Start-ups Clone Wars and the Battle for Fast Online Exposure
Aim of this research is to explore the copy/paste innovation tactics of the Wimdu platform that successfully led to an extraordinary boost in short time. In doing so, this article will question Wimdu’s excessive, immoderate and overly aggressive Search Engine Optimization practices to achieve higher Google rankings, and its failure to follow a more sustainable and innovative approach regarding its online platform development.
“You used to bump into start-ups that were doing the typical German thing of building a clone. Now the whole city is one crazy start-up — chaotic, unstructured and with a counter-culture vibe.” – Alex Ljung, CEO of Soundcloud, quoted in Erickson and Bostock 2011
While seeking an internship as part of my studies, a job posting draw my attention. Reading over the job description that was reflecting on the tasks required, I recognized myself. Online marketing strategies including social media, blogging, SEO, monitoring and analysis of web activities as well as research into finding new solutions to promote the platform, constituted some of the tasks mentioned.
Much to my surprise though, I found the internship to be a lot different from what it was presented in the job posting as well as from the interviews and emails we had exchanged. Little did I know, that Wimdu’s strategy is to become a billion-dollar start-up by placing much effort in recruiting interns in the online marketing department with the aim to increase the platform’s web presence in short time. It is of no wonder, that interns constitute a great part of Wimdu’s operations, as a considerable number of them is assigned to aggressively implement search engine optimization tactics and elevate the rankings of its website. But let’s dig more into the company itself.
Wimdu was founded in March 2011 with the intention to create a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world (Wimdu.com 2011). However, miles away, on the other side of the globe, Airbnb, a US based start-up offers the same concept; a platform where individual home and apartment owners can showcase their space and rent it out to travellers who are in search of a homey twist regarding their accommodation. So, is there any difference between the afore-mentioned start-ups? Not really.
When it comes to cloning, the German entrepreneurs, Samwer brothers, are notorious for producing copycat start-ups (Jeffries 2011). The Samwer brothers’ activity goes back in 1999 when they launched their first start-up Alando (www.alando.de), mainly a mirror image of the successful online auction and shopping website eBay (http://www.ebay.com) which they sold to it a few months later. City Deal (www.citydeal.de) constitutes another copycat start-up that Samwer brothers sold to its US predecessor Groupon, as well as the online fashion store Zalando (http://www.zalando.de) which “copycated” the already US established Zappos (http://www.zappos.com) (Butcher 2011). Apparently, Wimdu represents the latest achievement of Samwer brothers, whose modus operandi is to spot successful disruptive start-ups, copy their core idea, simply launch it in Europe, sell it when it becomes proliferate, and make a quick profit (Tsotsis 2011).
In light of the above discussion, my internship report attempted to investigate Wimdu’s aggressive strategy and expose its overly immoderate SEO tactics in an effort to reach its high-profit objective.; to become the one-billion-dollar start-up. In addition, the research shed some light on the vast opportunities that are provided by present social media tools and Wimdu’s resistance in harnessing them effectively in order to build a better and more sustainable experience for hosts and travellers alike.
*For more information on my report you can request a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Butcher, Mike. 2011. Oliver Samwer walks out of an interview with TechCrunch. TechCrunch Web site. http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/10/14/oliver-samwer-walks-out-of-an-interview-with-techcrunch/
Erickson, Jessica and Matthew Bostock. 2011. Founders Stand Up! The anti-copycat revolution starts now. 6wunderkinder Web Site. http://www.6wunderkinder.com/blog/2011/08/09/founders-stand-up-the-anti-copycat-revolution-starts-now/
Jeffries, Adrianne 2011. Clone Wars: Rise of the Fast Follower Startups. Betabeat Web site. http://www.betabeat.com/2011/09/02/clone-wars-rise-of-the-fast-follower-startups/?show=print
Tsotsis, Alexia. 2011. Airbnb Freaks Out Over Samwer Clones. TechCrunch Web Site. http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/09/airbnb/