I’ve had a couple of personal cases lately where I was amused by a discussion of “competitors.”
They both went something like this: “Oh, them? Yeah, we’re not really competitors.” In each case, the company blogged how they weren’t really competitors, but just happened to have some of the same customers. They were really very different, they said. Hell, they even kinda liked the other guys, they were cool too. The market just didn’t understand the distinctions yet.
And in both cases, the market clearly viewed them as competitors. Not casual competitors, but major, direct, head-to-head, winner-takes-all type of competitors.
You do of course have the choice of whether or not to recursively ignore the ignorance of the market. Very consciously and strategically, you may choose to not expend energy worrying about a particular competitor because you have a different vision. In this case, you are basically saying “I don’t care about that (non) competitor.”
The deep (and I would think incredibly obvious) thought for startups is that the market (and not you) will define who your competition is. With markets, we know perception is all that matters.
Given that this is the case, you should be able to grasp that you have absolutely no control over who your competitors are going to be.
And the fact that they’re there should actually be reassuring.
None of this changes the fact that you simply must execute by listening, reacting, taking chances, measuring, and just making customers so generally happy that they’re downright annoying when they gush about you so much.
Arguing about whether or not a particular company is actually a competitor (or not) is such a waste of energy. Just go kick their ass, right along with everybody else’s.