All good Dads read to their kids.  I have a great Dad.  My Dad taught me to read The Daily Racing Form–the bible of horse racing.

If you are a nerd and/or like to bet, the Form is simply irresistible.  Think of it as the original “Moneyball” database or Fantasy Sports league. The Form provides prospective bettors with a wealth of information on the horses running in the day’s races, including:

  • Historical performance by stage of race, track condition, etc. for their last few races
  • The quality, weight carried, and jockey in those races
  • The genealogy and trainer of the horse
  • The horse’s latest workout times
  • A speed rating which benchmarks performance of the horse versus that track’s record for the same distance
  • Last, but not least, even whether the horse was wearing “blinders” or “blinkers” in those races!

Blinders are worn by horses thought to be poorer performers when they can see to the side or behind them.  Blinders really are designed to provide the proverbial “tunnel vision”.

What I’ve since learned about B2B software, and life in general, is that unlike horses, we are all running with blinders on.

When I was at Ariba looking for networks for us to buy, I was confident I had the most exhaustive list of B2B networks in the world.  I went to conferences, scoured the web, had inbounds from investment bankers, subscribed to analyst reports,  etc.  I’d test my list with folks and generally find my list to indicate a broader perspective.

However, when I left Ariba and started working with both horizontal and Industry Cloud networks, I discovered that I had had blinders on the whole time! Within a few months–just by looking at the market differently–I discovered a couple hundred more networks!  (I used to post a graphic of these companies, but have since given up based on the futility of that effort.)

In fact, every time I look at a new industry, I discover many more SaaS B2B players than I imagined could possibly exist.  A recent example is the real estate and construction industry.  This sector is very hot right now, perhaps because the 2008 meltdown killed real estate and it is only now recovering!  Here’s a great graphic of the companies (B2B and B2C) just involved in trying to improve various aspects of the residential real estate market:

fixingrescapeaug82013

Generally I have been more interested in the commercial construction market than the residential market. In the past week, I discovered three more companies in that space, all of whom are trying to build networks. A final example:  my recent work has been in the healthcare industry and that industry would fill at least three pages like this!

When I talk to entrepreneurs who are looking for advice, I always ask “Who else is doing the same thing you are?”.  I’m not trying to scare them or discourage them, I just want to see if they have studied the competition. More often than not, I find they are running with blinders on too!

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