Viewpoint: In Emerging Markets There Are No Copycats, Just Budding Entrepreneurs
By Federico Antoni
Every year I teach an MBA course at Stanford about the exciting opportunities for tech investors and entrepreneurs in developing economies. When we designed the syllabus back in 2013, Rocket Internet was still firing on all cylinders on four continents. The unapologetic machine built to copy big American internet companies created billions of dollars for the Samwer brothers and its backers. During Rocket’s golden years, the best startups in the developing economies seemed to inevitably have an original reference in Silicon Valley.
Accordingly, we added a class about the opportunity of replicating business models to seize this information arbitrage. Call it the second-mover advantage.
Despite my conviction about the model, the copycat word — short for replicating startups and attached to these ventures — annoyed me from the start. More than a term to describe a straightforward recipe to launch, I see it as an unconscious way to belittle an entire group of hard-charging founders and investors.