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This article was published on May 24, 2008

David vs Goliath: the underhand tactics of competition

David vs Goliath: the underhand tactics of competition
Steven Carrol
Story by

Steven Carrol

Steven is a web applications developer, living in south of France, originally from London. His current project is In the nin Steven is a web applications developer, living in south of France, originally from London. His current project is In the nineties, he was a designer / director of a highly successful design, manufacturing and distribution company (Intimidation).

The greatest threat to any successful startup is competition. The more successful you become, the more competition you will piss off, and each contender will bring with them a new strain of hassle.

I’m not talking simply about competitive products, no I’m actually referring to the many underhand tactics that will be employed by at least some of these so-called competition. So what are these threats and how to best deal with them?David and Goliath

The Murky World Of Business

The first port of call for underhand competitors will be to learn everything they can about you, looking for any weaknesses they can find. These typically involve ‘competitive intelligence’ techniques which is a fancy way of saying they employ private investigators who will even sniff through your garbage.

Competitive Intelligence

This typically takes many forms and practitioners are not afraid to stoop to low levels. Private investigators are generally extremely creative and efficient, not least cost effective, who have many contacts and techniques that they leverage to build a portrait around individuals within the company. They can get access (break in) to bank account details, tap phone lines, bug offices, cars, even homes, follow people, pose as reporters / employees (man on the inside) etc. to gain access to people and information that could be useful.

Utilization Of Competitive Intelligence

Depending upon the nature of the rewards, a campaign to ‘levy distress’ will be initiated with various arms but the same goal. The goal being to chop the legs off ‘metaphorically speaking of course’ the main targets.

Legal Assault

One of the most cherished methods is to create phony legal cases against the targets. They do not need to be serious, just a host of frivolous nonsense is sufficient. It is very cheap to send out threatening letters and tie targets up in court battles which can become exponentially destructive and costly to fend off. Typically they will be cases that are 99% twisted around so that the aggressors will be claiming the targets are actually distressing them.

Creating Havoc

Paying off disgruntled employees to cause hassle within the company, setting traps for the targets, reporting the targets (to officials and dependencies) for anything and everything they can. Disconnecting ties between targets and their networks (such as distributors, retailers, suppliers etc.) and any other psychological torture they can muster.

Intellectual Property Theft

There is nothing like learning from others mistakes, all services, products etc. will be reversed engineered to learn secrets from the targets, then the cream will be repackaged into similar offerings, where the ‘competition’ use the building blocks that have been successful along with their greater financial muster to encroach upon the targets market. Patents and copyright laws are of very little significance for young companies who have not the experience, nor resources to leverage the law to their favor. Further, the rogues will be carefully protected from legal assault themselves as they use ‘front’ (disposable) companies for their full on attacks.

David Vs Goliath

Typically the targets ‘upstarts’ that enjoyed early success will be naive to the murky world of ‘business’ where cannibals and dinosaurs await the fresh bloods arrival for their feasts. In order to survive, here are some practical tips:

  • Remain focused on the ‘real problems’ within the business.
  • Continue to innovate and move the market.
  • Learn the tricks of Goliath’s trade, the more you know about him and his tactics the better.
  • Be very careful who you trust, especially when it comes to these ‘pillars of society’.
  • Learn how to bat!


If you do find yourself in the middle of a ‘war of terror’ then the quicker you learn how to fight, obviously the better. Understand that the world of business is much like nature, it is not personal and brutal. Speed, intelligence, posture, bravery and trickery are the necessary assets to be packed in your survival kits.

Good luck out there! You will need it…

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