Copycat Innovation – The way to win in Formula 1

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In a recent article by Dr Paolo Aversa who did extensive research on F1, he concluded that improving on a proven technology brings in winning results much better than risking in unproven new technology.

According to him, adapting car technology to regulation changes is more beneficial than pioneering new solutions in years when governing body the FIA forces teams to implement changes to their cars’ technology.

Exploring new radical solutions pushes the level of complexity beyond the teams’ expertise, reducing the effectiveness and reliability of the technological innovation.

In 2009, two relatively inexperienced teams won first (Brawn GP) and second place (Red Bull) in the Constructor Championship, together taking 14 of that season’s 17 races. Having to cope with a massive update in car design, they opted for a ‘no-frills’ vehicle, focusing on adaptive innovations, refining, optimising, or even redesigning existing components instead of pioneering radical invention. As Ross Brawn affirmed, even the discussed ‘double diffuser’ was just “an innovative approach of an existing idea”. Both Brawn and Red Bull avoided the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) system, which was revealed as an underdeveloped and unreliable technology.

Are you convinced on the power of Copycat Innovation?

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Innovation according to Mike Rowe

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Mike Rowe has a reputation of being a practical and hands-on dirty innovator. He has probably had more jobs (over 200), most of them literally dirty, than anyone.

He is the creator and executive producer of Discovery Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Dirty Jobs With Mike Rowe”, Mike has spent years traveling the country, working as an apprentice on over 200 jobs that most people would go out of their way to avoid. From coal miners to maggot farmers to sheep castrators, Mike has worked in just about every industry.

To him, there’s no genuine innovation. Every innovation can be traced back to imitation. He has this to say in an innovative way:

“Well personally I don’t know what innovation looks like but people sure do like to talk about it. What ever happened to imitation? The ability to mass produce a good idea or perfectly replicate a new technology. Nobody wants to talk about that anymore and I think that’s weird because no one can succeed today without the ability to imitate yourselves. I’d guess I’d say that innovation gets all the glamour and it’s important but without imitation, it’s really just masturbation.”

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Copycat Innovation Offers The Best Path To Investor Funding

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According to the Wall St Journal in its Aug 27,  2012 edition, Copycat Innovation could be the Best path to Investor Funding

The last thing investors want start-ups to do is stop trying to improve upon what’s out there already.

In order to improve their funding chances, founders describe their  start-ups in the early stages  as copycat businesses of a well-established business or product, but with a twist, typically around an intended market.

Dan Shapiro, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor says, “I actually worry if start-up founders can’t place themselves in a spectrum of businesses.”

A good example is the founder of Instacart, a company that enables users to order groceries online and have them delivered within an hour, called the company an “Amazon for local.”

A second example is that, among eight companies Shapiro funded in the past year is Bonanza, a “more beautiful eBay for clothes.”   .

The article provides  five reminders why we should root for, not criticize, start-ups brave enough to weather crowded waters and name calling, to innovate their way to the top.

  1. Facebook fortified itself in early years with the influential college student demographic, then beat Myspace ..
  2. Following 37 Signals’ 2004 launch of Basecamp, an online business collaboration tool, Yammer launched a related “social network for businesses” in 2008, grew massively popular and sold to Microsoft this year for $1.2 billion.
  3. In 2005, Matt Mullenweg and Matt Little founded WordPress to compete with content management systems like Vignette Moveable Type. There are now about 55 million WordPress sites in the world. .
  4. Though music recommendation site Pandora had already gained popularity and became a public company, Spotify slowly entreated the support of major music labels before entering the U.S. market in July 2011. By the end of 2011, Spotify had about 33 million registered users.
  5. Competing against earlier file-sharing start-ups ike YouSendIt and BoxDropbox made cloud storage very simple and reliable, even on mobile devices. Dropbox  raised $250 million and has a reported $4 billion valuation.

Comparing a new start-up in its initial stage to that of a well-established and successful business model  enhances its chances of obtaining investor funding. This reduces uncertainty for the investor. Rather than supporting a totally new start-up with  no track record and with no established market, copycatting  introduces a significant  degree of certainty to the investor.

