I have recently listened to a podcast from The Knowledge Project where Shane Parrish, the author of the Farnam Street blog interviewed Basecamp CEO and co-founder Jason Fried. During the interview, Jason mentioned that he doesn't care much for what competitors are doing. Instead, he focuses on his goals and pursues the chosen path as he sees fit.
I've seen this position expressed in the past. It seems to be related to a popular position in the startup world, which says that competition doesn't really matter. Instead, it's the team and the execution that are most important. Many of today's leading companies started as small competitors of much larger players, suggesting that worrying about competition is not necessarily useful for a young company (if you ignore the survivorship bias).
As we work on our product, especially in the light of the change in focus I mentioned previously, we notice many similarities with existing products from established players. We didn't intend to compete against them and their space is just a transition phase for us as we execute our vision. But it so happens that the early version of our product seems like "yet another" product in their market. This leads to involuntary comparisons against those players and their products and the question "How does X do this?" comes up a lot. Since we never planned to end up in this market, I feel reluctant to draw these comparisons.
I feel that if we compare ourselves too much with these products, we will end up replicating too much stuff that doesn't serve our mission. It's like being a 5th-grader taking a school test. You write your test and think you've got it all right. But then you take a peek at what the pupil next to you has written and the answers are different from yours, so you sit there trying to figure out if you've got to change your answers or ignore all that stuff. Being a startup founder, self-doubt comes with the territory. It takes a lot of self-discipline to ignore external noise and stay the course. The biggest challenge will come from investors. They always ask, "What is stopping X from doing the same thing?" I discussed this a few months ago so I won't go over this again. We'll just have to tie ourselves to the mast as we navigate these treacherous waters.