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A2 Competitors: Discovering the Competitive Landscape

Business ideas will be evaluated by assessing customer needs and comparing against competitive solutions. The goal for students is to triangulate data sources, and to become relative experts on the constraints and issues that shape a particular problem space.

Learning Goals 
  • Assessing the needs/desires of each type of stakeholder
  • Creating a competitive analysis to compare different ways of solving a problem
What to do
  1. Team contract: Write a team contract.
  2. Topic: As a team, agree on the topic for your business venture, not the specific venture, per se. You do not need to stay within the topic assigned to your team, but try to avoid taking on topics assigned to other teams. 
  3. Online data gathering: Create a shared document for your team to pool any information available through online records. Capture specific problems encountered, personal anecdotes, statistics, competing solutions, etc. For each piece of information, be sure to include a link to the source.
  4. Assess Needs/Desires: Make a list of all of your potential stakeholders and for each one write a list of potential needs/desires. Make sure to devote time to think this through. Your team could start by assessing the needs of each type of stakeholder along the spectrum suggested by Blank, 2013:
    • Has a need
    • Is aware of having a need
    • Been actively looking for a solution
    • Assembled a solution out of parts
    • Has a budget to put towards this need
  5. Competitors: Perform (or update) a competitive analysis based on the key needs/desires identified. What exists already that could solve this problem?  If the competitor is another app, download the app and try it. If the competitor has a storefront, visit the store and observe how the business treats customers. 
    List the key features/advantages, as well as the limitations, for each competitor. Create a matrix that illustrates what's available and what's missing in the current competitive landscape.
  6. PEST/Value Flow diagrams: Create (or update) your PEST factors and your value flow diagram. PEST and Value Flow models essentially express a hypothesis for your business idea. It's important that your team continually updates your underlying hypotheses. Feel free to leverage material from A1 (from any team). Your value flow diagram should include all stakeholders potentially affected by your business concept. To make it clear how your business concept can be disruptive, first create a model that illustrates the value flow for the current marketplace (e.g., maybe pick a competitor to illustrate), then modify this in a second model to show how your new business concept could change the market.
  7. Ideation prompts: Write a list of three "How Might We" questions that can guide brainstorming on your topic around the most important unmet needs/desires of your key stakeholders. For example, "How might we help drivers who have just crashed to alert key people? How might we document the scene after a car crash?"
  8. Presentation: Create a slide deck that:
    • Motivates the topic space (use stats, quotes, anecdotes, or your PEST analysis to introduce your topic)
    • Discusses the key stakeholders and their needs/desires
    • Tours the competitive landscape (include details about the closest competitors and show a matrix that provides an overview)
    • Shows a value flow model for the current market and for your proposed business concept
    • Ends with key "How Might We" questions
  9. Here are good examples of A2 from last year: TravelMental Health, & Health Note: The structure of the examples is different than this year's assignment due to changes in requirements and grading rubric, so do not replicate what the examples have done. 

Your team should create a Google Drive folder here. Name it based on your topic not the business name; branding will come later (e.g. Topic_Lastname1_Lastname2_Lastname3). Within that, create a subfolder for A2. Put your work in it, except for items you wish to keep private. Check out some example deliverables here. Your folder should have:

  • Team contract
  • Data gathering (shared Google doc)
    • Raw information (e.g., anecdotes, stats, etc. with URL citations)
    • List of stakeholders and the corresponding needs/desires
    • Matrix of current competitors and opportunity gaps
  • Presentation slide deck (with all the content mentioned above)
    • Introduction of topic (basically a short synthesis of your data gathering above)
    • Key stakeholders and their needs/desires
    • Competitive analysis, including the matrix
    • Value Flow diagrams (current and proposed)
    • List of "How might we" questions
Be ready to present your user research during class. Use the A2 presentations link on the Important Links page to sign up your team.

A2 Deliverables Due: before class begins on Tuesday of Week 3.


Aspect Question(s) Check - Check Check +
Insights derived through online data gathering, and identifying needs/desires
Does the team get valuable insights from the various research/needfinding
methods? Does this lead to key revisions in the value proposition? 
Very little data collected and lack of effort in a deep dive assessment of needs & stakeholders.
The team collected an ample amount of research/needfinding data and converted these into sensible revisions for the value flow model.
The team gathered research/needfinding data over and above what was required and used these insights to make clever adjustments to the business model.
Insights derived through competitive analysis   (30%) Does the team get valuable insights from identifying and analyzing competitors? Does this lead to key revisions in value proposition?  Very little data collected about competitors' strengths and limitations. The team gathered & analyzed an ample amount of competitors' data and converted the insights into sensible revisions for the value flow model.  The team gathered & analyzed competitors' data over and above what was required and used these insights to make clever adjustments to the business model.
Clarity and persuasiveness of team presentation   (40%) Is the team presentation clear, insightful, and to the point? Does it concisely cover the problem setting, potential concepts, value flow model, and competitive analysis? Does it deliver useful insights and "How Might We" questions from user research?  The presentation fulfills the requirements, but the analysis is superficial and difficult to understand. It's not clear how the concepts provide value over existing solutions. Very little useful feedback was obtained from potential users. 
The presentation did a nice job of framing the problem space. The team collected and shared good insights from the user research. The "How Might We" questions are a good starting point for brainstorming.
The team clearly and concisely presented the problem space and offered many thoughtful insights from multiple stakeholder perspectives. The "How Might We" questions will be very generative for brainstorming.