About a week ago, the startup world got ablaze from reading Steve Blank’s blog post, “A New Way to Look at Competitors.” In the blog post, Blank notes that the traditional Competitive Graph – which focuses on differentiating offerings of “Our Company” vs. “Our Competitors” - is “inappropriate for startups or existing companies creating new markets.” Blank goes on to offer a Petal Diagram which places a given company (startup) in the core of a flower while segments of competitors are place in petals that surround the core. But how useful is Steve Blank’s Petal Diagram especially for startups?
Judging from feedback including Tweets and Facebook Likes on the Internet, the response to the Petal Diagram is extremely positive. Many readers note that the Petal Diagram offers benefits including the following:
# great way to communicate a startup’s position and opportunity especially to investors (Venture Capitalists)
# segmentation of an existing market while showing sources of future customers as well as potential competitors and partners
# visually appealing way for investors to see growth opportunities for a startup
# linkage to business model innovation especially using the Business Model Canvas
Although feedback on the Petal Diagram is generally great, some people are critical of the form and usefulness of the Petal Diagram especially in presenting proposals to investors. Perhaps, the strongest critique of the Petal Diagram comes from fellow Venture Capitalist, Tomasz Tunguz who blogged on: “Why the Petal Diagram Isn’t the Best Competition Diagram for Startup’s Pitch.” Tunguz’s main critique was “petal diagrams don't communicate the startup's unique way of competing in the market.” In short, the Petal Diagram is not useful for Brand Positioning, Value Proposition Design, Competitive Analysis, and Benchmarking. Consequently, it would seem like the Petal Diagram has to be used in conjunction with the classic Competitive Graph to present a wholesome picture of a startup’s opportunity and strategy. Or ... can we visually reframe the classic Competitive Graph so that it offers its original features as well as all the features and benefits of the Petal Diagram? I believe that we can. Yes, we can.