The author, Dr.YKK has trademarked his 7-Step Copycat Innovation System that fast-tracks innovation with minimum risk and using the least  money, time, efforts and resources. To get a 8-page report on this subject, please go to  or send an email to

Copycats Can Spark Innovation and Boost the Economy

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University of Virginia law professor Christopher Sprigman.who co-authored the book “The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation,” that explores how certain industries prosper without copyright and patent law, even amidst pervasive copycatting.

According to Sprigman , conventional wisdom suggests that strong copyright and patent laws are necessary to encourage creativity and innovation. It is widely assumed  that  without such protections, imitators are free to steal ideas, create knockoffs that drain profits from innovators.

Sprigman said that creativity and innovation can be sustained at high levels without intellectual property, or with less IP protection than we have now

For example several industries such as  fashion, cuisine, open-source software, finance, fonts, stand-up comedy and more , manage to thrive and innovate in the absence of legal protections for intellectual property.

These industries are motivated by different things.

While some, including the music industry, argue that more copyright laws are needed, Sprigman said the “world is shifting against them.”

As evidence, he pointed to the recent defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act in the United States and the European Union Parliament’s rejection last month of an international treaty to crack down on digital piracy and counterfeiting.

“There’s a growing awareness around the world that copyright and patent aren’t a one-way street, that more copyright and patent aren’t always good for society, that there are costs associated with copyright and patent,” he said. “There are those who argue that more copyright and patent are necessary. I’m open to these arguments. If I see empirical evidence of it, I’m open to it. I just haven’t seen it.

In our connected world, copying is getting easier than ever before.  There will certainly be a lot of unethical and illegal practices  and some rules to protect intellectual property  are necessary. But copying has an upside too. Great innovations often build on existing ones—and that requires the freedom to copy.

The author, Dr.YKK has trademarked his 7-Step Copycat Innovation System that fast-tracks innovation with minimum risk and using the least  money, time, efforts and resources. To get a 8-page report on this subject, please go to  or send an email to


In the real world, companies copy and succeed

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In the real world, companies copy and succeed “. That’s what the Economist In its 12 May 2012 issue says.

Its article was aptly  titled:  “Pretty profitable parrots: For businesses, being good at copying is at least as important as being innovative

History shows that imitators often end up winners.

There are several examples cited. Germany’s Samwer brothers, Alexander, Oliver and Marc, are legendary copycats. They have made huge fortunes replicating American internet models in other markets, sparking outrage in an industry which prides itself on invention. . The brothers copied the latest trends and some of their copycat efforts have actually been acquired by the original innovators themselves such as the acquisition of Dailydeal , a clone of Groupon that was sold to Groupon.  One of their recent efforts is Pinspire, an online pinboard with a similar layout, colour scheme and features to those of Pinterest, the latest craze in social media. The Samwer brothers are  telling young entrepreneurs that “the ideal way to make money is by copying something that works in the US, then selling it back to the original.”

Apple imitated others’ products but made them far more appealing. The iPod was not the first digital-music player; nor was the iPhone the first smartphone or the iPad the first tablet. Apple excels integrating the best features of others, give its product  an elegant design and together with its brilliant marketing strategy dominates the market.

Les Wexner, the owner of famous lingerie retailer, Victoria’s Secret, has a philosophy  that business should celebrate imitation. He regularly takes a takes a month off to travel the world looking for other companies’ ideas to copy.

The  pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer has  joined in the copycat game  by starting generic-drugs businesses themselves.

Pampers stole the disposable nappies idea from the pioneer Chux.

Ray Kroc, who built McDonald’s, copied White Castle, inventor of the fast-food burger joint.

Studies showed that imitators do at least as well and often better from any new product than innovators do. Followers have lower research-and-development costs, and less risk of failure because the product has already been market-tested.

A study by Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis, “Pioneer Advantage: Marketing Logic or Marketing Legend”, found that innovators captured only 7% of the market for their product over time.

The article concluded that copying is here to stay and suggested that  businesses may as well get good at it.

