The Benefit of Having Nothing

When it comes to competing with established companies, start-ups have one HUGE advantage; they have nothing. They have no history. They are historically broke. They have nothing to protect.

One of the challenges established companies face is fear of losing what they have. Established companies have revenue, customers, market share, and historical performance. Having stuff like this creates and interesting tension. It forces a difficult question. What do you focus on, protecting what you have or working on getting more.

Start-ups have one singular focus — growing. They don’t have to worry about protecting what they have. There is no fear of losing what they have–they don’t have anything. This singular focus is a HUGE advantage. The tension established companies have doesn’t exist.

You see this a lot. Companies faced with diminishing revenue, lost customers, eroding market share focus on how to stop the bleed, how to protect themselves from losing. Goals, investment, efforts, and rallying cries focus on how to stop the bleeding, how to not lose. They stop trying to win.

I think this is an interesting dynamic. It’s the competitive underpinning to why start-ups can be so disruptive. They have a “nothing to lose” mentality. This allows them to place big bets, take chances, shun the status quo and more; all the things that make innovation possible. There is nothing tethering their thinking. They have a singular focus — grow!

When you have something to protect, innovation, taking chances, creativity, put at risk what you have. Because of this we avoid them. The result, less innovation and creativity.

Like a team down 3-0 in a best of 7 series, start-ups have nothing to lose. This puts them in a very competitive postion. It’s an advantage.

If establish companies could keep this in mind, it would allow them to keep the advantage they have of being an established company.

I think Apple thinks this way. However, now that their market cap has surpassed that of Microsoft, will they stay that way? Will Microsoft keep trying to protect what they have or look forward.

Having nothing is a great advantage. Having something can be an albatross if you let it.

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