Belittling your competition

I was recently exchanging notes over email with the CEO of one of our startups’ main competitors. After talking about why we’re taking a particular approach in the market, he responded by saying that it was because of actions like this that he didn’t even consider our company to be a competitor.

This reminds me of the following interview with Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer from 2007. The interviewer asks Steve what he thinks about Apple’s new iPhone and Steve simply laughs it off, stating “$500, fully subsidized with a plan, I said that is the most expensive phone in the world, and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine”. Granted, Steve acknowledges that the iPhone may sell very well later in the interview.

Steve’s attitude when asked about his competitor is to belittle them. This is the same attitude which our startup’s competitor has towards us.

When someone displays a condescending attitude, it’s useful to ask why this is the case. If you didn’t think that someone was credible competition, you would either ignore them or dismiss them kindly. The fact that you’re being condescending suggests that you want to hurt them and this would only be the case if they’re a significant threat.

As Steve’s interview shows, when someone belittles their competition it says more about the fragility of their company than the performance of the competitor. Our startup is in a great position.

Also published on Medium.