Just over a week after
sexting temporary messaging app Snapchat launched a video sharing feature, Facebook released its own very similar app. It’s called Poke and it lets users send private messages that expire after a matter of seconds.
Why does any of this matter? Well, at The Next Web, author Martin Bryant argues that this is bad news for startups:
When a new idea takes off, a multitude of copycats spring up – whether it’s ‘Twitter for tennis-playing goats’ or ‘The Outer Mongolian alternative to Groupon,’ tech blog inboxes get flooded with pitches from niche-targeted plays that draw ‘inspiration’ from popular startups of the day. Meanwhile, bigger companies tend to react by acquiring these hit ideas. In the past 24 hours, Facebook has demonstrated another way – blatantly cloning a smaller company’s original idea – and it should worry every startup out there.
I disagree. Everyone knows a good idea is nothing without good execution. And startups have a lot of advantages in that arena. They’re lean and nimble, they can hire fresh teams specifically fitted to the new challenge, etc. If a bigger company can out-execute startups at ideas like this then, well, there goes one of the biggest arguments for startups. In other words, the only startups that really need to worry are the ones that don’t deserve to succeed anyway.
It’s worth a reminder that the idea for something like Snapchat is rightly not protected by intellectual property. As I’ve written before, you don’t get own the vast majority of your ideas, and that’s the way it should be.
Ultimately, if Snapchat loses out to Poke it’ll be because its app is closer to a feature than a product. The ability to let messages and photos expire is a useful addition to a messaging or photo-sharing application – like Facebook – but hardly a business in its own right.
The answer to startups’ fears of Facebook and Google stealing their ideas is better execution. And the edge in execution is more likely to be found in businesses that build truly innovative products, not just new features for what already exists.