Copycats - build your own damn business

Hey all!

Just a bit of a venting post. I just had my third copycat of mentorcruise.com in the past six months reach out to me for advice over IH.

I usually love to give advice to fellow IHers, especially if they build a marketplace or something in the mentorship/coaching sphere. There is so much to do there and so many ideas on how to help people, it's just a ton of fun.

I'm even more disappointed when people reach out from IH, tell me how they've read my milestones and background – and decided to build the exact same thing. Unfortunately, these 3 cases even had copy, design elements and even illustrations ripped from my site. I'm all for inspiration, not so much for copying 1-to-1.

This stuff has gone through so many iterations and had a lot of professionals working on it, it sometimes feels like people steal money out of my pocket.

There's nothing good coming out of that. If you reach out to me to give you advice on how to grow your mentorship site that has my CSS code on it, I won't give it to you. If you don't think about your own concepts, you are making the same mistakes I made on my site (it's not perfect by any means).

At this point, a shoutout to many other cool mentorship businesses who are killing it on their own lane, and I'm thankful for all of you when we exchange ideas or when you reach out for a bit of help.

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    Ha, I know how hard it is to take this as "validation" or "flattery", it still hurts.

    Let me just say that I love your business. Through MentorCruise, I have met dozens of interesting people so far, and mentoring them has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every week, I get to talk to people from the States, Europe, Asia, and even Australia. I get to follow and join in their journey, struggles, thoughts, and fears.

    By no means possible will people be able to clone the effort you put into making MentorCruise such a place of opportunity. The mentor community you have built is spectacular.

    When it comes to glowing recommendations, you're miles ahead :D

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      Your name sounded very familiar - and then I remembered I listened to you on a podcast sometime back. 'Built to Sell' is it?

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        Among others, yes! Built to Sell was particularly exciting, as John is such an expert in his field.

        There’s a list of all my recent interviews here: https://thebootstrappedfounder.com/about-me/

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      This comment was deleted a year ago.

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        It may be a champagne problem, but it is a problem. And a founder trying to share their later-stage problem is still contributing significantly to the community. I understand that it sounds elitist, but I think there is a structural problem beneath it.

        It's the two-sides-of-the-same-medal nature of this issue that makes this so hard to handle without sounding elitist. The IH community is full of support and good advice, but the potential for people swooping in with a clone of your business is still a threat. The nature of our transparency leads to this angle of attack that we always feel is a vulnerability, particularly when you're having some measure of success.

        The amazon seller community solves this in an interesting way. They talk about all their tricks and tips, they go into great detail, but they never say what exactly they're selling. No one can copy your business if they don't know what you sell. Probably wouldn't work here, but I love how they avoid this kind of stuff through semi-secrecy.

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          didn't know that about Amazon - really smart!

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          This comment was deleted a year ago.

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            And I yours, it made me think a lot about a number of problems of community integrity and self-perception. Thank you very much for letting me see a different perspective.

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    Imagine your business as a series of still images, in other words, a film. When copycats steal your design and your concept, what they stole is a few sequences of the full story. They can't put the random pieces together and replicate your business as a whole.

    There are some parts like vision, network, customers etc. that simply can't be stolen in such a lazy way (like stealing an illustration can be).

    Sidenote: I liked the style of the product illustrations on your website, did you design them yourself?

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      I worked with a designer :)

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    You know what?
    imitation is the sincerest form of flattery..

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    Hey Damon.

    First of all, let me tell you that you have nothing to worry about.
    If someone isn't even capable of writing their own code but instead copies yours, I wouldn't even consider them competition.
    Let them die.
    Plus, I've seen Arvid recommending your product many times which is a sign of how wide your reach is (n=1).

    As another indie-hacker said in the comments, when someone copies what you do, they only have few frames from the movie and not the whole movie.
    They don't have your knowledge of the market, nor the network nor the vision.

    Few weeks after I started Hypefury, I woke up to a tweet advertising for a product that had the same features, used the same wording and copywriting.
    First I thought it was a joke, but later on, we realized that someone had really started a copycat. He was offering cheap discounts to everybody on Twitter.
    Ironically, he didn't copy my code, only made a buddy and uglier version of the app (which wasn't sexy in the first place).

    Of course, I was fuming with rage.
    But then I discovered my competitive side and channeled than anger to crush the shit out of him.
    You can now find his posts on IH whining about how we out-executed him.

