What idea would you for a platform that solves “unmet market needs”, it’s almost a given that there is a team somewhere working on something like this.
In fact, it is not uncommon for two or more founders to launch similar companies and products months or weeks apart. The second person to issue a launch press release is not automatically a copycat, but is often perceived as such.
As a company, we have struggled with this perception for a decade, as have many others in the SaaS space.
Outbrain and Taboola are advertising companies founded in 2006 and 2007 respectively. After years of battling for online advantage in the “Content You Might Like” link world, competitors are even approached an $850 million merger in 2020.
Both were successful in their own way. nRelate, a third player in the field, took a different “anti-clickbait” approach to content recommendations and successfully migrated to Ask.com in 2012. SmartGift and Loop Commerce were similar competitors in the online gifting space, and the list goes on.
Investors may not care too much about what your standard “foundation” date says, and are more concerned with product-to-market fit, cost of acquisition, ARR, and the path to profitability. However, in the battle for the awareness and attention of potential customers, perception plays an important role.
Try starting from scratch and ask yourself, “If none of my competitors were here today, how would I design my website?”
You get a certain advantage when entering the market. It’s always hurtful to hear a potential client say, “Oh, you’re like the cheaper/newer version [your biggest competitor]”. Even more frustrating when you know that you have an excellent product.
In my experience, even if you entered the market before or around the same time as your main competitor, you may for some reason be stuck with the unsettling notion that your company came into existence overnight. Whatever the reason, this perception can slow your momentum, especially when you’re trying to establish yourself in a new market.
In our journey to bust the “copycat” myth, I’ve learned a lot about building a brand. There are things I wish I had done before and things I’m proud of. In my experience, here are three ways brands can resist the stigma of copycat:
Use and promote your data
It’s hard for anyone to argue with data (or at least its existence). One of the great things about a SaaS company is that you most likely have all sorts of proprietary data. Most likely, you have some data that is unique to you and your platform. If you’re struggling with copycat perceptions, it’s time to take advantage of your data, especially if you’ve been in business for many years.
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