you?

Oprah talked to nearly 30,000 people and all 30,000 had one thing in common. Whether they were a firefighter or a Ph.D., a dental hygienist or a software engineer — they all wanted validation”.

Now, I agree with Myladie Stoumbou, Sr Regional Director, Partner Development for ISVs, Innovation & ScaleUps at @Microsoft that “as we enter a new age of deep tech, with every industry set to be transformed by new technologies like AI, blockchain, IoT and quantum, more and more agile corporates will be looking to the startup world for inspiration and innovation. On startup side, partnering with corporates will offer access to more opportunities”.

In her recent post: “Dispelling the myth of David vs Goliath… or startups vs corporations”, Myladie speaks about “Mindset shift: From increased competition, to increased competitiveness”. And I am thrilled to see the new direction Microsoft is taking to achieve it. But it hasn’t always been like that in the past…

30 years ago, my AI company, International Neural Machine, developed a neural network OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software. It was very fast and extremely accurate at converting scanned pages of text into a Word file. And our “NeoroTalker” s/w was especially good at processing low-resolution fax pages…

Of course, we had a few established competitors such as OmniPage or TextBridge from Xerox. But since we didn’t use a bloated rule-based approach to character recognition — our code was small and compact.

Soon enough, our s/w boxes were carried by giant distributors such as Tech Data — but we had even more ambitious distribution plans in mind. So, we approached Microsoft…

We offered to bundle our floppy disks with Microsoft’s Office boxes — for mere pennies a pop. The plan was for us to make a killing by the sheer volume of Office packages being shipped.

I still remember our bewildered looks at Microsoft’s “official” response to our offer. They said: we like your s/w and will gladly distribute it with the Office. However, we will CHARGE YOU $1 for every copy we ship…

On the one hand, in some way, we were flattered by Microsoft’s response. On the other hand, our cash reserves were non-existent at the time. And the VC industry was not as generous and as forgiving 30 years ago — as it is today…

So, we passed — but a few weeks later, Microsoft announced that they will offer free OCR s/w with their Office. And to add insult to injury, their s/w was coming from our sworn competitor…

And this is where my U-turn rules for fighting the Goliaths came in handy. We decided to port our compact s/w on embedded devices instead of PCs — because we could, and our bloated competitors couldn’t…

Soon afterward, our OCR was successfully running on a basic ARM processor, and we licensed it to a Swedish company, C Technologies, that was selling “CPen” devices across Europe.

It was a pen-like, battery-operated scanner, allowing you to scan the business card and populate your favorite Contact Manager with the scanned data. A few years later, C Technologies even received the Product of the Year award from the EU…

In Summary:

Instead of waving your sling and head-on fighting with industry giants, focus on the quality of your pivot — whether you’ll need it, or not…

In my book, there are only 2 rules to fight such a Goliath:

1) Rule number 1 — DON’T PANIC

2) Rule number 2 — NEVER forget rule number 1

And let’s all hope that the “Mindset Shift” Myladie is talking about is for real this time…

For More Information

Please see my additional posts on Linkedin, Twitter, Medium, and CGE’s website.

AI Boogeyman

You can also find additional info in my book on amazon: “AI Boogeyman — Dispelling Fake News About Job Losses”, and on our YouTube Studio channel… Thank you.

“BODs Serve Investors, Advisory Boards Are CEOs’ Best Friends”

  • Imitation works best in karaoke bars, not in business. To escape the competition, businesses need to constantly reinvent. So, I join Advisory Boards and “unlock” Radical Innovation.
  • Helping the CEOs to escape the competitive floods — is what I do. If product descriptions qualified as IP, Business Development (BD) would have been easy. The problem is that all the competitors can use the same narratives.
  • No amount of branding, marketing, and wordsmithery is going to suffice w/o utilizing BusinessAI™ — the strategies I specifically designed to achieve BD excellence.
  • As a 30-yr BusinessAI™ veteran, I offer unmatched BD investment advice to VCs, PEs, and their portfolio companies. In many cases, I also Propose, Design, Structure, Finance, and Deploy state-of-the-art Joint Ventures to bring RAPID REVENUES — just as I did w/ Verizon already 20-yrs ago…
  • As a founder of Canada Green ESCO Inc. (CGE), I used BusinessAI™ strategies in CleanTech and focused on fighting Climate Change and Environmental Risks — dealing with stranded assets at the largest utilities. In total, CGE raised $1B+ in project finance linked to solar (utility-scale and distributed), wind, geothermal, Waste-To-Energy (WTE), energy efficiency, and more.
  • My pattern recognition abilities allow me to see what is still missing & how to maximize business offerings & profitability. And as a coach & mentor, I bring unparalleled business savvy to separate the wheat from the chaff…
  • What I learned over the years is that it is not just technology innovation that makes all the difference. Business Model Innovation is as disruptive as Technology Innovation and yet I see too many companies focused on pushing their product out the door — while losing ~70% of untapped revenue streams.
  • So, you can call me: “The Midas of Business Development (BD) Innovation™” as my advice is “worth its weight in gold” — at least to some open-minded CEOs…

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Oleg Feldgajer

Oleg Feldgajer

I used #AI in #Technology, #Finance, & #Renewable #Energy for 30-yrs. Now, I help #VC/#CVC during due diligence of AI investments & advise their portfolio Cos.