Everybody seems to love cats, so I thought I’d write a story about them. But perhaps not the cats that you’d expect.
I am talking about Copycats.
My story was triggered by a company that announced their revolutionary new technology platform this week. Now normally I am excited to see companies innovate, but in this case I was less enthusiastic.
The reason? The same firm had requested 2 product presentations and a copy of our marketing materials about 1.5 years ago. They also indicated an interest to invest in our last investment round, and after some talks received a copy of the investment memo. After this information was provided, the contact went cold. I assumed that they had other priorities, so after a few follow up emails, I dropped the lead. No hard feelings.
Analysis of the recent announcement however showed that the description of their platform was a blatant copy of what we had demonstrated before. Not just conceptually, but down to the fine details of our presentations, visuals and descriptions. In situations like this, the immediate reaction is to get angry, and for me this was no exception. After all, it was not the first time this happened. I am fortunate however that my wife knows how to get me to take a breath before reacting, and I am lucky to know some brilliant entrepreneurs that can help me get a perspective on things. So after my first short bout of anger I calmed down, and remembered a quote of Charles Caleb Colton:
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and another great quote from leadership expert Robin Sharma:“You know you’re winning when you are being copied”
With this wisdom in mind, I thought back to the many angry zombie, angry turkey and angry pigeon games that came out after Angry birds had its breakthrough success. None of these clones succeeded as the original had. Why?
First of all, the original was, well, original. Because of this, it offered its users a truly innovative gameplay, and excited its players. People don’t typically get excited as much about imitation products, and even less so when they are poorly executed. But more importantly, by the time that the copycats came around the corner, the original had already moved on to even bigger and better things, like Angry birds Seasons, Rio and Space; again exceeding its audience’s expectations.
The same is true for our field of business: data management and regulatory oversight. This specific case is a company that took a 2 year old presentation of our software, and tried to reverse engineer it into a product. This is only a great idea when you can’t generate better ideas yourself.
We often get questions from people on how we protect ourselves from IP infringement. Do we have Patents? Copyrights? Trademarks? Registrations? We do have some of that, but the best protection is to keep innovating faster than others. By the time we bring out a product, we are already working on the next 3 versions that will continue to excite our customers and simplify their life further.
“Innovation is the best protection for your innovation”
Imitation will continue to be frustrating, but unfortunately it is unavoidable. Don’t waste precious energy agonizing over it. Instead, use your energy to accelerate, and create amazing new things that others can’t keep up with. For us, being imitated proves that we took the right path well before others did, and that we should continue to beat the path into the data jungle.
The path is there for our clients to follow. And if copycats pick up the some of the crumbs along the way, so be it.