DECEMBER 7, 2013, 9:00 AM
Hundreds of Start-Ups Hope to Be a Copycat Start-Up
By NICK BILTON
Silicon Valley start-ups can be astoundingly unoriginal.
So many start-ups are tiny, fractional variations on something that already exists. Look no further than the types of companies that are trying to raise funding from venture capitalists here.
Under one rock there is the daily darkness of news releases that try to cram their way into the inboxes of reporters and bloggers. But if you’re not lucky enough to receive those constant pitches, you can look at some of the companies that are seeking investment on entrepreneurial and venture capital websites.
On Angel List, a network for investors and entrepreneurs, the proof of this is visible in aggregate. Search this site for “Uber for,” “Uber meets,” or “Uber of,” and you will be met with hundreds of start-ups that are pitching themselves as a slight variation on Uber, the fast-growing, taxi-like service.
There’s Handybook, which says it is Uber for household services — people that will clean your house on demand. Or Swifto, a start-up that is a GPS-tracked Uber for dog walking.
What about Medicast, which is an Uber of health care, where the app says doctors come to you, anytime, anywhere. There’s Stylebeat, the Uber for beauty salon services. And even LawPal, which is an Uber for start-ups that need a lawyer.
Of course Uber is just one of many services that are being photocopied with a slightly different tint.
Try the same search terms with “Airbnb for,” where people copy the concept of Airbnb, the site for short-term home and apartment stays.
Gigit, is the “Airbnb for bands” where you can get a band, or solo musician, on demand. Maybe you’re in need of a quick meeting room for a highly important discussion, then you could try eVenues which is Airbnb for renting meeting spaces. CaterCow is an Airbnb for catering, where you can order a caterer online. (There are also a number of Ubers for catering, too.) Trave.ly is the “Airbnb for international travel experiences” — whatever that means. Love Lab is, wait for it, Airbnb for dating. (Bring me a date, quickly!)
There are thousands of start-ups on these sites and in press releases, most with some level of funding, that are variations on Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Tinder, Snapchat, Craigslist, Airbnb, Pinterest and a “for” for any other half-successful start-up out there.
Sometimes you even get concoctions of start-ups that are a replica of more than one successful business, like HouseFix, which is both an Airbnb and a Pinterest of home improvement rolled into one. Some of these brews are just bizarre, like someone mixing a dessert and a main course in a blender and serving it as a smoothie. Like Goat, which is “Vine and Reddit for skateboarding and real world advertising.”
Of course many of these sites will die on the vine — pun intended — but, until then, we’ll have to contend with the continued unoriginality of Silicon Valley.
DECEMBER 7, 2013, 9:00 AM