Founders are often faced with the question of whether their startup could survive if big tech turned around and released a competing product or service. And, for those that are entering a market where big tech already resides, you may get worse: the dreaded comment questioning why you would bother to even try to compete against household names and competition that are sitting on millions of dollars–or, in the case of Google, over a trillion dollars.
What you don’t hear a lot about is how startups can not only successfully compete–even if, say, Google turns around and enters the space with its own product or service–but can also actually build off of big tech’s existing products and successfully gain market share and get ahead of Google within the space.
Last year, billions in revenue was generated by these 10 startups alone, which are competing with Google and winning. I’m going to show that you don’t have to be the first, and even if you’re not the last, you don’t have to be afraid to compete among unicorns, but in doing so, your startup could become a unicorn.
Here are 10 startups that are making millions (even billions) competing with Google:
1. Waze versus Google Maps
- Year founded: 2007
- Revenue (2020): $37.7 million (sold to Google for $1.2 billion)
Waze, the GPS navigation software, started in 2007, two years after Google launched Google Maps as what then seemed like a crazy idea to help give users real-time traffic insights based on feedback from others on the road. Now, Waze has more than 110 million monthly active users, accounting for an estimated $37 million in annual revenue, compared with Google Maps’ user base of 154 million. However, in 2013 Google acquired Waze for $1.2 billion.
2. Mixpanel versus Google Analytics
- Year founded: 2009
- Revenue (2020): ~$100 million
Google Analytics came out in 2005, and following that in 2009, Mixpanel launched its own website analytics platform. Despite releasing a product that competes with Google’s, Mixpanel has managed to become a successful company, with approximately $100 million in revenue generated in 2020, with nearly half coming from large, well-known companies such as Uber, Samsung, and BMW.
3. Skyscanner versus Google Flights
- Year founded: 2001
- Revenue (2020): $321 million
Google entered the travel industry with Google Flights in 2011, a decade after Skyscanner started in 2001. But just because Google decides to pursue a new market, it doesn’t mean that the existing companies will be devoured by the tech giant. Sometimes clout and billions of dollars aren’t enough to make businesses in a market crumble when Google arrives ready to compete. Instead, Skyscanner has remained strong with annual revenue of around $321 million.
4. Wix versus Google Sites
- Year founded: 2006
- Revenue (2020): $988.8 million
While Geocities was actually the first website builder, created back in 1994, site builders became popular in the 2000s with the release of platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify. Google jumped on the site-builder bandwagon over a decade later, in 2018. And though you’d think Google would manage to create a superior content management system (CMS), given that its search engine is a fantastic site, Google Sites never quite took off. Now, Wix holds upwards of 40 percent of the site builder market share, and Google Sites remains at under 1 percent.
5. Vonage versus Google Voice
- Year founded: 2001
- Revenue (2020): $1.25 billion
Google entered the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology services in 2009, years after Vonage came out in 2001. While Google Voice has become a top choice in the VoIP space, given that it’s largely a free service, with over 1.4 million users worldwide, Vonage is a top competitor with 1.1 million users, accounting for $1.25 billion in annual revenue. So while Google Voice has acquired a large number of users, Vonage still proves very successful.
6. Dropbox versus Google Drive
- Year founded: 2007
- Revenue (2020): $1.94 Billion
In the year following Google’s first platform as a service (PaaS) cloud storage, App Engine, Dropbox launched its own file storage platform. Google’s storage services have evolved since then into Google Drive (via G Suite and Google Workspace), which generated $2.6 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, Dropbox’s revenue landed at nearly $2 billion, showing that it’s quickly gaining on Google in terms of revenue and market share. And unlike Google Drive’s 34 percent market share, which includes an internal storage of its own products (i.e., Google Docs), Dropbox holds about 21 percent of the market from external files.
7. Zoom versus Google Hangouts
- Year founded: 2011
- Revenue (2020): $2.65 billion
Two years after Zoom launched its video conferencing platform in 2011, Google released Google Hangouts, and later in 2017, it developed Google Meet–another videoconferencing tool. Despite the tech giant’s efforts to compete, Zoom hit $2.65 billion in annual revenue last year and it currently holds nearly 50 percent of the total market share worldwide–compared with Google’s 22 percent.
8. GoDaddy versus Google Domains
- Year founded: 1997
- Revenue (2020): $3.3 billion
Google Domains started in 2015 and while it has managed to take a slice of the market, it has yet to beat out the original domain name registrar, GoDaddy, which was founded in 1997. There are around 40 million domains registered with GoDaddy, whereas over at Google Domains, there are around 5.5 million domains registered. Google Domains now holds a 2 percent market share, whereas GoDaddy has 24 percent market share for its domain name registration services.
9. PayPal versus Google Pay
- Year founded: 2000
- Revenue (2020): $21.4 billion
Google’s first stab at P2P payment processing was with Google Wallet, released in 2011–over a decade after PayPal. Since then, Google acquired Android and, with that Android Pay, serving as the foundation to what has since become Google Pay. Meanwhile, PayPal purchased the P2P payments app Venmo in 2013 (just three years after its founders released it), which now has an annual revenue of $450 million. Although Google swooped in with its own version, it hasn’t come close to driving PayPal, Venmo, or the array of other P2P apps out of business.
10. Apple iOS versus Android
- Year founded: 1976
- Revenue (2020): $274 billion
Google acquired Apple iOS’s main competitor, Android, in 2005 for $50 million. While it’s unclear how much Google has raked in following its purchase of the operating system, we do know that Apple iOS, and more specifically iPhones continue to dominate the mobile market. In fact, the iOS operating system holds the largest market share at 58 percent, with Android coming in at second with a 41 percent market share.
A Winning Strategy to Compete With Google
Notice that no matter how many products, services, and tools Google offers, what remains untouched is its search engine–the heart of the $1.4 trillion-dollar company itself. While others, such as Bing and Duckduckgo, have managed to enter the space, Google absolutely dominates it, showing that while market and product expansion can increase your total revenue, staying focused on your core product (and true value) is how you manage to be the leader in a market.
Search aside, there’s still plenty of room for startups to compete with Google. In other words, Google may want a piece of your pie, but unless you’re looking to be the next-best search engine, what Google is doing–or what it could do–shouldn’t serve as a deterrent for startups with great ideas and capable teams that can make their ideas come to life.
Startups that successfully compete with Google start with one product in the early days to gain traction and to be more competitive and therefore profitable. By being an expert in one thing, you can give your startup a leg up on competitors, like Google, and maybe even get ahead. After all, Google has become a jack of all trades, and if your startup can be the master of something, you have the potential to successfully compete, with Google and other giants like it.