Wednesday, August 14, 2013

To compete, or to collaborate?

When you're doing something worth doing, you inevitably run into someone else doing something similar.

Back in late spring this year, when I had just decided I'd take some time off from work to work in eHealth instead and started to plan the product, I learned that Mendor Balance was being installed to the clinic I visit for my diabetes treatment. My first reaction was "Oh crap, the clinic won't get another system any time soon, now that they just invested in one." After the initial shock I came into the conclusion that the clinic adopting new software and new practices is actually a very good thing, and ended up helping Mendor to support my glucose meter as well.

Even if they operate in the same market and license a software product, they are not directly competitors. They concentrate on different things and have different goals. And they do contribute well to building better tools for diabetics. I'm really quite happy they exist.

Another shock came after I updated my LinkedIn profile, indicating what I'm planning to do. An old LinkedIn contact sent me a message telling he has a company and they have been implementing quite a similar solution for some time already. My initial reaction: "Oh crap, I've made my market analysis and couldn't find anything like this." Again, I needed to take a step back and look at it from a positive angle.

First of all, competition validates the business idea. Someone else also believes what I'm about to do is worth doing.

Second, my vision reaches much further than the features of the product I'm planning to build first, during a few months. That product will combine all data relevant to a diabetic's condition into a coherent package. It would actually be ideal if that product would already exist. Then I could enter directly to the next level, where I can analyze those data and develop algorithms that help interpreting them.

So I called the LinkedIn contact, and we had a meeting yesterday. They have been in stealth mode, developing their product, but are now coming out in the public with it. We found out we're after pretty much the same goals, but with some differences in our approaches. Their solution requires all the information to be entered via a mobile application, whereas I want the data to be available automatically from the devices that already have it. I would like to allow many different devices and applications to be able to contribute to the data set, whereas their solution is more closed and controlled. Finally, they don't have a diabetic on board in the company, rather only have a doctor specialized in diabetes as an advisor. They are also running a trial with diabetics, I hope they'll learn from it.

I loved some parts of their product, though, and would like to cooperate with them. I think it would certainly help me get to my goals faster. We did not decide anything yet, as they need some time to think things through. But we'll keep in touch. Interesting times ahead. And I should still meet with Mendor as well, to discuss possible cooperation with them.

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