The author, Dr.YKK has trademarked his 7-Step Copycat Innovation System that fast-tracks innovation with minimum risk and using the least  money, time, efforts and resources. To get a 8-page report on this subject, please go to  or send an email to

Facebook Greatest Success Secret : Its Copycat Innovation Strategy

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Facebook greatest success secret is to copy the  best ideas freely, unashamedly, give it a twist and then executive them to near perfection.

Facebook datamine  the web  in search of useful  technology, then ruthlessly incorporates the best features into Facebook.

Facebook success has been attributed to its ability to assimilate popular and time-tested features around the Web. Some of facebook’s imitation features include: Deals  from Groupon, mobile chatting with a group of friends from GroupMe, check-ins from Foursquare, and Questions  from Quora and Subscribe button  from Twitter.

Thus , it can seen that Facebook true genius lie in its brilliant execution of Copycat Innovation. By copying proven time-tested features, Facebook gives the best to its members. No wonder Facebook has such a large devout following of close to a billion members.

This imitation strategy increases Facebook’s stranglehold on the social network market and weakens its rivals. However, it is not just copycatting that is responsible for Facebook’s success, otherwise anyone could have done it. It’s timing, execution and seamless integration.

Google owes its success to Copycatting

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Google  is the most dominant and profitable search engine in the world. But very few people know that at the heart of the search engine’s success is a business model that was copied from another company.

The story goes as follows: Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin who were both PhD students at Stanford University in USA at that time. Their search engine succeeded beyond expectations. The success meant that they needed greater capacity for their servers. The cost of continually added new servers depleted their financial resources. This forced them to look for a business model that can generate income for their search engine services.

Ultimately, they found a business model that they could copy. It is a paid search specialist company called Overture. The pair copied this model whereby there will be two sets of results, one from organic search which is free and the other from paid results of their advertising clients.

Every time , a user clicked on the paid link, Google would make money from the advertiser. Unfortunately, this system pioneered by Overture was protected  by a patent on it. Subsequently Overture sued Google for infringing their patent. The matter was settled out of court as Google agreed to pay for the patent use.

On another front, Google’s Android is basically a copycat of the iPhone.

Google considered to be one of the top innovation companies is also a a Copycat Innovator, though this fact is hardly ever publicised for obvious reasons.

Evidently the social networking site Facebook is a great copycatter too. This will be the subject of my next posting.

Dr.YKK has trademarked his 7-Step Copycat Innovation System that fast-tracks innovation with minimum risk and using the least  money, time, efforts and resources. To get a 8-page report on this subject, please go to  or send an email to

Consumers win from the fight among the Copycat Innovation Giants

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Well-known innovative companies like Facebook and Google  are copying from each other and consumers are the ones who benefit.

Google+ is basically a copycat of Facebook. It also copied Facebook with a full-fledged social network. Users post status updates, photos and videos. They can even played games which was popularised on Facebook first.

In return, Facebook has been copying Google+ features left and right.  Facebook is copycatting Google, which has added movie streaming to YouTube. Facebook also copies Foursquare and Groupon to check-ins and local deals

Google+ Circles subscribe button is cloned from Twitter.

There are thousands of Groupon clones both in Europe, China and rest of Asia.

All these while, these companies were accusing other companies, especially from China, Europe and other developing countries of imitating them, they too were busy copying each other.

Copycat innovation is more common than you think and ultimately the consumer benefits as they can get better products with more features at lower costs.

The Three Kings of Copycat Innovation

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The three Samwer brothers Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer, founded the   highly successful European Founders Fund in 2006  . They are known as the Copycat Kings of Europe, if not, the world. Their company in Germany is probably the most famous internet clone factory. Their business strategy is to  create copycat versions of successful U.S. websites,  and selling the copycats back to the original for millions .

One notable example is:  CityDeal, which is a copycat of Groupon catering to the European market. It was acquired by Groupon in 2009 for $126 million – a fantastic  premium for the year-old CityDeal. This and other acquisitions , especially by the original innovators, give legitimacy to their business formula

The three Samwer brothers exploited the fact that internet ideas are rarely patented. They made a comparison with BMW. BMW did not invent the car.. German mechanical engineers are gifted at improving existing inventions. Therefore, from their perspective, they are simply applying that same genius to the internet.

