The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten on Smash Notes

The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten podcast.

December 31, 2019

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life. The show hosts, Steli Efti and Hiten Shah, are both serial entrepreneurs who have founded multi-million dollar SaaS startups. Being busy CEOs of fast-growing companies, they know the value of your time and make sure you get the most out of each 22 minute episode. Tune in for new episodes every Tuesday and Friday.



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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how industrial espionage, or corporate terrorism, is plaguing the industry in a big way. Competitors often resort to employing dirty tactics to extract valuable information, such as one’s product roadmap and/or funding. Steli and Hiten talk about the various steps that you can take to avoid falling prey to such tactics. At the same time, they caution organizations against focusing too much on this issue. If it draws your focus away from your customers and product, then it’s taking too much of your energy and time.

Time Stamped Show Notes:


00:05 – Today’s episode is about competitor’s resorting to industrial espionage and ways you can deal with this situation

00:42 – How can you avoid leaking information to your competitors?

01:40 – Steli used to think that it’s better to be laser-focused on your product and NOT on your competitors


01:49 – Steli has realigned his thinking and now feels that understanding your competitors will give you better insight into your customers


02:30 – A competitor may pretend to be VP of innovation of a big company and call up a board member in order to extract information


03:17 – They may attempt to extract information such as the product roadmap or what’s happening with your fundraising

03:35 – A gullible board member could give out a ton of information


04:14 – Hiten says that people play dirty and extract confidential information that will stunt the growth of their competitors

04:43 – Hiten says that companies are often faced with a moral dilemma when competitors resort to dirty tactics


05:03 – There is NO right answer

05:08 – What you do depends on your beliefs regarding what you feel you need to do to stay in the market


05:28 – Executives using questionable tactics has become commonplace

05:48 – Steli talks about the dubious tactics used by Uber against Lyft


06:09 – Where do you draw a line?

06:14 – The legal line is not negotiable, but the ethical line is, unfortunately, quite negotiable


06:47 – Organizations tends to get flustered when a competitor is extracting information

07:00 – Steli questions whether competitors will get a huge edge if they manage to extract information via questionable means

07:34 – Avoid overreacting

07:55 – Some wise defense measures for companies looking to prevent theft of information


08:07 – Mutual NDA signed before a demo call

08:14 – Redirect people to a LinkedIn page to see who is viewing your profile

08:37– People with the same demo and in the same city can join together to exchange strategies


10:16 – Are your competitors doing anything to extract information?

10:51 – What do you do to get some nice competition?

11:22 – How you behave in the marketplace is a demonstration of your values

12:27 – Hiten suggests updating customers if the competitor’s behavior goes overboard


14:15 – Some factors to consider before going public with information about a client resorting to corporate espionage

14:38 – Talking to the competitor’s investors would be another option


17:00 – “Play to win and not just play to play”

18:28 – Do not let your competitor’s tactics shift your focus from your product and your customers

20:05 – Steli’s parting advice is to always think carefully before reacting to a competitor’s strategy

21:04 – End of today’s episode


3 Key Points:


Beware, some people don’t mind playing dirty and will extract confidential information if they believe it will stunt your growth.

What you do to stay competitive in the market is a reflection of your beliefs and ethics.

Think through each reaction carefully before you respond to your competitor’s tactics.


Steli Efti:


Hey, everybody, this is Steli Efti.

Key points in this episode

In this episode

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