    Indeed, any developer with decent skills can copy any app, but apps don't make a business thrive or die.
    Knowledge of the market and the vision matter the most.

    Also, when it comes to those thieves asking you questions, you can either ignore them or, if you're in a machiavellian mood, give them bad advice.

    I am going to check mentorcruise again.


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    You will get copied anyway so you should find ways to build moats or competitive advantages. This is the only way to succeed in the long term
    (understanding this forced me to build a $3M per year business)
    PS: love your design!

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      Would you be able to elaborate on some of the moats that you think would apply to other businesses as a whole? Would love to learn!

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        You are building a marketplace so it's hard to start, but once you get traction you have a competitive advantage and you can benefit from network effects, because the more suppliers you have, the more value people in demand get, and the more people in demand you have, the more value suppliers get.
        It's always a matter of "how easy is it to copy you?"
        The harder it is to copy your business, the more valuable your business

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          Makes sense. So our product is not actually a marketplace. It's a SaaS app specifically tailored towards the sales process and buyer enablement. We're calling it sales in a box.

          The only issue is that unless there are a ton of resources put into a platform, anything can be copied.

          What specifically helped you if you don't mind me asking? Like top 3 things you did to ensure you made it harder to copy? (only if you're comfortable sharing this publicly). I'm curious if there's some common ground that we haven't accounted for.

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            Oh ok sorry, I thought you were the mentorcruise guy.
            As a Saas your competitive advantages could be:

            • better product (think ActiveCampaign)
            • better pricing (think Mailchimp)
            • better marketing (think Clickfunnels)
              But then it could be an existing audience, or any asset or skill that is hard to replicate
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    One downside of Open Startups and IndieHackers is that it creates a stream of people who basically just go to this URL to look for project ideas:


    Don't do that.

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    @dqmonn I am surprised to see this coming from some one matured like you. Have been following your journey from hardships to MRR for Mentorcruise. Such a great feat!!

    I am sure you know that the Design/CSS/UI doesn't make or break a marketplace business. Marketplaces are much more than Design/UI.

    But yes, I get your point that you have spent hundreds of hours and spend lot of money/efforts on this. It obviously fusses anyone when people start copying their design and in turn come to them for advice.

    But I think you just have to ignore them and keep moving.

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      It's directed towards members of this community. I don't think you can copy any product by ripping the asset files. The issue is that it's bad for community health. It will drive out people who are happy to share their experiences, hugely demotivating for people to reach out and think everything is up for grabs.

      I will keep moving. It's just hard to see that it has happened three times.

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        This comment was deleted a year ago.

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    I wouldn't be concerned too much. A marketplace itself is the unfair advantage because as it grows competitors get less traction...

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    "If you reach out to me to give you advice on how to grow your mentorship site that has my CSS code on it, I won't give it to you." If someone copied your CSS code and then came to you for advice that implies that they don't think they are doing anything wrong in their mind? They're not trying to hide their copying/stealing? That part doesn't add up and sounds like a disconnect to me. Maybe they are unaware and naive so pointing out "hey btw what you're doing is not cool and not considered good IH community etiquette" would be helpful to them, to you, and to the community. OR maybe it's naive of me to think this and talking candidly like that wouldn't actually work 🤷‍♀️

    Either way, I'm a fan of the concept behind Mentorcruise and have been enjoying teaching coding to people at various point in their self-taught journey. 🙌

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    @dqmonn I'm curious, do you get a lot of college students to sign up for mentorcruise? If not, is it a money thing?

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    I agree it can be disheartening when people just rip off your product blatantly. I went through your website and it looks really cool. I wish you luck :)

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    Do continue to help. Feeding information to copycats is the best way to keep them mediocre at what they do.

    Your business inspired many who aren't able to come up with a product and resorted to copy paste. It's not the way to build a successful business even if some business may come their way.

    If they execute better, they may outrace you, I doubt they would resort to copying of that was the case. Accept being a source of inspiration to your competition.

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    if it makes you feel better, I got this on Twitter today......

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          Disabling my ad blocker solves it.

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          Image hosting services have a tendency to be terrible.

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            Yeah, I realized that...I guess I eill imgur next time.

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    It'll always happen, the only thing you can control is the value you provide to your customers

    That can't be copied

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      Good points. As I mentioned, not really scared about being overtaken. Also love people exploring different angles.

      The bad thing for IH are 1-to-1 copies because it makes me question whether I should share everything so publicly

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