Attack Of The Clones: Wannabe Entrepreneurs Need To Get Original

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If you have been reading the advice of established founders and corporate business magnates that we share each edition, then you’ll know that one of the first things they tell wannabe ‘treps to do when developing an enterprise model is to solve a problem that exists for a niche that has no good existing solution. Already a few times this month, I’ve been pitched business models that do what someone else is already doing (better). If you can improve upon that existing model, and onboard users to rival that established company’s user base, then great. If you are offering what amounts to the same service or product offering, do not present your idea as though this is a) groundbreaking b) innovative and c) needed.

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This doesn’t apply so much to say, the F&B industry; just because another resto has an Italian menu doesn’t mean a new Italian cuisine outlet won’t do well and attract clients. But it really does apply when you’re launching something that is pretty much the exact same online concept as someone else. If you are thinking of copycatting a concept, it’s a good idea to import a concept that the MENA ecosystem doesn’t have yet. It’s a very bad idea to launch the exact same online model as an already established enterprise, and just slightly tweaking the concept. How do I define slightly tweaking? Well, if three lines into your email pitch, I can name other Middle Eastern platforms that you are cloning, and I don’t see a huge difference in the product or service offering, then you can expect my response to be: “How do you differ from startup X who is already operating successfully here?”

More often than not, a founder responds by claiming that they are being “disruptive” (no, you aren’t), and they are “innovating” (doubtful), and that they’ll do things differently (prove it please). I think, as a startup founder, you may find my opinions harsh. But if you were a journo covering startups, you would probably agree with me, as your inbox would be flooded with these clones too. I do want the ecosystem to grow, but not at the expense of cannibalizing the user base of entrepreneurial endeavors who did something before you, and continue to do it better than you. If you visit my Instagram account (@fidazchaaban), you will see some of the startups that I have used as a customer, so I’m also speaking from a consumer point of view. So, if you see that I’m a customer of a startup that does the same thing you do, and did it before you, with very little deviation from that model, it’s probably not a good idea to pitch me for an article the next day. (True story, by the way.)

Fida Chaaban

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Fida Chaaban is the Chief Communications Officer of KBW Investments, a privately held Dubai-based investment concern that works across multiple sectors. Prior to her most recent appointment, Fida was the founding Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East and Entrepreneur Qatar magazines. She is a big believer in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region’s startup ecosystem, and endeavors to use both print and web to positively encourage development in various entrepreneurial spaces and across industries. Based in Dubai, UAE, Fida is a social media enthusiast and sees it as the medium of today’s effective enterprises.