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What is Your Unfair Advantage?

Ash Maurya’s “lean canvas” (from the book Running Lean) has a section called “Unfair Advantage”.  It isn’t on the original business model canvas, but it’s worth thinking about.

On your canvas, you have recorded why you believe your product is different – different in a way that customers will find compelling.  But once you introduce your product or service, if it is compelling, others will copy it.  And it will no longer be so “different”.

So what advantage do you have (or can you create) that are difficult to copy?  Unfair advantages?   Or you might call them sustainable, competitive advantages – advantages that are not easy to copy.


If you have patentable technology, how broadly you believe your patents will apply? If your technology is not patented (or patentable) then discuss the technical advantages you believe you do have.

(And just between us -keep in mind that in most markets, patents don’t really keep competitors out that effectively.  In biotech, patents are essential. In most other markets, investors may like that you have a patent, but in fact it may not offer much protection.  Will your patent really keep others from competing with you?)

Other Advantages

Intellectual property isn’t the only sustainable competitive advantage. Advantages can come from many areas, including:

  • Strategic partnerships
  • Established relationships with major customers
  • The strength of your team
  • Your head-start in the market
  • Validation by industry gurus who like your solution
  • An existing customer community you’ve already built

Barriers to Entry

  • What else will make it difficult for another company to compete directly with you?
  • What can you do to increase the size of those barriers to entry – or create new barriers to entry?