Other examples of their Copycat Innovation businesses include: Alando (a clone of eBay and sold to eBay in 1999 for $54 million) and Jamba (sold to Verisign in 2004 for $273 million, now part of News Corp.), eDarling , an imitation of eHarmony, which was acquired by eHarmony itself from the Samwer Brothers in an exchange for a 30% stake in eHarmony. They also created In Zalando, an online shoe-shop that resembles Amazon’s Zappos.

The Samwer brothers spectacular successes are not just due to Copycatting alone. They are absolutely geniuses in spotting the right start-ups to copy and exceptionally brilliant in their execution of their chosen projects.

Dr.YKK has trademarked his 7-Step Copycat Innovation System that fast-tracks innovation with minimum risk and using the least  money, time, efforts and resources. To get a 8-page report on this subject, please go to  or send an email to


Is China A Pure Copycatter or A Copycat Innovator?

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There has been a lot of news lamenting China as a nation of copycats. Businesses there don’t just copy products. They copy even the entire stores! For example Apple and IKEA stores. There were even reports that they copy and entire small Austrian town with its distinctive houses on the mountain slopes. While these in many cases are true, and should not be condoned, we must not lose sight of the fact that  businesses in China are also brilliant Copycat Innovators, which is a legitimate whole new ball-game altogether.

A sign of China moving towards the direction of being Copycat Innovators are seen in the rush to set up R&D institutions in China by many of the world’s top-notch technology organisations like Intel, search engine leader Google , pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and chemical giant ,Dow Chemicals.

In fact a new term , called “Chinnovation” has been created to cater for this phenomena. In his book “Chinnovation: How Chinese Innovators Are Changing the World” author Yinglan Tan documented the rise of China’s innovators. He dispelled the myth that China businesses are just pure copyatters and give examples of how they overcome the barriers to successful, profitable innovation.

Some of the stories of innovation include :How did Neil Shen, co-founder of CTRIP Capital China, see the opportunity for a Chinese travel site? How did Ray Zhang, CEO of Ehi, scale up one of the most innovative hybrid car-rental companies in China? How did Zhang Tao, CEO of Dianping, start a ZAGAT-inspired user-review site for restaurants and establish a continuous process of innovation?

Better known innovators include Lenovo ( acquired from IBM) which has developed its own technology to have a dominant presence in the PC market in China as well as   internationally.  Another example is white electrical goods manufacturer Haier has copycat innovated on the washing machine to include features on washing vegetables to cater to the China market.

Other success cases include :

  • Baidu created a new “box computing” strategy aimed to differentiate it from Google
  • Sina Weibo has recently entered the Japanese market and is launching an English language rival to Twitter .
  • Also interesting is that Lenovo and Huawei, two of the Chinese three firms most “northeast” in their location on the chart (both creating & capturing value — presumably where we would find the most sustainably successful innovators), would probably regarded by outside observers as being the least “entrepreneurial”, the least “new economy”, and the least “independent” of all of the firms represented. If we had added Haier to this set, the results would have been similar
  • Huawei ,born and bred in Shenzhen, southern China and owned totally by its employees has its key research-and-development units, global testing facilities, and an executive training centre in Shenzhen. It is now the world’s second-largest supplier of mobile telecom equipment, after Ericsson, serving 45 of the top 50 telecoms operators. It also boasts 55% of the global market share in 3G dongles.

It is not really  fair to brand China as just a counterfeiter and plagiarist. If you look at the world’s technology history, US copied from the Industrial Revolution in Europe and Japan copied from the advanced Western countries. It is during this period that these two countries enjoyed their highest economic  growth.

Dr.YKK has trademarked his 7-Step Copycat Innovation System that fast-tracks innovation with minimum risk and minimizes money, time, efforts and resources. To get a 8-page report on this subject, please go to  or send an email to