Answer by Jason M. Lemkin, co-founder/CEO, EchoSign, NanoGram Devices, on Quora,

Well, you probably can't make it in a large, crowded market if you have "no new innovative product offering."

But take a pause.

Large, crowded markets are good. That means you can scale quickly--if, if, you hit it.

But, in a crowded market, you probably have to be 10x better than the current market leaders. Not 10x better than past leaders. How do you do that? The market already has great products.

So, redefine the 10x:

  • Can you be 10x better just for one vertical or segment? For sales? For finance? For procurement? For small businesses? For very large businesses? Can you be 10x more "secure" than the competition? E.g., you don't have to be 10x better than Salesforce in every way to build a $100m ARR businesses. You just have to be 10x better at some small part of CRM.
  • Can you be 10x better for where the market is going, not for where it is today? Can you be 10x better on tablets? 10x better on phablets? 10x better on Bitcoin? 10x better outside the U.S.?
  • Can you put together a 10x better team? This is very hard, but if you can do it, it does work. An epic team can outsell, out-close, and ultimately, out-innovate the competition.
  • Can you be 10x better if you are 10x narrower? Or 2.5x broader? Maybe just do one piece of what the competition does, but do that piece 10x better. Or do it all, but only one piece really well, a piece the competition doesn't highlight. And highlight that piece like crazy. Or maybe the market wants a product that does more than the competition. Not just CRM, but CRM+Billing. Not just invoicing, but expense reports+invoicing. I don't know. But as markets get bigger, and more established, there's more room for players who also do more.

The bigger the market, the more opportunity there is to take just a segment, a slice, and be 10x better. You don't have to be 10x better than everything if the competition is a billion+ in revenue.

One thing that is tough is to be just cheaper, at least in the enterprise. Changing the fundamental economics of a whole category can be great. But just cheaper? It's hard to just be 10x cheaper. Even if you can pull it off ... at least in the enterprise, in B2B ... you'll look ... cheap. No one wants a Yugo. Not really.

...

Innovation is a fine thing, but here are some examples of products that entered a market already crowded with what amounted to basically the same product:

1. Google was not the first search engine.
2. Facebook was not the first social network.
3. LinkedIn was not the first job board.
4. Gmail was not the first email site.
5. Quora was not the first Q&A site.
6. iPod was not the first portable music player.
7. iPad was not the first tablet.

The list goes on. If you boil it down to the basics though, you'll see that what these products had in common was that they zoomed in on the essence of their product, and executed relentlessly.

1. Google focused on simplicity, speed, and relevance.
2. Facebook focused on transplanting entire college networks into Facebook, thus ensuring that their early users would always find someone they know.
3. LinkedIn focused on building dynamic resumes and user acquisition.
4. Gmail focused on speed, security, and a large storage space.
5. Quora focused on simplicity and a social graph.
6. iPod focused on simplicity and attractiveness.
7. iPad focused on user friendliness, simplicity, and building a dynamic app store.

*Note that the prevailing trend here is simplicity.

So entering a crowded market is not the question. The main question should be:

What value can you add to the existing market?

Answer that, then work your arse off in pursuit of that added value.

How do I survive in already crowded market (without any new innovative product offering) as entrepreneur?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Published on: Sep 5, 2014