Why You Shouldn't Fear Copycat Developers
On the morning of Nov. 7, 2013, when Twitter was launching its IPO, Bloomberg Contributing Editor Nick Thompson said, “somebody could pop up and do the same thing and code Twitter in a day.”
Technically, he is absolutely right. Twitter is a simple application to build (at its core) and someone could potentially copy it and build the software quickly. In fact, many have tried, but have you come across any that succeeded?
Today, first to-market-advantage has very little meaning. Neither Facebook nor Google had the first-to-market advantage. They launched in an already crowded marketplace. The barrier to entry in a tech business has been lowered to such an extent in recent times that entrepreneurs create demo or prototypes within a matter of days.
If you’re building an app that you feel is unique based on certain customer insights that you’ve gained, then you shouldn’t be worried about someone else copying your idea. Here’s why:
It takes time to build a brand. As I’ve said before, building a product is the easiest part of building a successful startup. The toughest part is to get customers to use your product consistently.
Brands are built over a period of time -- not instantly when they’re launched. So you shouldn't worry that someone will take your idea and run with it. It would take them at the very least couple of years to get decent traction, assuming they have the same customer insight and motivation to build the app.
Let’s look at some live examples. It took Kickstarter 30 months to get to the 1 millionth backer mark. AirBnB took the same time to register 1 million nights booked. Tumbler hit 1 million blogs in 27 months, Twitter took 2 months to hit 1 million users and for Foursquare, 13 months to score 1 million downloads.
No one cares about a unique idea. If your idea is so unique that it has never been attempted before in its current state, chances are, no one would be interested in even considering stealing it.
Related: How to Deal With Copycats
In a Cornell University’s published paper, the authors quote that it is the practical ideas that are generally valued. The more novel or unique an idea, the more uncertainty exists about whether it is practical, useful, error free and can be reliably reproduced.
When endorsing a novel idea, people can experience failure, perceptions of risk, social rejection when expressing the idea to others and uncertainty about when their idea will reach completion. Thus making it unlikely someone will have the same motivation as you do.
Don't stare at obstacles. If you’re building a unique product, then your focus should be on the path to launching it and getting customers instead of focusing on possible roadblocks such as worrying about ideas being stolen.
When young drivers are starting to race, this is one of the most critical lessons that they learn. When you’re driving at 200 mph you need to focus on the road in front of you. If you look at the wall, then you’ll end up hitting it.
If you focus too much on external factors that are not in your control, you’ll digress from the path to building a business. Keep a razor-like focus on your product and its evolution through customer feedback and learning.