There are many perils to running a startup – including having your idea copied right out from under you. It’s more common (and profitable) than you might think, thanks to the complicated Web company climate.
Lately, much ado has been made about one of the perils of the startup business – clones. These lookalikes spy a popular Web platform, analyze it, find another market ripe for such a service, and launch a copycat company. They are known for how quickly they can build their clones and how well they execute. Their goal: to ramp up and then sell the company for a profit.
Nobody likes a copycat, for obvious reasons. We don’t like to have our most brilliant ideas commandeered by others and we don’t like when it happens to startup services we use or follow. It’s a problem that seems, on the surface, very black and white: clones are the criminals, stealing good ideas just to make money, and startups are the victimized artists who… well… always want to make money. Somewhere along the line, we’ve put founders on a saint-like pedestal, and that distinction may have led us to over-sympathize with them in the war against clones. But is this actually a big problem, and are those behind clones really bad people?