Any founder worth their salt — who has grown their company to any significant scale and experienced any semblance of success — will tell you that one of the leading indicators that their startup has got any chance of success was the day they realized they had copycats.
What is true for Startups is true for every element of your life
When people begin to replicate your efforts, take it as a sign you are doing something right.
Welcome them like a sibling replicating your style
They might resemble you but they will never be you
Enjoy the flattery then continue revolutionizing. Copying a product is the biggest compliment another founder can give you.
It’s a veiled confession of superiority which acknowledges their own inability to innovate
The platitude that everything is in the implementation has never been more true.
But there is a key element of that which people never realize of misunderstanding: as critical to the development of any product is the learning that went into its development. The failures you overcame, the reasons for the specific choices that were made that led to the product or service you offer today.
It’s the equivalent of getting marks for your working in a Mathematics examinations
While you have the working and the answer, the startup ripping your idea off only has the answer and understands nothing about the question or the struggle to get there
Where you have iteratively developed your startup over time, internalising the lessons of what has worked and what hasn’t, NewCo hasn’t and will often be sentenced to explore and repeat the same mistakes you did. During this process they are unlikely to persist as their passion is misplaced.
You must relentlessly stick to your mission and not get distracted
Even if you both start out from the same place, the likelihood of you reaching the same end point is unlikely
But make no mistake about it, competition is an existential threat
Competition is war, but it provides validity to your argument. Competitors bring validation of ideas and increase focus on unloved spaces.
When you have those replicating your efforts you know what you are producing is resonating with a wider audience.
Double down and get back to it
Focus on your key advantages, batter down the hatches and blow them away.
If you have existing users/customers renew every focus on over over-delivering at every opportunity
Your customers are the lifeblood of your future success and a resource that should be exploited for learning and teaching at every opportunity.
Start talking to them more; you should have more users to interview if you are the incumbent which is a massive advantage.
Understand your advantages and use them
Do you have more users, a wider customer base, more financial resources?
Whatever it is — work to your strengths, understand your weaknesses and exploit theirs
Get dirty and renew your love for the problem you are solving. Competition should sharpen your mind not dissuade you from participating.
But never forget competition can win
Everyone assumed there was no room for another search engine while Yahoo ruled the surf of the interweb, before Google dropped in and yahoo sank in their wake.
Competitors should eradicate any and all complacency
You won’t be the only fish in the pond any longer
But the pond will be expanded
As your market gets more public recognition other fish will try to steal your lunch.
You may start out as the big fish in an increasingly large pond, but to stay at the top of the food chain, your need to continue to offer the best service/product.
The adage that a new company must be 10x better in order to win new customers might be true when a company is an established brand, but at the early stages you have no moat to protect you
The ease in which users can download an app and delete it should frighten us all, but it is also our greatest strength
Continuously wow your customers and they will remain
Remain abreast of your competitors developments and continue to produce. Make sure they always remain the one’s who are striving to keep up.
It would be a mistake to panic and over commit resources to watch them
It would be equally as large a mistake to ignore them completely
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
That is the nature of entrepreneurship
Continuous existential threats must be navigated with grace while continuing to offer an increasingly superior service, both to what you offered previously and what your competitors seek to replicate.
Embrace those who copy your work
Thank them for the motivation and put it to work
You now know you’re business has merit. Now it’s your responsibility to respond to the challenge and excel.