Jason Fried

March 5, 2021

An alternative to competition

Businesses love to compete. To beat, to win, to go 1-0.

We don't.

I have no interest in competing with anyone.

And we don't frame internal decisions in a competitive way.

Business has never been about competition for me.

Market watchers may think HEY competes with Gmail, but we don't think that way.

Gmail has nearly 2 billion users. We'll be extraordinarily fortunate if we ever get to even 0.01% of that.

Gmail has ~40% marketshare. HEY will never even register a blip on the marketshare radar.

Gmail accounts for ~27% of email opens. HEY's percentage would have many zeros in front of it.

By any traditional metric, we lose. And we'll keep losing. One loss after another. We are literally losers.

Which is why I don't think in terms of wins/losses. I don't think about competing. Competition is for sports, it's not for business.

HEY is simply an alternative for those who really care about their email, their privacy, their personal data, their time, their attention, and control over the way they communicate.

And all we have to do is get enough customers to make our business work. That's it. That's how we stay alive. Not by taking marketshare away from anyone, not by siphoning off users, not by spending gobs of cash to convince people to switch. We simply have our own economics to worry about, and if we get that right, we're golden.

When you think of yourself as an alternative, rather than a competitor, you sidestep the grief, the comparison, the need to constantly measure up. Your costs are yours. Your business operates within its own set of requirements. Your reality is yours alone.

Gmail would be a failure at HEY's numbers, and yet, for us, HEY is a roaring success. See the difference? We can't compete with Gmail on their own terms, and they can't compete on ours. Sports has universal rules both sides follow. Business doesn't.

Business is not a sport. But it is fun.

I pulled the Gmail stats from this article.

About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.