A great quote from Henry Ford came through my twitter stream (thanks @ArikJohnson) today that really resonated with me:
"The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time."
When we first started out 4 years ago, we were pretty obsessive about monitoring what our competitors were doing. I had google alerts set up for everyone and everything remotely related to prediction markets and collective intelligence and monitored my RSS feeds obsessively.
I'm not now saying "be more naive." We certainly still keep an eye on things, try competitive products out when they launch something new, and are mindful of what criticisms are being levied against us whenever we are in a competitive bidding process so we can respond accordingly. But we've made a marked shift from those early days and have really tried to just focus on ourselves vs. having knee-jerk reactions to competitive activity or criticism from bloggers.
For a more mature industry, especially one that may have strong price sensitivities, it makes sense to be more directly attuned to what your primary competitors are doing. In fact we know several companies that use Inkling to predict what their competitors will do in the future.
But when you are in a market where only a small percentage of companies have even heard of what you do like ours, the playing field is vast.
Keep your head down, focus on how you want to evolve your business to maximize growth opportunities, take signals from your existing users and clients instead of your competitors, and don't worry so much about what everyone else is saying and doing.
Your business will be better for it, and you'll be less anxious and paranoid to boot!