Whatever idea you have For a platform that solves an “unaddressed market need”, it’s almost a given that there’s a team working on something similar somewhere.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for two or more founders to launch similar companies and products within months or weeks of each other. The second person to release a launch press release is not automatically a copycat, but is often perceived as such.
We as a company have struggled with this perception for a decade, as have many others in the SaaS domain.
Outbrain and Taboola are native advertising companies founded in 2006 and 2007 respectively. After years of competing for online supremacy in the world of ‘Content you May Like’ links, the rivals even came close to a $850 million merger in 2020.
Both were successful in their own right. A third player in the space, nRelate took a different “anti-clickbait” approach to content recommendations, successfully exiting Ask.com in 2012. SmartGift and Loop Commerce were similar competitors in online gifts, and the list goes on.
Investors may not care much about what your standard “founded in” date says and are more concerned about the product’s fit to the market, acquisition costs, ARR and a path to profitability. However, perception plays an important role in the battle for awareness and consideration among potential customers.
Try starting from scratch and ask yourself, “If none of my competitors existed today, how would I design my website?”
There is a certain first-to-market advantage that you get. It always hurts to hear a prospect say, “Oh, you’re like a cheaper/newer version of” [your biggest competitor]† It stings even more when you know you have a superior product.
In my experience, even if you entered the market before or around the same time as your main competitor, for some reason you are stuck with the annoying perception that your business was born overnight. Whatever the reason, this perception can erode your momentum, especially when trying to establish yourself in a new market.
During our journey to break the “copycat” myth, I learned a lot about brand building. There are things I wish we’d done sooner and things I’m proud of doing well. Based on my experience, here are three ways brands can reduce the stigma of a copycat platform:
Lean in and promote your data
It’s hard for anyone to argue with data (or at least its existence). One of the great things about being a SaaS company is that you most likely have all kinds of proprietary data. Chances are you have data that is unique to you and your platform. If you’re fighting the copycat perception, now is a good time to delve into your data, especially if you’ve been in the business for many years.