Fast Followers, Copy Cats, and Ripoffs

I was reading about Judge Posner's decision to throw out Apple's patent case against Motorola on CNN Money and came upon this by Florian Mueller:

Apple's "rip-off" claims are right. Judge Posner's decision doesn't prove that there was no "rip-off". He just cannot see that the patents that were shown to him, and the related infringement allegations and damages theories, substantiated a "rip-off" of the illegal kind.

I went on to read a study of accelerator programs on RRW and came upon this:

Finally he had enough data to come up with a ranking. At the top: TechStars, Y Combinator and Excelerate Labs.

Android is very much a iPhone knockoff. And TechStars and Excelerate Labs are very much YC knockoffs. I've written before that I much prefer the opportunity to invest in the innovator not the knock off. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the value of a good knockoff. 

Knockoffs create competition for the innovator and keep them honest. And they provide an opportunity for those that cannot, for some reason, work with the innovator.

Think about the startups that could not get into YC but did get into TechStars or Excelerate and went on to get funded, build a business, and create value for the entrepreneurs. That's a good thing.

Steve Jobs and Paul Graham are the innovators in these two markets and appropriately get the credit for their innovations. Innovators are often outraged when someone rips them off. This is from that CNN Money post on Apple vs Motorola:

This is a useful paragraph because it separates the legal issues at stake from the palpable sense of injustice Steve Jobs felt when he threatened to "go thermonuclear" and told his biographer: "Our lawsuit is saying, 'Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off."

I have often felt that "palpable sense of injustice" when our firm is an investor in the innovator and a copycat competitor shows up. But there is a difference between being pissed and having a legal claim. If the innovator keeps innovating, as Apple and YC have, they will do fine and will enjoy the spoils that come from creating the category and leading it.

I think it is best to understand that all great innovations will be copied, expect it to happen, and understand that the best response is to go out and out-execute the copycat. Getting stuck in time and money losing litigation may be emotionally satisfying for a while but it often doesn't end well for anyone.


Comments (Archived):

  1. OurielOhayon

    +1 as they say

    1. fredwilson


  2. Jan Schultink

    The key thing is whether knock offs will stop innovation. In software probably not, in pharma they could.

  3. David Nagy

    I’m very curious to find your opinion Fred on what I’m working on…It’s pretty funny that you wrote about this just now… The case sounds something like this: you invested in the innovator and we’re coming with full passion on a untapped vertical of that innovator and we’re ready to outperform them, we’re nimble and scrappy and we *believe* we could just make it happen…Please do let me know when you’ll be in Berlin.

  4. jason wright

    It should be good for the consumer if there is choice in a market. Monopolies are not good. Neither are cartels. Then again too much choice can also create other forms of general and specific badness.

  5. John Best

    I think this is one of my favourite posts so far.Personally I don’t believe Android, or any of its variants are IOS ripoffs, any more than Linux distro A is a ripoff of Linux distro B. In both cases there is a common(ish) ancestor and they are designed to perform a similar function in a similar environment, its unsurprising they look similar. The judge has decided that it’s that which was the driving force for Android, not a desire to ape IOS. Both evolved to take advantage of the same niche independently (I hope, and the judge ruled).There’s a world of difference between “knocking off” an idea, and taking a successful paradigm and tweaking it. There are evolutionary jumps, there is parallel evolution, there is innovation in increments and yes, there is also parroting. The hard thing is deciding which brightly coloured raucous bird, if any, is the parrot. There are business that copy wholesale (here I’m thinking of the accusations levelled at the Samwer brothers in Germany) and there are those that solve the same problem in a similar way. I think the issue that this case highlights for me is just how difficult it is to choose between the first-entrant / market-definer and those that come into the market next with their own incremental improvements.If we decide all innovation must be in leaps, we risk stifling those that put their weight behind evolution, not revolution.

    1. Rohan

      This whole ‘rocket internet’ concept is very interesting.I don’t know what to make of it yet.

      1. jason wright

        people have been leaving Rocket in droves.

    2. ShanaC

      hey, evolution got us all here, don’t knock where it can take us too much

      1. John Best

        Crikey, no. I was trying to say that evolution doesn’t have to be in fits and starts, but could be small improvements to out-compete or fill a different niche. We have to be careful we don’t miss the small evolutionary steps, else we risk *mislabelling* something as a copy.

        1. ShanaC

          Ouch, sorry, I misinterpreted!

  6. WinkieBoy

    It depends. At the end of the day, it’s all about perception. Is your last investment an “innovator” or a “knock-off”? Sometimes you compare companies that are only well explained “ideas”, sometimes you compare companies that are at a stage of an “idea + half baked execution”. Sometimes you compare companies that are “fully baked executions”.For example, the development of the iPhone started in 2005 Vs. the development of the Android started in 2003. But still, your perception is that the iPhone is the “innovator”.

  7. def4

    What about when the rip-off artist has more resources, scale and market power than the innovator?And uses those to ensure the overwhelming majority of the value of the innovation accrues to them.Would VCs even exist if large companies could whole sale rip-off startups, wouldn’t be forced to pay for their innovation by acquiring them and thus remove that oh so attractive exit strategy?

    1. fredwilson

      Market power can be an issue but more resources doesn’t scare me

  8. William Mougayar

    I don’t consider Android as an iPhone copycat nor Techstars as a YCombinator knock off because they each innovated beyond the original one. And they tackled an expanded part of the market that wasn’t addressed by the iPhone or YC programs.But I’m totally against these bogus lawsuits just because companies have the money to sue each other. People have similar ideas all the time, and they could have never been in touch with each other. People arrive at similar conclusions from half way across the world and that doesn’t mean they copied each other.It’s all in the execution and market share at the end of the day anyways.

    1. Eric Leebow

      Yes, agree with that statement. Once what someone would call a knock off innovates beyond the original, it’s not a ripoff. Techstars may have a different vision than YCombinator, or they may do something differently.

    2. awaldstein

      I agree with you on lawsuits as bad and unproductive behavior.But as regards to innovation, I think we differ.I don’t believe that Android innovated beyond the iPhone because they went after a different chunk of the market. I’m not knocking Android as a knockoff but to say that they are the innovator in the smartphone market is a bit far fetched to me.Before you go after market share you need to have mind share. And that doesn’t come strictly by execution alone.

      1. testtest

        got to love the long nose of innovation when thinking about this subject…

        1. awaldstein

          Nice one…My point with this is that we all copy things, that’s what ‘best practices’ in UX means. But is Google the innovator in the phone space like Apple was/is? Not to me.

          1. testtest

            at a micro level there are patterns, but the originality is being able to fit UI parts together to create a unified UI: taking in to consideration the trade-offs.the UX is more at the macro level. with the UI elements working together, and also the UI in different states. with a beginning, a middle, and an end.there could be an argument that nether innovated or both innovated. they took ideas that were already around and ran with them.

          2. awaldstein

            True…Apple’s innovation is that they imagined a different world and built something that the mass market made their own.Google’s innovation is that they took this idea to a different market segment in a new way.I applaud them both. I choose one of them as a genius that inspires me.

          3. testtest

            great Dealing with Darwin, geoff moore outlines a bunch of different types of innovation

          4. awaldstein

            I’ll relook at Moore.Been awhile although I’m and used to hire him as the draw for all of my events when I was running marketing and biz dev for Keynote Systems back in the day.

          5. kidmercury

            in addition to different marketing approaches google also innovated technically, i.e. the intents stuff on android not on iOS

          6. Timothy Meade

            Ironically, the closest thing to intents might be activation codes in palm os, a similar implementation in the Blackberry or similar concepts from the Newton. All of these are multiple entry points into an application used by system services like search or alaram clock activation for instance. Android goes beyond this an exposes the intent to the end user in a sometimes clumsy manner.

          7. awaldstein

            You are probably right kid, I”m just jaded.I spent some 10 years building businesses on the back of search innovation from Google.I see them now like Microsoft of old, just throwing half finished junk at the wall (their TV products) and copying other stuff.Innovation sure. Leadership and inspiration not a bit. They had me and lost me.

          8. Timothy Meade

            Where is Facebook in that continuum?

          9. awaldstein

            There are parts of my networks that only live on Facebook.Specifically international wine bloggers. That’s were they hang out and where the groups coalesce although they are slowly moving to my blog.But…I’ve never built a business ‘on’ Facebook. in fact I don’t consider Facebook a transactional nor a conversational platform. It’s a connector in some instances. Valuable yes as a sandbox for fans and a channel for some parts of my news funnel.If Facebook went away my world would not change nor my business strategies to a severe degree.

          10. Timothy Meade

            Hmm, maybe I should have been more specific, how quickly are they maturing into a stable company with less organic growth ahead or less innovation.

          11. awaldstein

            Even with the obvious challenge that comes with changing and innovating with such a huge base, I feel that Facebook has another phase of big innovation in it.Single minded focus (and control) by the CEO is why.BTW…if you are noticing, they are rolling in slowly better and better editing to their comment system. It was horrible. Now its bad but they seem to have Disqus quality in their roadmap.

          12. JLM

            .One area in which I think Apple has been the leader of the parade is in industrial design.Apple products are “cool” visually and they are sleek.This is basic industrial design — packaging.In this regard, they have seduced the marketplace not just through the quality of their performance but in the public image of their use.If the product is cool, then by association the user is cool.Remember Apple invented the finger swipe, the second most popular iconic finger movement in the history of mankind..

          13. testtest

            industrial design is more than packaging. dieter rams ten principles are worth looking at. can impress your daughter with some extra design knowledge;)…

          14. JLM

            .Thanks, I will work that into my next conversation w My Perfect Daughter. I will try not to gloat..

          15. testtest


          16. LE

            Not to forget that Jobs and the Apple marketing machine created that appeal in the minds of users. It wasn’t strictly the design (Jobs infact apparently got inspiration from Bang and Olufsen a brand that our children probably have no clue about). And your brain @JLM you are convinced that that car in your garage that you take out at night is the shit (as you have written about the experience here on AVC). My brain on the other hand is convinced the car that I have is the shit. I traded in the same model the year before because the new model was different and all the sudden the previous model seemed old even though only 12 months ago I was in love with that. (I just spent time washing it and then taking pictures of it. Unlike taking pictures of a girlfriend, wife, my kids, or even pet, the car just sits there and lets me take as many pictures as I want to and never complains to hurry up.)Marketing made some people’s brains think this Chrysler PT Cruiser was appealing:

          17. JLM

            .Marketing is 4-6 P’s depending upon how many fingers you use.Done well, it is seamless.The P for “product” is where the design component comes in.As to cars, there is not a single choice. More than one can be favored. Cell phones, tablets, computers are typically a “one and done” possession.As an example, I used to have a ’66 GTO convertible (white w red interior bucket seats and a huge sound system) in addition to my ’66 Impala.Alas, it was killed in cold blood one spring evening by a young fellow eating a cheeseburger while talking to his girlfriend on the cell phone. He was #7 in line going around my stalled baby on a bridge over the river in ATX.It did not survive the 70 mph collision with a Ford pick up.I really miss that car..

          18. LE

            “I really miss that car.”I feel your pain about the goat. I “sat shiva” after my 2011 car got hit by hail. Although it was repaired it never felt the same to me. So I put it to sleep and got the 2012.

          19. awaldstein

            Sorry….have to disagree wholeheartedly.Apple didn’t create the appeal of the iPod, nor the iPhone, nor the iPad.To believe that the billboards all over the world created the ‘want’ for the iPod is to misunderstand marketing at its best.Apple created the product that let the market see itself in it. That’s completely different. They didn’t create the appeal, they created a product to suit the latent need and let the world identify with it and make it their own.They created the runway. The world walked up it by themselves. Myself included.Sure marketing tells a story but when I read your paragraph above you are implying that this is ‘tell me what is red is blue’ logic. Not the case at all.

          20. LE

            I have to disagree with your disagreement.Circa 2001 story in cnet:…As first reported by CNET, speculation about the device kicked into high gear last week when Apple invited journalists and industry analysts for “the unveiling of a breakthrough digital device.” Apple’s teaser in the invitation stated, “Hint: it’s not a Mac.” Apple also used the event to announce iTunes 2 software, which adds built-in support for the iPod.1) A teaser, 2) an invitation, 3) an event resulting in press and publicity sounds like marketing to me. PR and press manipulation is marketing and certainly helps to create demand by generating free press coverage.Here’s mention in the NYT circa 2001 about the ipod:…Advertising is just one small portion of marketing.Here’s a video of Jobs introducing the iphone in 2007 at Macworld what was it 6 or 7 months before you could buy one? There were lines as you remember to get one. Those lines were caused by good marketing which including the secrecy and showmanship of Jobs. Not the quality of the product (that is why they continued to sell though obviously).The world would in no way have beat a path to the door of Apple w/o Apple engaging in marketing. (Remember also the 1984 ads for the launch of Macintosh? Remember the I’m a PC and I’m a Mac ads so skillfully done?)Lastly as I’ve mentioned before I went on a cruise ship with an iphone the day after the iphone was released. I was bothered by no less than 20 people on that trip. Everyone wanted to see it and touch it. Waiters, other guests, it became so annoying and even when I returned home at Starbucks the same thing happened. So much so that I didn’t bring the ipad that I had bought years later to Starbucks since I didn’t want to be interrupted there. The products were good obviously the hyper interest was a result of Apple created hype mostly. In my opinion. No hype and adoption would have taken much much longer.Oh, one more thing. The apple white earphones are marketing and although I can’t find an article link I do remember Jobs saying something about the color to distinquish the product in their marketing.…The white earphones (or “earbuds”) that ship with all iPods have become symbolic of the brand. Advertisements feature them prominently, often contrasting the white earphones (and cords) with people shown as dark silhouettes that are usually seen on iTunes gift cards. The original earphones came with the first generation iPod.

          21. awaldstein

            Great retort.I never said they didn’t market. They are the best marketers on the planet.I just said that there is a difference between telling people the red pill is green and doing your best to get people to love what they are buying.Apple products aren’t beautiful because they tell us they are. They just are and they do the best to make us see them like they do.That’s not a subtle difference in my book.Great discussion.

          22. awaldstein

            True…more than anything else, Apple understand the consumer market.

          23. Timothy Meade

            Or state of the art in anything else

      2. William Mougayar

        No, I meant they are innovations with Android, not saying they are beyond the iPhone, but different. Being open is a kind of innovation I think.

        1. awaldstein

          Thanks for clarification…Sorry…I’m a bit miffed at all the Apple bashing.Article in NY times bashed them yesterday that people working for them love their jobs but the pay scale is super low.They created over 30,000 jobs and new definition of retail and they are hammered.

          1. ShanaC

            success breeds envy?

          2. awaldstein

            Envy maybe.

    3. Eric Klein

      Innovation is often thwarted by deep pockets or just timing.Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the telephone but actually it turns out that Antonio Meucci actually did the work 16 years before Bell submitted a patent for the telephone. In fact the US Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case with fraud charges against Bell. But unfortunately Meucci died in 1889 and the case was dropped.Apple is now trying to claim that Samsung and Microsoft stole the idea of the tablet from them, when Microsoft introduced it on 2002.Apple has made many useful innovations, and has “borrowed”, stolen, or licensed others – just like any other successful company. The original Mac’s advantage over Microsoft was taken from Xerox, and then copied again as MS Windows (and OS2).Between the claims of copying and patent infringement the only ones making progress are the lawyers while the consumer is left to wait on new innovation.

      1. ShanaC

        I don’t know about that, we’ve been through a time of great change, and we’re still changing.One of the most profound things I heard from an economist that if things don’t slow down soon, we’re going to have elements of the population that won’t keep up. And I keep think innovation in quickening, to the point of exhaustion.

        1. testtest

          the world changes so quickly we live on an alien planetripped off william gibson for that one:)

          1. ShanaC

            He’s brilliant. But true – my life would have been alien to me when I was born. Except for the clothing and the music- but my day to day is radically different.

        2. Shawn Cohen

          The idea of innovation and even VC is now hitting the mainstream which probably means it will be journalistic red meat for 2 minutes. After the influx of excitement by people who should never be in startups fades, the original players will remain and it’ll be business as usual for dedicated entrepreneurs again.

          1. Guest

            I have talked about “entrepreneurs” and “true entrepreneurs” before. I think the true entrepreneurs will stick around. But, then they don’t really have a choice. It’s their way.

          2. ShanaC

            What does that have to do with technology outpacing cultural change? That circumstance is so rare. Usually periods right afterwards ended up with the founding of new nationstates, new religions. We’re barely seeing that in the West, because technology is still changing so radically.

          3. Shawn Cohen

            I thought I was agreeing w/ your last line, “And I keep think innovation in quickening, to the point of exhaustion”:)Society seems very addictive right now–something flashy looks good, everyone latches on to it and then strangles whatever good was in the flashy thing to begin w/.Sorry, I probably misunderstood the point you were trying to make.

          4. ShanaC

            such is life!It isn’t so clear to me what the rate is going to do to us all. It is a huge cultural shift, even if culture hasn’t quite caught up yet…

          5. Shawn Cohen

            Yeah, my statement is overly simplistic–you’re much wiser than I am in that regard:) But I think you captured well w/ the word “exhaustion.”As a society, I think we get tired w/ certain concepts when they become our focus instead of the stuff that created a byproduct that we can consume.Innovation is like that–if society focuses on it too much, they’ll get bored w/ it b/c it’s a lot of work. But they’ll continue to consume the byproduct of innovation (cool gadgets, trips to the moon, etc).

      2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        I disagree but only on the fine print.It is not the innovation that is thwarted by deep pockets or just timing. Innovators cannot help themselves but innovate.It is a chance at the exploitation and delivery and subsequent betterment that are most thwarted, and perhaps it is that which is worse.Worse because most “paradigm shifts” or “disruptive technologies” are often not introduced by the best of the new breed.Why? because competition is GOOD and competitive advantage transient.This is why teams are more important than ideas. But teams that have ideas are the best !

        1. Richard

          It seems somewhat shortsighted to look as all forms of intellectual property as outdated concepts that get in “my” way. Respect for the intellectual work and property of others is an essential part of the american experience. Don’t be so quick to jump on the anti ip bandwagon just to make a buck or two. 

          1. JLM

            .The conflict is between the American sense of freedom and the preservation of basic property rights.Both rights with a Constitutional basis — a general, not a precise reading.I do think that the issue of basic property rights cannot be ignored.I can see both sides clearly and with almost complete agreement.I suspect that it will all eventually come down to the attribution of value to the original innovator..

          2. Cam MacRae

            Essential? I really don’t think so. Owing to the lack of a frontier you could argue IP-inefficiency is an essential part of the modern American experience; some great economists do.

          3. Richard

            Think about the issue from 30,000 feet. The coca cola  recipe (their ip) has endured for 100 years with no net loss to the consumer, in either price or quality of product. The ip of the microprocessor staved off foreign competition that would have crushed companies like intel and did nothing to slowdown Moores Law. Designs like Nike swoosh make are physiologically important enough for an amateur athlete to pay a premium to what is otherwise a piece of fabric. Sure, when you get in the thicket of ip you can make arguments, but say what you will ip had been a net benefit for Americans for a few hundred years now. 

          4. Cam MacRae

            You’re talking about IP, not IP monopolies. Pretty much every new industry arose in the absence of government granted IP monopolies. The only IP monopoly that makes any economic sense is trademark. YMMV.

          5. Richard

            Think about the issue from 30,000 feet. The coca cola  recipe (their ip) has endured for 100 years with no net loss to the consumer, in either price or quality of product. The ip of the microprocessor staved off foreign competition that would have crushed companies like intel and did nothing to slowdown Moores Law. Designs like Nike swoosh make are physiologically important enough for an amateur athlete to pay a premium to what is otherwise a piece of fabric. Sure, when you get in the thicket of ip you can make arguments, but say what you will ip had been a net benefit for Americans for a few hundred years now. Not sure i get the distinction. I agree that Gov manufactured monopolies are a problem but most have nothing to do with IP but rather use regulation and high cost barriers to entry as the means for creating the monopoly. 

          6. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Nope Rich – You are jumping to three flawed assumptions.1) We do original work (heck I’ve authored text books for our professional institute) and we are disrupting. If anyone could seek IP protection we could. But we don’t – here’s why.It serves no-one apart from lawyers so long as we believe the following : “We are faster, more adept, skilled, leaner and more passionate, and know our stuff better than anyone.”In that context, the effect of competition is like a spotlight – we bask in and love it.2) If we did not do original work, that we could not improve, better serve, add-value in some inaccessible place or as a last result offer something less expensive – These are the most common business models known to man – if not the most exciting.3) We are American – Nope in our industry (energy efficiency) America is gaziilions of dollars behind on infrastructure (buildings and plant), no-how (market was over-looked), culture (we have diverse languages and modes of thought) and motivation – Your energy is cheap.Take away 2) and 3) above and we would still not contemplate formal IP protection – because we have the best team and love what we do – and that wins every time. Forthright response – but integrity was questioned !

          7. Richard

            The “wins everytime” really weakens your take. The point isn’t weather ip is right for you. The issue is weather it makes Amercian conpanies more conpetitive and innovative. If u compare the economies with and without up protection the answer seems clear.

          8. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            I disagree – My response defends against your accusation. Winning from my perspective is not only being profitable but rather innovating and changing the world. Money is incidental, not an objective.Comparing economies as you suggest – I think the most salient difference in IP currently is in software. All the evidence points to Software Patentability (the US model ) being juridically questionable, pragmatically flawed and the examination model fundamentally broken. That is before one considers whether is can tractably be enforced.The Patent system as applied by corporations does not seek to reward innovation, but actively attempts to prevent it.Also all software algorithms and machines are conceptually re-presentable as a single number (Universal Machine Concepts of Turing underpin this – ref… for a fun take and… for a little more rigour.- Software patents thus amount conceptually to ownership and non-exploitation rights of specific numbers which is in any world damn silly.The problem is that to appreciate the nuance of the argument requires exactly that number of brain-cells always exactly one more than the proponents of the patent system to protect software collectively possess as such their arguments are interminable.Hint – it can only be achieved by waiting until tomorrow

          9. Richard

            All software is base 2 and could make an argument the the arangment of electrons is also a base 2 problem. The issue  is not about software per se or whether patents (vs hardware)  are appropriate  as this is a thicket issue. The issue for me is whether someone who comes up with an algorithm that allows a business to map his buildings energy consumption against a similar building nomalized for the number of employees and output etc. and builds a output device that updates a barcode on a product sold by the business to convey this info to a customer  can’t rely on ip to market and his innovation?  Are the legacy companies rewarded in anti ip scenario? The issue is not about software per se or whether patents (vs hardware)  are the appropriate  as this is a thicket issue. The issue for me is whether someone who comes up with an algorithm that allows a business to map his buildings energy consumption against a similar building nomalized for the number of employees and output etc. and builds a output device that updates a barcode on a product sold by the business to convey this info to a customer  can’t rely on ip to market and his innovation?  Are the legacy companies unjustly rewarded in this anti ip scenario? 

          10. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            If you rely on IP to market anything – you are in danger for the “build it and they will come” delusion – Even Apple with their “Oh so attractive” toys have to promote them.If you are scared of your IP being ripped off – spend a few years trying to convince your team to do exactly what you want. If you cant (and nobody can) – then what chance is there that a bunch of strangers will – without your help ?So if you have real defensible IP you have no problems – otherwise you have no business :)My 2 cents

      3. rab777hp

        How on earth can you claim Android is even close to an iPhone rip-off? Google bought android years before apple even announced the iphone!

    4. Shawn Cohen

      RE your first paragraph, this is where our company is. Other startups are coming behind us w/ the same USP but w/ a different, lower cost twist that appeals to some of our market as well as a market not interested in our product.Our executives’ challenge is the reality that we’re going to get cannibalized if we don’t do something different.

    5. Guest

      I agree. The deciding factor of a copycat is difference. The most *important* factor is the advances (if any). It’s best to be looking at about 10% innovation in new products. This means the other 90% is proven, both in sales and usablility. That doesn’t mean a totally new product can’t be great, I’m just saying the 10% innovation rule is less risky to both the creator and the customer.But again the most important factor for comparison is the advances. Has the innovator advanced in a way that is good? Have the “hands on” schools (YC, Tech) advanced the offering? Have they decreased the startup failure rate? Have they created better entrepreneurs? I don’t know the answers to those questions, I’m just saying those are examples of “advances” that should be looked at.If the innovator hasn’t advanced the offering, then are they truely innovators?! If you create a “different” mouse trap that catches fewer mice, is it innovative or just different?!Do you mean the measure of success is all in the market share at the end of the day?

  9. Adam Grainawi

    You are one-hundred percent spot-on when you say that knockoffs keep innovators honest. Without this added competition, they could afford to rest and rely on their past achievements. This can be quite valuable to the original innovator, as it forces them to step up their game — proof of this can be found in Apple’s recent unveiling of their new Macbook Pro lines. They had to defend against the hoards of MacbookAir clones.[ASIDE: I would speculate that Apple’s 2013 ipad offering will be quite compelling after the unveiling of Microsoft’s Surface tablet. It will likely be the first significant change in iOS for the ipad.]But this point you have made only serves to illustrate that the primary (not always the same as the original) innovator in the space will most be the most likely to continually succeed in the face of the innumerable unknowns that face any company over the next few years, especially any startup. The knockoffs do provide some value, but anything they bring to the table will likely be matched and outdone by the company that originally saw the need for the new product or service.Now, the only thing that remains is calling who is the primary innovator for any given space. Apple wasn’t the first to create a touchscreen smartphone, but few would say they knocked off those products.EDIT: I’ve given this a bit of thought over the last day. The only way to avoid copycats and wannabes is to create something that cannot be replicated. For instance, as Peter Thiel has pointed out “no one is going to duplicate Quora.” He is 100% right about that and it is a great example of what I am trying to say.

    1. JLM

      .I suspect that every possible feature offered by any tablet was contemplated in the first Apple iPad.Apple believes in going to market at 80% done. 80% done but on time.The future of tablets is very exciting. Just the addition of an HDMI port is a game changer..

      1. Aaron Klein

        A keyboard cover looks pretty game changing too.

  10. testtest

    there’s probably going to be copy cats either way. may as well enjoy destroying them.

  11. Rohan

    I feel Steve Jobs’ visceral reaction here was more thanks to the fact that Eric Schmidt had been a member of the Apple board during the development of the iPhone.. whilst of course being Google’s CEO. Additionally, he had had conversations with Page and Brin and felt cheated..Jobs’ ire in the past has been directed at individuals.. Sculley, the CEO at Adobe who refused to make software for the Mac.These lawsuits just represent the ire.The man was used to competition. He didn’t sue Microsoft for the Zune. That said, he probably realized that the Android would be to phones was Windows was to PC’s. That probably annoyed him more..

    1. testtest

      “I feel Steve Jobs’ visceral reaction here was more thanks to the fact that Eric Schmidt had been a member of the Apple board during the development of the iPhone”that’s how i understood it, as well.

    2. testtest

      also to add, schmidt apparently told jobs goog weren’t going to make a phone

    3. ErikSchwartz

      Of course Google bought Android (August 2005) before Eric joined Apple’s BOD (August 28, 2006).…Steve knew who he was asking to join the board.

      1. JLM

        .Well played and brilliant observation.Not fair using real facts though.Five yard penalty..

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Haha – Brilliant JLMI recall a long argument during a ski holiday in Austria – My great pal John put forward the notion over dinner that (paraphrasing) “It is better to engage in debate on a subject about which you have no disadvantage through being unnecessarily encumbered with the facts of the matter or personal experience – you are almost naked – What remains are rhetoric and charm – an astute observer will note that these are the only reliable means of winning any argument”

          1. testtest

            rhetoric remains? you mentioned ‘logos’ yesterday. aristotelian logos, i assumed.

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Nope – The Logos I referred to there though still Greek would be as in Word Truth and Light Reason etc – Hence the origins or births of ideas through words. God in Christian, Judasim and Islam speaks creation into existence – everything else is physically consequent. – I was perhaps being a little smart and obtuse regarding the genesis of ideas!So – to explain (i hope) – and not to preach… BIG answer coming – hopefully no-one will object…Interestingly since God in these faith’s is YHWH “He” defines himself as “that, that is” or “I am that I am” (and various related translations) the definition is always axiomatic and self-referential as a premise.Now Truth is self-referentially true (in exactly the way that a lie cannot affirm itself) – I guess , but by Goedel this cannot be proven as it would otherwise be a mathematically complete and dis-provable. Goedel shows this simply cannot be, (overturning several thousand years of axiomatic mathematical and philosophical thought in the process – Sorry Bertrand R ! ). Truth must therefore (in order to be consistent) only be an article of Faith or an axiom. – Shocking implication – God requires Faith ! God could not be other or the laws of mathematics would nullify him. He cannot therefore be proven (or otherwise). But there is more…God refers to himself as no more or less than “the explanation, or logos, reason, or truth” – implicitly we suppose for what cannot be otherwise explained – the non-physical. Since without process there is no time (it defines time), every adherent to the big bang theory necessarily denies cause for creation (if we define cause as something preceding effect) as it is otherwise oxymoron – cause cannot precede time! So we need a label (for a reason that is not a “cause” – So lets call it a “Lamppost” if it does not offend – no scrub that – lets instead call it instead God – because it works as a convention even if it does offend – but in some places they use other letters!So God is by definition exactly as reliable as the 0th, 1st and 2nd Law of Mathematics (oh and all of Mathematical reason into the bargain ) – These are all founded on premise and axioms that must be adopted as convenience as a basis for philosophy.It is therefore not that they are uncertain – but that they are certainly reasonable and there is no reason in their absence – They are necessary!Happily this implies that if A is as hot and B and B is as hot as C then A is as hot as C !But (Grand Finale) as we have known since the middle of last century that cannot and can never be proven however smart you are !We simply assume our existence.So perhaps some ideas are really new ! @JLM what pray do you make of that ?

          3. testtest

            my point was more, if you remove ‘facts of the matter’ you aren’t left with rhetoric. rhetoric includes ‘logos’, or logic. and includes ‘ehtos’–the character of the speaker. which is particular important if they are an expert on the subject.”The Logos I referred to there though still Greek”ofcourse. it’s a greek word”Now Truth is self-referentially true (in exactly the way that a lie cannot affirm itself) – I guess , but by Goedel this cannot be proven as it would otherwise be a mathematically complete and dis-provable. Goedel shows this simply cannot be, (overturning several thousand years of axiomatic mathematical and philosophical thought in the process”for example, the liar’s paradox. godel’s numbering etc.”Sorry Bertrand R ! ).”and Whitehead (principia mathematica)”Truth must therefore (in order to be consistent) only be an article of Faith or an axiom. – Shocking implication – God requires Faith ! God could not be other or the laws of mathematics would nullify him. He cannot therefore be proven (or otherwise).””god” requires faith. i understand it goes further: any system of reasoning requires faith.”Since without process there is no time (it defines time), every adherent to the big bang theory necessarily denies cause for creation (if we define cause as something preceding effect) as it is otherwise oxymoron – cause cannot precede time! “all systems that we can draw a boundary around, including the universe, have an element outside of themself.”So God is by definition exactly as reliable as the 0th, 1st and 2nd Law of Mathematics (oh and all of Mathematical reason into the bargain ) – These are all founded on premise and axioms that must be adopted as convenience as a basis for philosophy.””laws of mathematics”. only 3? there’s tons of axioms. exmaple, euclid’s five postulates”Happily this implies that if A is as hot and B and B is as hot as C then A is as hot as C!”proving inference? the most famous being1. all men are mortal2. socrates is a man3. therefore, socrates is mortal”But (Grand Finale) as we have known since the middle of last century that cannot and can never be proven however smart you are”it was 1931quite an intesting subject. don’t know that much at the moment. want to get around to learning Logic at some point.

          4. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Ok – You are one exceptionally bright guy and also a polymath – My respect.Whereas I have merely bundled together some ideas that seem to me to resolve some day-to-day issues that are actually so obvious that we can’t see the solution in front of our face;you appear to be versed in them – “Hats off to You” or “Respect” – or there may be an even more modern way of saying the same… “Props” ???? – No idea what that means but – either I have them for you, I offer them to you, or I believe you have lots of them already 🙂

          5. testtest

            wish i knew it better. don’t think i do your complements justice. but thanks for the kind words, james

          6. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Whoops – “the 0th, 1st and 2nd Law of Mathematic “should have read Thermodynamics hence reference to hot bodies A,B,C later. Hate it when I write nonsense – It makes it harder for people to ignore 🙂

          7. JLM

            .Your comment could be a pointed reference to our last Presidential election in which charm and rhetoric — and a bit more in the form of a Perfect Storm — triumphed over, well, everything.Hell, even I was beguiled. I had “high” hopes for a change. Ponder that a bit, please.The real question is can one triumph a second time on such thin gruel?I hope not..

          8. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Google – “Ponder anew” – you will find my answer 🙂

        2. Aaron Klein


        3. falicon

          “facts are for those that lack the imagination to fill in the gaps on thier own” – Anonymous (as read in Dan Ariely’s latest book – dishonesty)

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Love it

      2. Rohan

        Didn’t know that. Thanks Erik! 🙂

  12. LE

    “Getting stuck in time and money losing litigation may be emotionally satisfying for a while”I agree regarding any legal action, in general. On the other hand you can’t just roll over and play dead or you might just expose a weakness that would invite future problems on another issues which are significant. I think some of the kickback will sometimes need to be done just to send a message. Getting involved in some of these things might just be a necessary evil and cost of doing business.

  13. LE

    “and understand that the best response is to go out and out execute the copycat”A true mafia response. (As I was saying yesterday..)

    1. jason wright

      So Gotti.

      1. LE

        Yeah but in all seriousness the way I read that paragraph I think Fred didn’t mean to use the word “copycat” I think he meant “execute and innovate”.

    2. fredwilson

      I added a hyphen to the post just to be clear that I am not advocating the use of hit men 😉

  14. LE

    “sense of injustice Steve Jobs felt”A true narcissistic response on his part given his behavior.I once knew a particular businessman that owned supermarkets and regularly carted away suitcases full of untaxable cash. He had his kids clip coupons from newspapers so he could turn them into the manufacturers and collect the money. He also regularly submitted bogus insurance claims and did whatever other schemes he could to turn a buck. I remember a time when he caught one of his cashiers or managers with some food in their locker that they had stolen. It wasn’t the fact that he was mad at this but the way he got mad (ala Jobs..). He was just so surprised that someone had stolen from him and took it so personally. Apparently rules didn’t apply to him, only others.

    1. jason wright

      reads like a deeply flawed human being. I wonder how his kids turned out?

      1. Aaron Klein

        Either not well…or they were sickened by it and 180 degrees the other way.

    2. ShanaC

      what happened to business ethics?

      1. JLM

        .Patent expired in the ’70s?.

      2. LE

        I don’t believe there was ever really business ethics. I just think that people didn’t get caught as easily and the info was not public. And if people had ethics it was because they could because of a monopoly or some other advantage (see newspapers [1]) that we don’t have today because of regulation or competition. In the end if people can’t make money they will find a way around anything not hard wired in laws in order to make money. Quality will go down. It’s like water leaking or the weakest link type stuff. Something has to give.And of course we can get into an entire discussion on what business ethics are. Are ethics telling the truth? In what cases? That line is different for everyone. And where they draw the line they tend to put their thoughts the same way people view religion relative to how they see religion themselves.Is it ethical to promise a job or a product to someone when you know you can’t deliver just to get an order? I know people who have become very successful (monetarily) because they can do this and can sleep at night. Others who can’t, who are more ethical, in the same business will make less money.[1] Journalism used to be one of those “ethical” type professions. Now not so much the case. Why? Because the easy money, monopoly, and locked in advertising dollars are gone. As a result in order to still earn a living the industry has to cheat more in order to stay alive and the standards have been loosened.

  15. TroyHenikoff

    I am surprised that you say you would rather invest in the innovator – Facebook, Google, eBay and DropBox were all followers in their markets and did significantly better than the pioneers that were there first.As for YC, TechStars and Excelerate Labs, I view it differently… These are more a kin to schools than to companies. Sure we all compete for some of the same applicants (in Excelerate’s 3 years we have lost just one company to another accelerator) but it is not a “winner take all” business. The Ivy League schools compete with each other for students, but does anyone know which was “first to market”? Does anyone care who was first? is it likely that any of them will “go out of business”? (some universities have closed due to financial issues, but that is more related to their model than a lack of applicants, and they are relatively few on a percentage basis compared to companies that go out of business)Let’s celebrate the diversity of options available to support Entrepreneurs today and hope that more accelerators continue to appear and innovate in the space providing even more support in the future.

    1. LIAD

      Perhaps it’s not all about the absolute return. It’s about the satisfaction and self actualisation of being a pioneer and moving mankind forward.

      1. JLM

        .That is a different currency and a powerful one indeed.We all like to challenge and satisfy ourselves. Or at least we should..

    2. Apple Dev

      iOS was not first. Android came before. Before it was Android, there was Danger Inc. Look up the history. Steve Wozniak was on the board there. The other Steve was working on Droids long before iOS was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.To suggest that iOS was “the innovator” ignores the evolutionary process of hardware and software development. iOS didn’t spring from the void. Apple stands on the shoulders of giants.Apple is now coming up with its own version of the Android Fragments API to handle varying screen sizes. They are not “ripping off” Android any more than Android did iOS. Both teams are solving common problems that have a very limited number of solutions.Should Google be allowed to “own” the concept of rearranging elements on screen to better fill different sized screens? No, that’s absurd. That’s also exactly what the US patent system allows.These lawsuits and grousing on message boards do nothing but damage the industry and raise blood pressures. For the sake of my health, please refrain from both.

      1. Ben Popper

        Are there any screenshots of what Android looked like in terms of UI/UX in the two years between being purchased by Google (2005) and the release of the iPhone?

        1. Apple Dev

          What will the UI/UX of any device look like on any 3.5 inch screen? All of them are going to share similarities because everyone is dealing with the same problems: How to fit all the functionality on a small screen.The Motorola A1200 ming had a lot of similarities to the original iPhone, despite being available 2 years before it. I know, I had one. It had the four navigation buttons on the home screen, it had touch scrolling through lists of apps, and allowed you to switch apps in a phone call using the touch screen. Apple patented that, despite the prior art (#8,082,523).Shall we now describe the iPhone as an A1200 knockoff? Obviously not, because the iPhone brought a lot of original ideas to the table too. Just like Android brought ideas that are not on iPhone.Apps without borders is a fundamental concept on Android. It produces a completely different architecture than the iPhone allows. To call that a knockoff only shows ignorance of the Android OS. It’s like calling OS X a knockoff of Linux despite the huge difference in kernel architecture. It shows a serious lack of knowledge on the subject. To those who continue to argue this point, I suggest the old proverb: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    3. Jauny

      I think the comparison between acceletors (or any school) and products is not perfect because in the case of ivy league schools or accelerator, their is more demand than offer (How many apply to Harvard vs how many spots are offered). In the case of products, well, for the seller, the less competitors, the more course, as a consumer and for the market in general, the competition is better is because it pushes innovation, etc… but as a seller it might be easier to be alone

      1. Guest

        “… for the market in general, the competition is better is because it pushes innovation…”Unless they compete on price by reducing quality.

        1. Jauny

          There are multiple choice in competing, either reducing price (by reducing costs/margins, either by reducing quality or having better processes), or innovating to offer a better product, for more expensive. Usually those options are all present, hence, competition is the best situation as a consumer.There is more chance to see lower quality and higher prices in a monopolistic market than a competition only based on a price war ending in low quality.It is really rare on a competitive market to have only products fighting on price with lower quality. In the end, you will always have a company entering the marking to get the share where the customers want to pay more for more quality 🙂

    4. LE

      Troy – Until Fred had refreshed my memory on the Forbes article (which by the way isn’t on your news page here and should be:… I hadn’t heard of Excelerate at all. (Not related but while I’m thinking about it a) remove whois privacy from your domain name b) see if you can buy at a reasonable price (it’s taken but parked). c) register and d) Put the source of the statement “Top 3 Ranked Accelerator program” right on your home page. and a link to… To me that’s a big deal when you can be mentioned by Forbes like that. When some young kid wants to join your program that will mean much with his/her Dad and Grandfather. (Along those lines the first time I mentioned Fred to my wife I told her he was the VC who did Twitter. Otherwise she probably wouldn’t have cared about anything I said…)Anyway my point is you need to put more resources into PR to get the name of Excelerate out there. While I am not a target for your program I do deal with people who would be and I wouldn’t have thought of referring anyone to the program given my lack of knowledge about it. Even if you are a school you are also a brand and you need to develop that brand. (I apologize in advance if you are doing this and I have missed something obvious …)

      1. Mark Essel

        Great suggestions LE, I too had never heard of Excelerate Labs and I’m a startup junky (well within their demographic).

    5. Eric Leebow

      Yes, Nintendo wasn’t the first video game system, neither was XBox or Sega. 3DO was an innovator, one of the first to use CDs, yet it struggled to have the distribution and the price point of Nintendo. If you remember Coleco Vision or Atari 2600, they may have been the innovators in the gaming systems.

    6. Matt A. Myers

      I would say they all did it differently – they took a model and made them better in different ways, so therefore were the innovators. A copy would be Pinspire vs. Pinterest.

  16. LE

    “And TechStars and Excelerate Labs are very much YC knockoffs.”I think copy is a better word. Knockoff is somewhat pejorative and implies there is something negative about imitation which there is not. Not to mention the fact that many business ideas won’t get big unless they are copied and that sometimes it’s actually the opposite you don’t want to be the only player in a market. (Take casinos in Atlantic City or Las Vegas as one example. The market got huge because there was competition.)In other words is it better for the innovator, say kickstarter, if there is only kickstarter or kickstarter and a bunch of copies? In addition to the reason you mentioned “Knockoffs create competition for the innovator and keep them honest.”, the category and new business category will be talked about, noticed more, and legitimatized by the competitors and their advertising (and any resulting publicity – think private jet ads in the Wall Street Journal as only one example.). This will help the innovator. If they are the best they will have a larger pie to take a piece of.Copies create increase exposure and create social proof that an idea is viable in the eyes of businesses and consumers.

    1. reece

      great point re: language of ‘knockoff’ versus “copy”

      1. JLM

        .The concept of “naming” things as either defensive or offensive terminology has been raised to an art form in the US driven particularly by politics and business litigation..

        1. reece


    2. Michael Elling

      Modeled on.

  17. jason wright

    I’m still waiting for a Neanderthal to file a complaint.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Remember the CroMagnon ate the Neanderthal

  18. JimHirshfield

    I think it was the head of Louis Vuitton that said he appreciates all the knock offs – better to be copy worthy than not…highest form of flattery, and all that.

  19. pointsnfigures

    Under the new patent laws, I would suspect to see more of this sort of thing. Big companies will file thousands of patents on ideas just to protect their turf and freeze out competition.With regard to accelerators, the proof will be in the pudding. If companies coming out of them create value and exit, the reputation of the accelerator will improve. If an accelerator consistently churns out bad companies, it should go out of business.There are still plenty of structural holes in the accelerator/entrepreneurship market. We haven’t seen the last of innovation here yet.

  20. JimHirshfield

    Innovators and copycats …in many cases the copycat takes the idea a little further. Steven B Johnson’s “adjacent possible” at work.

  21. Tom Labus

    Just about every tech company has been on both sides of these patent disputes and it would seem best for everyone to send the lawyers home and just move on.Products all have elements of their predecessors in them and getting sidetracked with legal stuff won’t help you figure out the next step.

  22. Jon Michael Miles

    Your summary point about staying out of legal issues is wise. The only winners are the lawyers. A few observations about the core of innovation and the propriety of ideas vs. execution.1. The universe lays off it’s bets and accepts only action as a measurement of success. If a category creator drops the ball – tough toodles. Get better. Dr. Pepper was the category creator. Coke was second.2. A Ferrari by this definition is a knock off of the Model T. But the Model T is also a rip-off of the horse drawn wagon. Category creators are not creators but combiners and re-imaginers with perhaps overly big egos.3. Innovators are rip-off artists themselves. Jobs v. Xerox Parc has been made in this thread already. One simply needs introspection and humility to dig a while and then attribute appropriately. Jobs going thermonuclear is right out of line from A Course in Miracles – Defenders do what they defend. We’re all guilty of this at some level.For someone to get bent out of shape about the propriety of “their ideas” has mis-conceptions about where those ideas come from to begin with.Again, the universe, God, evolution, insert your metaphor here, lays of it’s bets and the innovators are not the holder of the ideas, but instead the ones given the opportunity to act at the right time and then receive the label of innovator.

    1. falicon


    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      I really like the invitation to “insert your metaphor here”- I will take it as written… I have five minutes – better spent than wasted.”If the tinder of an idea is Necessity as fuel for thought, a problem is the Abrasive on which to strike , then Education is the flint that sparks it all.These alight upon a torch, to be carried down through untold generations. The flame is passed, one torch holder to the next, a conflagration here, as magic plays in the lime.On darker nights, some sputter out, charred, not ash and dry. But spent or not; wisdom lifts them up into her pouch, so keeping safe to light the new dawn.To innovate, first read the book, learn your lines and play your part, then magic will lighten your path, as others come to carry you forward on their shoulders. For no light was ever seen in the dark recesses of your mind.Oooh – I went poetic all over – like a sardine on toast wi’ lashings of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Gradely!

  23. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    First Job – European Patent Office.Languages improved – three.Points learned – several !Safe jobs = lazy workers.Reward not commensurate with success = lazy workers.Lazy workers = massive bureaucracy – co-existence to support one anotherInternational Rotating Audit Systems = Do not work.Tax free rights for employees = can be abused.Key learning Points.Nothing really new under the sun.Patents Legal System = 99% boring 1% really boring.Patents Legal System in general a tax on consumers, by lawyers.The inventor does not profit unless lucky (same as VC in general).All innovation is a process of refinement.So ask A patents guy for the “definition of the inventive step”I would encourage you to read.…But here is the crux >>Is there any teaching in the prior art, as a whole, that would, not simply could, have prompted the skilled person, faced with the objective technical problem formulated when considering the technical features not disclosed by the closest prior art, to modify or adapt said closest prior art while taking account of that teaching [the teaching of the prior art, not just the teaching of the closest prior art], thereby arriving at something falling within the terms of the claims, and thus achieving what the invention achieves?>>.Now remember that thousands of these are being assessed daily by bureaucrats with no industrial experience, no contact with the claimant, no interest in the outcome.Now apply it to Software – MMUUUAAAAHHHHAHAAHHAAA – An evil plan to undermine a whole economy.Conclusions – Share ideas, learn, be fleet of foot, be first when you can, be second otherwise. Understand difference between value and cost and deliver it.… ends withIf you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,’ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,If all men count with you, but none too much;If you can fill the unforgiving minuteWith sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

    1. JLM

      .Pretty much anything which involves a few stanzas of Kipling is going to pass muster with me..

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        @JLM I hope you appreciate – I was merely Letting In the Jungle 🙂

        1. JLM

          .Barrack-Room Ballads being my favorite, I still enjoy a bit of the Jungle..

    2. Luke Chamberlin


      1. testtest


      2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Haha -He was at the Swiss Patent Office and studied at ETHZ as did Pauli, Roentgen and 22 Nobel Prize Winners.…Though I’m an Oxford man I reckon The “Technical Highschool” at Zurich is about as good as it gets.It certainly compares well with say Stanford (54) or Oxford (57) – Given that the entire population of Switzerland at 7M is less people than commute into London each day or live in New York !So I put it down to the excellent chocolate and skiing facilities ! 🙂

  24. Guest

    I think the real issue of copyrights, patents, and trademarks will be decided in this case:

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Agreed Carl. I think this whole thing is crazy.

      1. Guest

        This case directly impacts consumers, which since Napster has not been the case. I think this one case will throw the issue of copyrights into a totally different light…

    2. Max Yoder

      “But it decided that, if its interpretation of the law should lead to these bizarre conclusions, Congress could sort it out later…”And by “later,” the author should say “many years after it’s still relevant and well after the real damage has been done.”Thanks for sharing this, Carl.

      1. Guest

        Yes, we are going to find out exactly what the concept of “Free Markets” entails…Definitely a unique way to implement a policy of trade barriers….

  25. Dudu Mimran

    Innovation does not have to be feature wise – Android innovation lies in the fact it is free and open and this makes Apple way too angry since it can not be addressed with just new and better features.

    1. jason wright

      Android is all of those things, but I’ve read that Google does apply pressure to handset manufacturers who try to innovate the OS in ways not to Google’s liking. There’s open, and then there’s ‘Google open’. Not necessarily quite the same thing.I think most consumers are stressed by choice in the mobile market.

      1. Dudu Mimran

        I think that most of the companies which are commercially viable and “open” up a product are not doing it without interests and Google is not different in that respect. On the contrary, Google has lot’s of commercial intentions behind it. Still, from a price point of view (deducing the Google Apps toll) and from a source code openness perspective they have stepped up the competition in terms of providing an open and viable alternative to modern mobile operating systems. They have and are still paying a lot of money just to make this ecosystem evolve and eventually consumers and other sides of the equation like developers enjoy this.Also, their move of opening a mobile operating system sets the basis for some interesting projects like boot 2 gecko by Mozilla and others to come which share the understanding that operating systems should be free.From an Apple perspective I think trying to block Android (after getting over all the emotional “revenge” like feelings) is actually counter productive since what Android does in a way is “converting” people who got used to feature phones into becoming smartphone users. The market same segment that could not afford iPhone and these users eventually will be a target market for Apple due to industry commoditization, so in a way Android has only increased the pie for everyone and especially for Apple. You might argue Apple does not care for that segment since they are a “premium” product but I think they have done that mistake once with the MacXX and not they know better.

  26. Dave W Baldwin

    I think we run into a problem trying to bask someone with the title of Innovator. Yes, there are those that ‘copy’ and that would be copy the product at lowest production cost flooding market gaining quick profit short term. Otherwise, two or more companies tried completing a bigger disruption where they started on ‘seperate paths’ but those pathways start veering together as a portion of one company proves better and the other utilizes that. On that note, I hate using ‘two’ companies for example for that shows the bigger battle of monopoly where the big guys just buy the innovation of someone smaller.There is going to be knockoffs of anything successful. It comes down to those who stay successful should already know what is going to be knocked off and be a step ahead. On the plus side, remember that Apple wants to sell a product with lowest possible mfg cost at the highest price possible. The Law of Accelerating Returns would not work if we had to step back and say only Apple can mfg and sell whatever is your gripe. At the same time, let’s say the average retail pp was $500 for Apple and you can buy the same type product for $200 from the competitor. Does that mean the competitor’s can only be 40% as efficient as the Apple? Apple does not own the future just as Dow Jones doesn’t own NASDAQ. Anyone reading who is working on something truly original and disruptive, be ready for the knockoff… and remember that probably is the biggest form of flattery.

  27. Charlie Muir

    Let the record reflect that I love VoiceBunny

  28. Vitomir Jevremovic

    Innovation is hard. Its a shot in the dark. We had more then once a very known moment “oh no, but we’ve been developing this for a year, and they announced it first”At the end of the day, the one that stays remembered is the one that did “innovation” in the best way.Remember Windows Mobile, way before iPhone?

  29. kidmercury

    as if apple didn’t “steal” from xerox with the graphical interface back in the 70s. as @domainregistry:disqus noted jobs’ narcissism and self-unawareness are of epic and comical proportions. apple’s lawsuits against samsung in every jurisdiction are shameful, as is their refusal to stand against things like SOPA and their BFF relationship with ATT while claiming they serve a higher purpose. not sure if i’d regard being the world’s largest toy manufacturer as a higher purpose.on the subject of imitation and knock offs, i’m very much in favor of it. we need more of it, especially on the internet.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Exactly. This whole topic annoys me – so, did Ford/Benz cry wolf when the global automotive industry burgeoned and plagiarised their innovations? Imagine how the world’s pace of development would have been if back then there’d been such an array of legal parasites to impede the progress of others. Where would we be now?Let’s not even start on innovators such as the Wright Brothers, etc, etc – when true innovation was in its gilded age – what we do now is, in many ways, is nothing by comparison – gadgets, fads, bits and bytes, nothing more in many cases – not real, physical, radical development and progress that takes the world into a different phase.

      1. LE

        Automobiles are a perfect example of selling the sizzle and not the steak. They are an emotional purpose. The features don’t play that large a role in the purchase of an emotional product. As someone who has purchased many higher end vehicles I can attest to the fact that they are often lacking features that are in lower end cars. The backup camera is standard on a Honda CR-V but it’s an option on a Porsche Cayenne (both are new models). And the standard camera in the Honda is better than the Porsche option backup camera (has three views to choose from). Most people who buy luxury items are willing to take a haircut on features in order to be able to have the psychic income that comes with a luxury brand.That is one of the things that Apple is able to do that they learned from luxury brands such as Porsche. Manufacture and design a great product. But also spend money on marketing to create an emotional attachment to the product. (By the way in relationships people don’t “buy” on features either as we all know).

  30. Luke Chamberlin

    And Motorola invented the first commercial cell phone. No iPhone without it…The back and forth is good for innovation.These sorts of patent suits are so boring.

  31. EmilSt

    Every attom of energy should be used in building better product, company. The only time you react is if someone is using your name or brand, not the idea.

  32. Zack Kaplan

    I think the important distinction is whether the ‘copycat’ is going after a similar idea, market or consumer or explicitly ‘ripping off’ a unique design or functionality they could otherwise work around with their own innovation. The latter is what is protected by patent law and, I believe, should be protected aggressively to ensure innovators earn their deserved rents. The unfortunate situations arise when people try to patent or protect broad ideas through the legal system, which just slows down competition and ultimately is bad for consumers.

  33. Guest

    I can’t read an article about knockoffs and rip-offs without thinking of Groupon (which itself, granted, is a pretty good service) and its bajillion copycats bombarding my inbox on a daily basis with their shitty deals, providing horrible customer service, and generally eroding the viability of the online group discount model one dissatisfied client and a thousand dissatisfied consumers at a time. Seems like an interesting case study for not having any legal barriers to entry (if not directly applicable to high-tech gadgets due to the comparatively astronomical barrier to entry in tablets and phones).

  34. ShanaC

    Things I think that I might not want to say in public:One of the reasons I think Apple is suit-happy suddenly is because Jobs is gone. I think they may be nervous about their pipeline of development. Suing is a method to slow down competitors, and they may be using that time to do something.

    1. JLM

      .Interesting observation. The vacuum created by the loss of a powerful leader is always a problem..

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        I think Tim Cook is one of the most under appreciated CEOs in the industry because of the Steve Job’s shadow. Tim Cook has build manufacturing and supply lines to ensure Apple’s advantage when a new product is launched.

        1. JLM

          .This may well be the case.While a vacuum is, in fact, often created by the loss of a powerful leader — Steve Jobs, Jack Welch — what is also true is that a great leader has developed a staff that is capable of advancing his ideas and his thought process far into the future.We shall see.

          1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            I agree with your point. Steve Jobs definitely has a role in the development of staff like Tim Cook. Likewise, I am confident that Tim Cook is also developing other staff to keep advancing the future of Apple.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Good point/s.

    3. bfeld

      Strongly disagree. These suits started when Jobs was alive. It’s well known that he initiated the smartphone suits.

    4. Aaron Klein

      Actually, it’s Steve Jobs who went thermonuclear. Tim Cook seems to be more inclined to settle and compete.

  35. JLM

    .In some ways the issue of technology innovation is akin to a woman’s sense of cutting edge fashion — like wearing the same dress to a cocktail party.In the end, it may come down to how the technology is accessorized and the “platform” upon which it is draped.While I completely get the notion that there is one “innovator” and a bunch of “copycats” thereafter, the notion of being a better #2 is where a lot of the money and marketshare gets made.If one were to use spreadsheets as an example — a good example because they were initially just the automation of a process which already existed.Spreadsheets really are just the automation of an old fashioned piece of green and white accounting paper. I used to do fifty page projections on such paper and have them typed out for presentations. Ugh.Visicalc was the first and it arguably drove the Apple computer to a higher level of acceptance because the two together dramatically increased productivity.I was the first person in ATX to own an Apple IIe and a copy of Visicalc and paid a bloody fortune for the opportunity. It did, in fact, work.Then Visicalc morphed into Lotus 1-2-3, the major distinction being that Lotus worked in a DOS environment. Remember the dual 64K floppy drives — one for the software and one for the data? Haha. You do, really?And then MS got a hold of the idea and made Excel.Excel was then offered in the Office Suite and now it is in the Cloud.Each metaphorical innovation was a combination of the software and sometimes a bit of hardware. But the original idea was really not that big a leap of faith, was it?Has there ever been anything more basic to business writ large than a spreadsheet?Somehow the process has evolved into a product which is literally the gold standard and has delivered to its users a powerful productivity improvement of gargantuan magnitude.In my view, this is how things should work.Again, fashion design with varying platforms.If that means that software patents should be sacrificed on the altar of productivity, please pass me the ax and I will behead that bitch..

    1. Cam MacRae

      You should read Boldrin and Levine’s Against Intellectual Monopoly. (Amazon, Free download from Boldrin’s webpage, etc.)Very thought provoking read, jargon and equation free for the layman.

      1. Dale Allyn

        Thanks for this, Cam. I needed something different to read. Just downloaded it and looking forward to reading it.

  36. Matt A. Myers

    This is the most difficult lesson to learn and appreciate. It is so triggering when the years of work, the years of stress that allow you to discover the nuances of an idea (pruning the excess/unimportant), the years of your creativity and effort – all of the stuff you don’t and won’t ever see in a polished product – get copied or are threatened to be copied.It’s true though, you can’t successfully control any ecosystem, you can only manage it – and any good idea will have attempts at copies, though you can plan for this.In the end, it’s a matter of being comfortable letting go, letting go and letting the flow of life carry you. That doesn’t mean you can’t try, and try hard at that.There is always the optimal, however having results that are less than optimal, if you’ve been spending years working on a problem, will likely still be better results than what others who have spent less time on the problem can do.

    1. Guest

      Another issue I’ve encountered…I have at times worked out the better mouse trap. Then presented that innovation at places where I worked only to have someone blantantly steal the ideas. They then screwed them up because they didn’t have full knowledge. After their screwed up mess didn’t work. They blamed my ideas. So, I became the victim twice. That will destroy a person’s desire to share!

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Re: Desire to share – It kills it, and fast – unless you can learn not to take it to heart, which you can do, though it takes reflection to re-build confidence in the ideas and to remember the seeds that lead to those ideas sprouting.It’s the same difficulty when presenting my ideas to developers I want to bring on board. I vet them first by seeing if I like them, their personality, if I’d enjoy working with them – and then based on interactions I’ll decide how much of my plans I’m willing to tell them. And there’s still the looming thoughts that they could attempt to do them themselves, though I will hopefully do things faster and better – because I am the one who discovered the core problems from spending so much time trying to solve multiple problems.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        @Rick_EWS:disqus P.S. Follow me on Twitter and let me know you’re following me, so I can follow and DM you back. 😛

  37. reece

    overall… such is life. if you spend time worrying about the competitors ripping you off, then give up now. you’re distracted and you won’t have the focus to get through it. if you sit around thinking your idea is the most original idea ever, then you’re living an illusion and there’s always some ‘prior art’ somewhereand FWIW, a few notes on the YC/TechStars comp…while i’ll allow that TechStars came after YC and is thus the “knockoff,” i’d argue that1. the idea of incubators existed long before YC…and within tech specifically, we have to look no further than Idealab started by Bill Gross back in 19962. TechStars has innovated and/or improved** upon the model (quality vs. quantity, mentorship, transparency)**this is my opinion here. yes i am a TechStars alum. yes i am biased. but yes i have numerous friends who went through YC, i’ve done my homework, and yes i think the TechStars model is “better” but that doesn’t matter because at the end of the day there is room for both TechStars and YC (not the 1000 other incubators, but two is good), they’ve now differentiated themselves quite a bit, and overall it’s good for entrepreneurship

    1. LE

      YC has much influence as a result of Hacker News where they can brainwash an entire generation. It also has a figure head in Paul Graham to dispense the cool aid. This allows YC to have the same type of influence that Rupert Murdoch did with his newspapers (see Murdoch story) to achieve a larger goal. Techstars had the TV show on Bloomberg (I’m guessing that isn’t renewing?). Techstars has the PR thing nailed though this is exactly the type of stuff I was talking about Excelerate doing:…This is helpful:

      1. testtest


  38. Morgan Brown

    It gets even more interesting when the fast followers are the incumbents, not new startups. You see this in the case of Square, with PayPal, Verifone, et al. non-apologetically copying them as fast as possible.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      It gets even more interesting when the fast followers are from markets that were seen as producing only low added value bargain priced products and ones that are now beginning to acquire a brand kudos and loyalty that’s beginning to rival the likes of premium priced products such as Apple – eg, Samsung…This is already well under way in the automotive sector with the likes of Kia now producing desirable/premium products at much more aggressive prices than their ‘up market’ rivals and ushering in a new phase of customer acquisition via loyalty and desire, not just price/value.

  39. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Ripoffs are complete fools. Everyone knows it. We all appreciate the #1 innovator who went ahead and did it. But the legal/patent issue in the US is not clear-cut. Patents literally win cases, yet most vc’s dont recognize them. Literally i heard from Brad Feld that he doesn’t value patents at all and pretty much doesn’t believe in them.From a young stand-point, I see the vc’s pov, but how can you argue they don’t exist when they are winning cases? And if they are not winning cases, then the 2 companies settle, and that’s still a win.Patents are very real and they determine the outcome of legal cases. Vcs are trying to warp our heads i think….Unless some1 else can shines some light here? Fred?

    1. Luke Chamberlin

      VCs don’t invest in mature companies like Apple or Motorola. Patents are important to mature companies. Patents are not important to (most) startups, especially software-based startups.

    2. bfeld

      You heard me wrong. Specifically, I do not believe that software patents are valid constructs. I also believe that while, in 30 years from now I will be proven correct, the current environment operates in the context that software patents are valid constructs. So while I don’t encourage anyone to get software patents, I also don’t discourage them. You have to play by whatever the rules are, even if you don’t agree with them.I strongly believe that the current software patent dynamic stifles innovation. Five years ago I was pretty alone in this belief. Today there is an increasing understanding of this, including significant research that has been done to show that software patents are simply a tax on innovation that retards its progress.

      1. jason wright

        The EU does not permit the patenting of software. That gives the US an advantage, but a messy one it seems. Harmonization is overdue.

      2. Eric Leebow

        Every good software patent is linked or connected to a piece of hardware, making it a hardware patent, not just software. Sometimes, the hardware cannot be built or commercialized right away due to various reasons, the main reason being funding or distribution.

        1. bfeld

          There is a fundamental concept in patent law called “the machine or transformation test” –…This is why all software patents have artfully worded phrases about machines in them. Most of this artful wording is total bullshit, but the lawyers and the patent bar continue to tune it and promulgate it until such time that judges start saying “nope – sorry” (which has started to happen).

      3. Guest

        That sounds good but remember there are minds that can *create* great things. But the people attached to those minds don’t have the deep pockets to make those innovations reality. Patents help give those minds a reason to share knowledge and provide protection to compensate their time and effort.Don’t forget there are people who wait in the shadows to pounce on other people with less resources. Those pouncers are great business minds because they wait for the best opportunity to apply their resources for making money.If you want people to share knowledge without becoming victims you must level the playing field. The problem is all attempts at helping people can be misused. What can we do?

  40. Scott Barnett

    No innovation happens in a vacuum… it’s also well known that Steve Jobs “ripped off” Xerox. All inspiration comes from prior experiences – it just may be the some people are more obvious than others about their inspiration (e.g. a complete “knock-off” vs. a pivot on an existing idea to go after a new/different market).Also, 99% of all lawsuits are about ego/emotion/ignorance. I’ve always felt that the “loser” of the lawsuit should pay all court costs – I know there are several instances where this wouldn’t be fair either, but I just have to believe 3/4 of all lawsuits would stop if the instigator had to pay all fees if they lost.

  41. bfeld

    Man you buried the lead on this one! The last paragraph is the main point, along with the discussion of what a “protectable innovation” is.Can you imagine what things would be like today if the first VC fund ever created was a protectable innovation? Imagine if AR&D, Draper and Johnson, Sutter Hill, or Asset Management Company was deemed the first, and therefore could be the “only” VC firm, when they were created in the early 1960s.Ultimately, I believe it’s all about continuing to aggressively innovate. And that’s good for everyone.

    1. Luke Chamberlin

      Imagine if HTML were patent-protected and you had to pay a licensing fee just to build a website.The idea that patents are always good for innovation is something you hear in the mainstream a lot and it really bugs me.

      1. bfeld

        One of the most brilliant things that TBL did was not to patent HTML or http: or the web. None of these things should be able to be patented and fortunately TBL saw that the network effect of non-patenting would be so much stronger than patenting. Imagine a world where we were still using Microsoft Blackbird (

        1. jason wright

          If I remember correctly Tim was working at CERN at the time. That may have influenced the patent decision.I can recommend the guided tour of CERN to the AVC fraternity. Well worth a visit (Geneva). You get to wear a nice red hard hat and a radiation badge.

          1. bfeld

            Maybe, although having met him in 1994 in Cambridge when he started W3C at MIT it was pretty clear that his goal was to spred it to the world without royalty or patent protection.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      “And that’s good for everyone.”Yes! Not only resulting in continuing to aggressively innovate and but also with the result of a more vibrant (productive, expansive) marketplace. Not only better products and services but better companies, better leaders, more opportunities (incuding more jobs — it always comes back to jobs).Capitalism FTW.

    3. Eric Leebow

      Brad, nothing is completely protectable. There’s always another way to do something. I invented a social networking idea in 1999 that I was not able to do, just imagine it. I think a lot of dreamy ideas have higher bars than one visionary can actually do. Innovation happens over time. Sometimes, the innovation is hidden within the product, or even under the hood where the VCs or even the earliest customers cannot see it right away. If you were one of the first people to own the very first Nintendo Entertainment Systems in the 80s, you could have turned over the box and saw there was a piece you could pull off, and attach something else to it. Why? It’s because they knew the innovation may be something that would be attached to it, not something that was already built inside.

      1. bfeld

        I agree!

        1. Eric Leebow

          Yes, and another challenge with innovation is that the enthusiastic or over optimistic inventors tell their ideas to people who don’t care to help out the original thinker at times, yet rather attempt to do it themselves. There have been movies about this, and sometimes the people who thought they were first to come up with a big idea, someone had the idea long before they did, and it was an even bigger idea.The reason you can’t completely protect your ideas, as someone will always come out with another bigger, better, faster, or slightly differentiated product. A little difference can make a big difference in some ways, too. A big company that has been in the industry will come out with the same startup product the VC invests in, and it happens all the time. However, it’s my belief the small startup will be able to out innovate the company with billions of dollars because startup is the real visionary (it’s their main focus), not the big company who got the idea from feedback write ins (ie. Big Company X should be doing this or that). When the Big Company X has no idea what little startup Y had envisioned when doing this means later on, so Big Company X only has often times made the decision to offer to buy little startup Y at times. Not always the case, as little startup Y will eventually be as big as or bigger than Big Company X in some instances. We’ve seen it happen before. You can only innovate and believe the other company isn’t going to make a better version. However, every entrepreneur knows that there’s someone out there who is attempting to outdo the next. The last big innovator in a marketplace sometimes is usually the biggest innovator, yet biggest innovators are not always the biggest winners due to things that are beyond their control at times. The biggest winners are the companies with the biggest innovation society is willing to accept and adapt to. A company might be making shoes that makes someone run twice as far, yet if nobody is willing to buy this product at this time, what value does the innovation bring to the world? A quote that you once said should be in more bathrooms. You could read deeper into this quote. I think the part “ever” is good, because some great ideas take more time to think about or do.”The Best Ideas Often Come At Inconvenient Times – Don’t Ever Close Your Mind To Them.”

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Hi Eric – Very fair point, but I think you missed an important nuance.Most of the notable visitors to our website come from bigger and slightly slower competitors – but not the slumbering giants.We are only on true giants radars as partners (Honeywell, EDF, Gazprom etc) not as competitors. This is because they are smart enough to know they have to buy it in if they want it – Their decision and replacement costs are so much higher – ie They know Clay Christensen nailed it !So our competitors are only the ones who are just slightly bigger but that are already slowing down and looking for easy advantage. Hi : ) – Funnily that they do not need to be giants to have slowed down, and they may be innovative – just less so – they merely need to be defending, a bit complacent and looking over their shoulders – Think A round.Of course if you only show your real innovative stuff on a different domain than your “presence website” – competitors can spend a lot of time defending by learning nothing that isn’t so last year anyway (snigger – you can even log their actions ) !So losers run looking over their shoulders – winners look ahead. Why do you think racehorses wear blinkers/blinders ?This is what makes being small and innovative fun. It allows or even demands the balls-out dash for creativity !I guess some time we will have to start pitching and risk putting a bigger pair of boots on in the morning – but only once we are slaughtering the guys two leagues bigger and slower than us – otherwise we risk the same fate.Who wants to go the way of the dinosaurs before they learns to play in the big leagues ?

    4. fredwilson

      that’s because i wrote this as a wrote it 🙂

  42. Aaron Klein

    The difference between copying and incremental innovation is easier to see than it is to define in law.The Android ecosystem spent its first few years trying to copy the iPad and doing a poor job of it.Microsoft decided to do some real innovation. A great tablet that doubles as a great computer with a keyboard cover and HDMI out? That could actually be a leapfrog innovation.Apple now has to decide if they should accelerate bringing OS X and iOS together in response.

  43. Michael Yavonditte

    if you are going to copy at least provide some unique twists, improvements or points of differentiation so you at least prove that you’re being genuinely thoughtful.

    1. William Mougayar

      Totally agreed. You said it better than I did.

    2. fredwilson

      yes, which both android and techstars did

  44. MartinEdic

    I’m involved with a project that at first glance appears to be a Kickstarter ripoff with a different market (lots of those out there!). And as we put it together we studied Kickstarter quite closely- easily done because they are remarkably open about their experiences and their data. Kudos to that. But as our platform evolved we’ve realized we’re in a very different business (crowdfunding for innovators in academic research) with a different model (building a network of colleges using our platform). One of these days we’ll get to sit down with Kickstarter and compare notes. At least I hope so! And I suspect it will be very interesting…

  45. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    There is a room for copycats especially in emerging market economies. There was a good article about this in the TNW (… which basically listed the type of startups that can be cloned into four categories: regulated startups, deeply local startups, e-commerce, B2B startups. The other important point about these markets is that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is still developing and it might have to go through a copycat phase before truy innovative startups emerge.

  46. RocketSpace

    I am against anything that distorts a free market. Who are we to decide if a new company is knock off, rip-off or copycat. Let the customer decide. Monopolies are rarely a long term success and most of the current oligopolies badly need disrupted.

  47. Elia Freedman

    I watched Palm screw this up from very close. When threatened by Microsoft, Palm decided it needed to be more like Mcrosoft. I think first movers often fail because the leaders of the company forget what got them to the forefront to begin with (focus on the problem they are solving) and try to change their focus to deal with competitors.I’m working on something new and am spending a lot of time thinking about and documenting my perspective, especially as I learn. What I am doing stands on the shoulders of companies that came before but has never been done. I hope to not lose this focus if we are successful and competitors arise.

  48. andyidsinga

    coincidentally I’m watching the Triumph of the Nerds documentaries this morning ..this one directly relevant to the post : “Great Artists Steal”…[edit: quote from steve jobs quoting Picasso @ 26:10 in video “good artists copy, great artists steal and we’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas”]

    1. testtest

      robert x cringely is still around

      1. andyidsinga

        Yup – added his blog rss to my igoogle page this morning too 🙂

    2. LE

      I saw that several years ago. Very interesting I liked it. Of course Cringely who wrote that has his issues if you are not aware:In 1998, it was revealed[8][9][10] that Stephens had falsely claimed to have received a Ph.D. from Stanford University and to have been employed as a professor there. Stanford’s administration stated that while Stephens had been a teaching assistant and had pursued course work toward a doctoral degree, he had never held a professorship nor had he been awarded the degree. Stephens then stated that while he had received a master’s degree from the department of communications and completed the classes and tests required for the Ph.D., he acknowledged that he failed to complete his dissertation. Asked about the resulting controversy, Stephens told a reporter: “[A] new fact has now become painfully clear to me: you don’t say you have the Ph.D unless you really have the Ph.D.”[11]…

      1. andyidsinga

        I just read about that this morning. Falsely claiming degrees eventually bites a person in the ass. Not having a degree myself – I try to be pretty up front with people about having “dropped out / am taking time off school to work …for like 16 years” 😉

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          One of the guys I respect most is in a highly regarded position and carries this “burden” – he is always upfront about it as are you and it speaks volume for his integrity – as does yours for you.It has never held him back – and he is so established that it never will.I hope you are exposed to the type of people who judge you for your potential, your capabilities and youe intents. Because everything else is so much historical hogwash.

          1. andyidsinga

            Thanks James – been very fortunate get good work and with a mix of folks with and without degrees. Thankfully only a few have discounted me for my lack of formal education.

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Anyone who can say with humility ” have been very fortunate get good work” is not telling the whole truth.I guess some of the good fortune is the home made kind !

  49. LE

    Twin Peaks is part of a booming niche in the beleaguered restaurant industry known as “breastaurants,” or sports bars that feature scantily clad waitresses. These small chains operate in the tradition of Hooters, which pioneered the concept in the 1980s but has struggled in recent years to stay fresh…..The chain grew rapidly at first but has struggled in recent years. Sales have fallen steadily since peaking in 2007 at $960 million, as the menu and decor grew stale.…By the way another reason businesses like this fail (in addition to little or no competition) is that “Mr owner guy” makes money, starts to take vacations and ignore the business, and doesn’t stay involved anymore to the extent that he did when he lived and breathed the entity before he made his money. (Also health problems, kids (who are not in the business which is normally can be a positive) a divorce.This actually happened even to Trump. I think it was when he married Marla Maples and he started to travel overseas and ignore his business. After the failure that resulted from that he promised I believe to never make that mistake again. (Can’t find a link for that..)

  50. Timothy Meade

    I believe this to be related to the topic at hand, I think Micros, as Android oft will fail with Surface for one reason and one reason only, they will refuse to disrupt their partners’ sales channels until it is too late. Surface is a legitimate innovation over the iPad (due to Pro leveraging the Windows catalog), and in reality has been in development as Courier, Metro and surface out of MS Labs since they launch of the iPad. It certainly barrows concepts from iOS and design cues from Apple ID in much the same way as the release version of Android rapidly shifted in the direction Apple was headed.

  51. David Cohen

    Who or what isn’t a knockoff any more? Y Combinator is a knockoff. It’s a knockoff of an apprenticeship program I was in exactly 20 years ago. Of course, Y Combinator doesn’t know that, there’s no way they could.Not all innovators are remembered or make the most impact. What was the first social network and who created it? Can’t remember? Exactly.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Everything we build now is on the shoulders of everyone else who built before us.

      1. David Cohen


  52. Eric Leebow

    Who loves video games? Nintendo was not an innovator, even though some may think it was, it was far from it. It was just a more advanced Atari and/or Coleco Vision. For argument sake, Pong would be considered the innovator possibly, but nobody cared enough about them. There are many examples in this industry where innovators have struggled or challenged, and the one who was the copycat replaced the innovator indefinitely. Innovators are sometimes challenged as well because of price point or distribution challenges. There was a really awesome gaming system called 3DO, which was the first to make games in CDs, play video games and DVDs, then Sega came out with something that attached to its Genesis (yet it was not a solo console), and possibly the 3rd or 4th attempt with Playstation, Nintendo, and XBox following all made CD gaming systems that could have been considered copycats of 3DO which disappeared. Nowadays, video gamers are playing XBox or Nintendo, with Playstation having some smaller market share, and what happened to the promise of Sega and 3DO? Innovators are sometimes eclipsed by what some may construe as copycats, yet they have a better mouse trap. Copycats are sometimes innovators in their own ways as well. Just think: Where would Nintendo be if it weren’t for the Atari 2600? If anything, Atari made a great industry base for Nintendo to expand.

  53. CGherb

    We made the first device that would prevent people from leaving behind their items with a wireless tether idea. We had tons of fast followers coming after us. The key for us wasn’t just running fast in the original direction but looking at the market and correctly adapting our position to future changes. What happened is that the fast followers all went to try to create brands and ran out of cash while we worked with large companies to power the entire market.

  54. Tom Labus

    How many of us would have hired the early Jobs, the scruffy one, the one with no shoes, not smelling too good.I don’t think too many would have.We like our pioneers once they’re in the history books and are well defined (and successful)

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Hear Hear – and even more telling – We admit we like pioneers more as we like our artists – Dead !

    2. Dale Allyn

      It’s unlikely (IMO) that hiring Steve Jobs would have turned out well anyway, Tom. Hiring narcissistic egomaniacs is seldom a great move, but entering into a joint venture with one can be beneficial if the relationship, terms and the climate are aligned.So to go another step: how many of us would have had the vision and/or courage to have partnered with him at that point?

    3. kidmercury


  55. paramendra

    Android came before the iOS, no? The PC is a category, but then so is the smartphone, so is the tablet. (… You can’t patent a category.An accelerator program is even more of a category type thing. TechStars has served communities that are YC’s blind spots, pretty much the rest of the world. (…,…Microsoft Word was not the first word processing program.Apple has acted Soviet on the iPhone issue. (… I see Android and TechStars outdoing the iPhone and YC over the long run. Due to fundamental differences.


    Interesting post. I definitely agree that great innovationwill be copied and yes, when innovations are copied, In my mind – innovatorsbecome leaders and they are simply challenged by copy-cats (Challengers) toinnovate more. This is the simple fact of life – look at Facebook or Google.They both had humble beginning when similar product concept were already inmarket. Theoretically we can say that both Facebook and Google were copycats orknock offs. But are they really?

  57. Robert Thuston

    Yes, it keeps entrepreneurs honest with continuing to innovate, especially when it’s someone like you (ie kids in a garage) copying you. That’s what I always thought until I met this guy… Oliver Samwer, King of the company cloners. They are well oiled international businessmen that specialize in copycatting. It’s competition where your “innovations” aren’t going to save you. Advice being, once you get to scale with your business, have a smart international plan – one of which may be hiring the “copycat kings” as your consultant : )…

  58. Youssef Rahoui

    My thought, exactly. As an entrepreneur, you’re job is not to win trials but to win the market.

  59. vruz

    Florian Mueller is a gun for hire who has done anti-Android dirty work for Microsoft and Oracle. I wonder why the hell would anyone in their right minds listen to this guy, or even write a blog post with his name on it as an authoritative voice.I take with ten grains of salt anything with his name on it, and so should you.A little research won’t hurt.…Further reading:

  60. rb

    Would’ve liked it if you had called out Mueller for feeding such trash to media.

  61. SandHillVC

    Facebook and Google were followers…

    1. fredwilson

      not true. facebook didn’t knockoff myspace and google didn’t knockoff previous search engines. they both were innovators

      1. arustgi

        They were innovators in the sense that their product did things better than the way earlier products worked. However, they were followers in a sense that they didn’t invent the category.

  62. Sharon

    Except that Motorola was the first to have cell phones — where is Apple getting their phones from?

  63. Dark Knight

    I hate copycats and will never ever support them. Think Samwer brothers – whose business model is not to come up with their own ideas but just copy the successful ones from US. Silicon valley is created by original thinkers not cheap imitators. I agree that execution is important, but original thinking and creativity needs to be rewarded and imitators need to be castigated. You can’t compare product copycats (such as samwer brothers, Zynga etc) with those that copy an organizational model (such as Techstars). What makes YC combinator successful is paul graham. You can’t clone him. That is why VC firms are not scalable. But one can clone products and real IP needs legal protection.

  64. kenberger

    Many bands shrug that they rip off Nirvana.Nirvana once shrugged that they ripped off The Pixies.The Pixies once shrugged that they ripped off the song “Louie Louie”.George Harrison didn’t fare well re litigation on “My Sweet Lord” vs “She’s So Fine”, but I digress.

  65. Todd Werelius

    We all stand on each others shoulders when it comes to innovation, and many ideas happen in parallel because of similar intellectual and market inputs.Interestingly enough apple is now “ripping off” ideas from Android and so it goes, back and forth both sides trying to outdo each other which is how it should be.People that try to lock up markets by using legal sledge hammers will always end up losing the war even if they win a few battles along the way.

  66. Kevin Doohan

    love this. really love it. I recently left a gig as head of digital at Red Bull and I’m looking for what’s next. I talked to a founder of an amazing startup on Friday about leading their marketing efforts and he noted the danger of becoming distracted by the competition who is copying the his team’s product and strategy.At Red Bull we were ALWAYS copied. A quick look at Rockstar or Monster Energy’s marketing activity in comparison to Red Bull’s makes it clear. They’re direct rip-offs of Red Bull’s strategy. They exactly copy every Red Bull innovation but with different brand positioning. We never allowed that to bother us at Red Bull. We just moved faster and out-executed the competition as we created the next innovation.Fred says: “If the innovator keeps innovating, as Apple and YC have, they will do fine and will enjoy the spoils that come from creating the category and leading it.” Yes. This is my experience exactly at Red Bull and should be the approach of all innovators. Don’t worry about “protectable innovation”. Keep innovating and go FAST.

  67. New Writer

    Not to condone potential patent infringement on the part of Motorola or any other company, but my response is: good for Posner. The mobile patent wars are out of control. Most of these disputes belong in the marketplace, and should be resolved there, rather than wasting scarce court resources by using them as a proxy for market competition.

  68. John Revay

    Well stated

  69. JLM

    .Much of big time litigation is simply prophylactic sending a message to others lurking in the weeds to mind their manners..