My friend Mark Moore, founder and CEO of MANA Nutrition, and one of the most amazing human beings around, recently pointed me to an Elon Musk quote which first made me chuckle and then made me realize that this is the single-most important insight for anyone competing with a large, established company:
“Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.”
Elon made this comment in the context of SpaceX, and the challenge (and opportunity) that in the space industry the avoidance of risk is so highly valued that innovation came to a grinding halt over the decades.
In my opinion, it points to something more significant: Every big organization makes the vast amount of their revenue by selling a product or service which has, long ago, gotten to product/market-fit and which is now protected by people whose job it is to avoid risk at all cost. People who, for good reason optimize (and get rewarded for) their ass-covering.
Which opens a massive opportunity for you: Risk things.
Of course - you might fail. However, you are in a startup and failing is a large part of the bargain you took when you embarked on this journey.
Where your competition is optimizing their ass-covering, you have to do the opposite.