The ultimate cheat sheet to build defensibility early for startups

by Mariela Atanasova: [email protected]LinkedInTwitter and Barthélémy Kiss: [email protected]LinkedIn



In 2011, Eric Ries defined the startup OS with "The Lean Startup". In his book, Ries prones that founders should relentlessly focus on understanding their users' pain points before building an MVP and iterating to improve the product. At its core, Ries' findings can be summarized by "start small and iterate". Adopt a scientific-like approach to product development, and scale as you prove product-market fit.

There you go! Iterate on your product, and you'll find a product-market fit. Iterate on your go-to-market, and you'll find scale. But… what if you can get copied super easily? What if your years of efforts at building a startup were obliterated by simple addition to the product of a large competitor?

The startup OS needs an update that helps budding and seasoned entrepreneurs approach defensibility in a systematic way. It will save them time, and it will save time for investors too – it's for the collective good!

Figure 1: The startup OS needs an update

Startups need a defensibility strategy. They need access to a smartly-defined, up-to-date categorization of moats with recent examples of how startups have succeeded in building long term defensibility.

What's a moat?

The moat-mino: eight categories of moats to achieve defensibility

Here are the eight categories of moats we've formalized, based on the content we've collected during our interviews. Because there are two categories of four moats, we've created the moat-mino, based on a double-four domino!

VCs, founders: how to use the moat-mino

Figure 2: The moat-mino lays out eight categories of moats to achieve defensibility

Moats categories are split into two categories :

The resources moats are what you own. They cover: