Why is rip off and design an entrepreneurs best friend? Because finding opportunity where others can’t is the job of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial leaders, like greats in the past, create opportunities in any fashion they know how. I wanted to post about this to prove that to “rip off and design” is not that uncommon.
Sometimes the opportunities come by introducing a new product or service based on an unmet need. Sometimes the opportunity is built around an existing product or service from one market and then introduced into another where it may not be available. Or sometimes opportunity is made from literally taking an idea that has been tried/tested before and doing it again.
We call this Entrepreneurial R & D. Also known as Rip Off and Design.
“Entrepreneurs seldom invent and market unique products; rather, they build their ventures around incremental innovations and modiﬁcations.” – HBR 1998 The Road well Traveled
What is Rip Off and Design?
Rip off and design is literally when you identify a good idea from your neighbor where there is a significant pain or opportunity. Then modify, add to, take away, make it better, use it differently, or completely change the product. This is not blatantly copying a product but changing it to improve it.
Being unique is overrated. So many companies have taken the rip off and design approach and been successful. They took someone else’s idea and ran with it, making it worth millions or even billions in the process.
You’ve probably heard how Mark Zuckerburg stole the idea for Facebook from his Harvard classmates and founders of ConnectU. This story has been told in the news, made into a movie, and has been settled in a courtroom.
But you might not have heard about Friendster. A social networking made back in 2002.
Friendster sprang up before MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. Arguably, they were the first website with the idea of connecting friends and letting them share content. It simply was the first of social networking, including things like uploading and sharing.
So what should you do when your company can not grow because of another company’s intellectual property? You buy all their patents! Which is exactly what Facebook did.
Originally Twitter was a system that would send messages to mobile phones to keep specific groups up to date on specific things. Smartphones were super rare when Twitter (or twttr as it was known) first started, but the idea spread like wildfire.
But it wasn’t original. Another company, called TechRadium, did it first.
TechRadium was a mass notification system. The idea was that an author could send a note out to subscribers via text, email or voicemail. It wasn’t exactly the same but Twitter definitely ripped off and designed.
We all have heard of Hulu. But what about Joost?
Joost was founded by the guys who created Skype, got millions of dollars in cash from big corporations, and signed on Viacom and CBS as partners. But there was a big problem: downloading.
Joost required users to download a software and then users had to download the shows before you could watch them, and back in the day it took a while! That was a deal breaker.
Seeing the problem, Hulu burst onto the scene by basically copying Joost but tweaking it to allow users to watch shows instantly. Lets just say that was pretty much the end of Joost.
Before PayPal existed, Billpoint was a fast and easy way to pay for auctions on eBay. At first eBay endorseed the crap out of Billpoint. But it only brought mixed results among bidders and sellers. Eventually, eBay bought PayPal and phased out acceptance of Billpoint.
Billpoint lost in that battle.
It boils down to two simple scenarios: 1) That some brilliant ideas are simply too ahead of their time. And 2) Others companies are too slow and just fall behind while competitors improve and spread like wildfire. Then smart entrepreneurs resurrect the idea, tweak it, and make millions.
If you’ve abandoned one of your ideas because you were hammered by someone else, dust it off and take another whack at it. Or you can simply R&D. That is what this country has done since it’s birth. Thats what America is all about. You might find a way to improve on an idea, or you might just be able to execute it better. Who knows, you might be the next Mark Zuckerburg.