I have no competition. This is a common phrase usually issued by academics and first-time entrepreneurs. The statement spurs eye rolling snort and laughter among sophisticated listeners. Why? Because there is no such thing as no competition, it's simply doesn't exist. There's always competition, even if the competition is the status quo. Think about this. If you've identified a real problem, there are existing solutions already. Yes, they may be partial solutions, ineffective solutions, or hypothetical solutions, but they are solutions. Sometimes, the current solution is simply the status quo. In order for your solution to become de rigueur, you must identify how you are superior to the competition. Which means that you need to know the competition, who, and what is your competition? Research on the competition will give you the answer. If you dive into how the problem is solved today, you'll discover the competition. Realize that you have to look beyond other laboratory projects and identify the products and services that are already in the market solving or failing to solve the problem. You should investigate both direct and indirect competitors. Direct competitors are likely using a similar technology approach and have a solution that may be different in how it works, but it's similar in its approach to the problem. Indirect competitors may have a solution that is very different. In fact, they may view the problem in a very different way than you and other direct competitors. As you conduct competitive research, you need to analyze the different solutions, their strengths, their weaknesses, what are they doing well, what are they not doing so well. Find out why they are not solving the problem in the way that you envision. You may find opportunities that the competition doesn't focus on because of constraints that they perceive. Maybe the market is too small for them, they lack the technical expertise, or they are committed to an existing product. Perhaps, they don't see the opportunity in the first place, or they cannot change or adapt quickly. Identify precisely how current solutions are not adequate, and why there's room in the market for the solution you are offering. That room in the market it's an unmet need. You have to be clear that current solutions are not doing the job of solving that unmet need. One tool to analyze competition is to examine the barriers to entry. These are barriers put up by your competition intentionally or unintentionally to stop others including you from getting into the market. Barriers to entry might include intellectual property such as patents which can lock you out or create freedom to operate difficulties. Partner relationships or contracts that might make it difficult or impossible to get customers. The fact that your competitor was first to market and already has an established customer base, the high cost to customers of switching solutions, or a high cost of entry for you. If you get to market, you need to develop your own barriers. These are barriers to the competition. They're how you, once you're in the market will stop competitors from getting into the market. They might be the same list, but maybe there are other barriers that you can erect. Perhaps, your solution enables new processes, procedures or forms of revenue, or maybe you save customer's costs or provide other efficiencies. A helpful methodology for analyzing competition is to chunk your competitors into the types of competition and then list the key players, the companies, the products within those categories. These categories might include direct and indirect competition, but there are likely other categories that are unique to your market. Let's look at a well-known company, Amazon. I know it's not in the life sciences, but the concept of competitive categories is universal. In the early days, Amazon sold only books. Who are the competitors at that time? Bookstores were certainly a main competitor. Subgroups of this category might be small independent bookstores and large chains such as Barnes and Noble. Other online sites were a category. These include chains such as borders which has since gone out of business, libraries were also competition. Some additional competitors might include university bookstores and Paul's books, the largest independent bookstore which is both a brick-and-mortar store and an online site. Today, competition for Amazon includes a myriad of sites and stores including Wal-Mart, the world's largest company by revenue as well as the world's largest private employer. Are these examples separate categories, or can they be included in subcategories? You decide. When you categorize your competitors, it will help you to understand the whole landscape of the competition. By singling out a key competitor or two in each category, you can stay on a high level, which helps with decision-making rather than drowning in the details of each corporate competitor.