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9 Tips for Starting a Business in a Crowded Digital Marketplace

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Many successful entrepreneurs were inspired to start their businesses after noticing a hole in the marketplace that needed to be filled, whether it was Bill Gates creating an operating system for home computers, Pierre Omidyar starting an online auction site, or Elon Musk building a reliable electric car.

But what happens when you want to jump feet first into a marketplace that’s already crowded? We spoke to the entrepreneurs behind a wide-ranging group of successful companies in some of the most competitive digital spaces -- from butchers to home brands to eco-friendly cleaning products -- to get their insights into what makes a business that lasts.

Related: 63 Businesses to Start for Under $10,000

The common theme? Product quality is the most important way to make a splash. As Scott Tannen, CEO of e-commerce luxury home brand Boll & Branch, says about their signature direct-to-consumer mattresses, “While we take tremendous pride in the people and processes behind them, it is our finished products themselves that truly set us apart.”

What else do these success stories focus on? Here’s what the entrepreneurs behind them told us.

Other direct-to-consumer mattress brands may offer lower prices, but they’re also largely following the cheap-to-produce blueprint of compressible, boxable foam beds made popular by O.G. market disruptor Casper. (The number of online mattress-in-a-box companies is currently upwards of 150 and climbing.)

Boll & Branch’s mattress is more expensive than most -- $2,500 for a queen size, compared to $995 for Casper’s popular mid-level offering. But the company isn’t so much trying to compete in the current space, as they are trying to re-disrupt it altogether.

“The Boll & Branch mattress is a hand-crafted, luxury mattress that doesn’t use a speck of foam or any of the other toxic materials that are commonplace in the mattress marketplace,” says Tannen. “We think that anyone bringing high quality, ethically-sourced products to market is good for us, and everyone, and we’re happy to play that role in the mattress space.”

They’ve not only traded cheap foam and toxic materials for latex and organic cotton grown to the highest possible standards; but also place a real emphasis on transparency -- which means, no more inquiring about that strong chemical smell, and receiving a vague answer from customer service. (And which also means, no more strong chemical smell to begin with.)

Related: 7 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

James Peisker, co-founder of online butcher shop Porter Road, has a similar take. And while delivering meat to people’s homes is definietly not a new idea -- Omaha Steaks was founded in 1917 -- an ever-expanding number of upstarts is starting to eat into the $55 billion U.S. meat industry, per Bloomberg.

“Start with your product and make it exceptional,” says Peisker. “Often, entrepreneurs bring a specific set of experiences and skills to the table and tend to lean on them as they embark on their dream of creating a business. While savvy marketing, PR, customer acquisition skills, etc. can help you to........

© Entrepreneur