It bothers me when someone tells me about their startup and I ask how it relates to xyz company that did something similar in the past, and they have no idea xyz even existed. It's a negative signal common to first-timers.
I realize there is tremendous value in having a fresh perspective. But in startups there are so many paths to failure. If you are going to be a successful heat seeking missile, it really helps to know what has happened in your space and related spaces.
At worst, it will help you avoid mistakes and stay on the right side of crazy. At best, you will uncover secrets that can help you get traction faster.
The best way to map your space is to go talk to the founders of xyz company. They failed at what you're trying to do and generally they are very willing to talk you about it. In fact, you may be one of the only people in the world that will truly get what they spent all that time doing.
It's an outlet for them for pent up information and in some cases latent emotions. For you there is a lot of upside: a quick history lesson and potentially extremely valuable information. And among these conversations you may even find a mentor or investor.
Thank you David Horowitz for reminding me last night of this great tactic.