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Inside the Success of Second-to-Market Companies Innovators may grab the glory, but late-to-market companies can still finish first.

By John Patrick Pullen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Steve Jobs once said, "Good artists copy; great artists steal," a quote he attributed to Pablo Picasso. Interesting words from the man who didn't dream up the PC, MP3 player, smartphone or tablet computer, but did, in many ways, perfect them.

The moral of the story is that there's nothing new under the sun, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the business world. According to Oded Shenkar, professor at Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and author of Copycats: How Smart Companies Use Imitation to Gain a Strategic Edge, the rate of brand imitation now exceeds 80 percent in some sectors, and spreads across everything from breakfast cereal to mobile phone apps. In the $300-plus-billion U.S. prescription drug industry, for example, more than 75 percent of the medications dispensed each year are generics--aka copies.

So if the "me too" mentality is good enough for big pharma, it should also be an acceptable practice for startups. But to shake the stigma of "stealing," entrepreneurs need to get into the mimicking mindset. "It starts with acknowledging that imitation is a legitimate activity," Shenkar says. "It's complex, it requires intellectual capability and it can be very smart."

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