Allen Iverson played shooting guard in the NBA for fourteen seasons. At 5’11” and 165 lbs., he played each game at a striking disadvantage. Nonetheless, he was the most intimidating player in the league. A columnist once wrote:
“Iverson plays with a compelling, hostile, bloodthirsty energy that other players just don’t have. He’s relentless in every sense of the word. He’s a warrior…so fast and coordinated that it genuinely defies description.”
With 450 million basketball players worldwide, Iverson’s relentlessness was remarkable. While he was faster and better-coordinated than certain players, his will to compete was unparalleled.
In our view, being relentless in the face of adversity is a singular characteristic of successful founders. At the moment, Mattermark counts over 500,000 private companies across various sectors. In concentrated sectors such as enterprise collaboration, there may be 100 startups competing for the scarce attention of customers, employees and investors.
So how can you differentiate your company among so many competitors? One answer is to differentiate based on your will to compete. While other startups may have advantages in absolute intelligence, technical competence or personal connections, your ability to be relentless is within your control. Never let anyone outcompete you.
This characteristic is also necessary in the face of setbacks. Every startup experiences setbacks:
- Customers who abandon your product
- Employees who leave for another opportunity
- Investors who finance a rival
However, your will to compete enables you to progress in the face of adversity.
A journalist once asked Allen Iverson: “If you had any advice for a young player in the League right now, what would it be?” His answer:
“Just giving all you got. That’s the only thing you can ask for from somebody that’s doing anything. S**t, if you’re talking to a girl, give all you got. All your best lines, use ‘em. Don’t save ‘em! Use ‘em. In anything you do, any story you write, make it your best one. Make it to whereas you feel like it’s your last one. God might not open your eyes the next day.”