Traditional strategies tell us that business ideas should be original for it to become successful. Our intuition tells the same, as well as the entrepreneurial narrative, saying, a groundbreaking idea must be something that has never before been seen. Then, this idea, which is the solution to a common problem can be turned into a large-scale business.
Although, coming up with a completely original idea worked for others, the truth is not always the same. Many highly successful enterprises came from a not entirely original idea. Most of the time, you don’t need an ‘original’ vision to make it massive. The best examples of those not-exactly-original ideas that flourished are the following:
Google is probably the dominating search engine in the market now. It has been flourishing for years, which caused a lot of people to think it is the first search engine ever. The truth is, search engines have been a part of the internet ever since the web was created. In fact, Jeeves (now known as Ask.com) has existed even before Google began.
What made Google reach the top is their ability to improve and enhance an existing idea. They made a better search engine that provides more relevant results with maximized user experience. Google is not the first search engine, but probably, it is the best.
We bet you don’t remember Six Degrees, nor you even had a Six Degrees account. Yet, we all know Facebook. Almost everyone has a Facebook account. Before Facebook, we’re pretty sure you were on MySpace. Currently, Facebook is the largest social media platform, although they definitely weren’t the first.
Even the idea of connecting people using the web didn’t come from Mark Zuckerberg. The first ‘social media’ was Six Degrees, which was introduced to the world in 1996. However, during that time, only a few people had an access to the internet. Not a lot of people were even interested about connecting with people online. That was the mistake and the downfall of Six Degrees – timing.
Pepsi and Coke have been competing for ages. No one really knows who came first until in the 1970s during the “Cola Wars” of the advertising and the pop culture. It is when it was made clear that Pepsi came along as the challenger of Coke.
The two brands have existed since the 1800s, where Coke came first, and have already sold millions, when Pepsi was invented. Despite not being the original, Pepsi still thrives up to this day, and has successfully become a hundred billion dollar company.
If you know Fresh Direct, you know that they are the leading online grocery-delivery in North America today. However, you probably don’t know that the idea didn’t come from them. Webvan was the first company who attempted the online grocery revolution. Obviously, they didn’t become very successful in pulling it up.
Webvan was a startup which tried to introduce the idea of online grocery shopping in 1998. After just a few years, which was in 2001, the company declared bankruptcy. Just like Six Degrees, Webvan was unfortunate of the timing. The company launched in a wrong time where the internet didn’t have a good user base. Webvan also failed miserably in investing too much in infrastructure, and could not get the revenue they need to remain in the market.
There had been tons of e-commerce sites before Amazon emerged. Online sellers like Boo.com, eToys.com and Eve.com, and hundreds more, have been on the web long before Amazon did. However, these ecommerce sites thought it’s better to serve customers in a single, particular niche. Unlike Amazon, which chose a different route and decided to capitalize on all of the existing online sellers, and create a one-stop shop for everything you need.
Now Amazon is where you can go, wherever you are in the world to get anything you want. Everybody wins.
When the concept of being an ‘original’ changes in a revolutionary world
The truth is, we don’t need a completely unique idea to stand out in the competition. What every enterprise need is to be distinguished, even with the use of an existing idea. Here’s what you can do to make it:
You can always improve an idea by analyzing its weaknesses. You can either make it more affordable, more efficient, more accessible, or make it faster.
Consolidating ideas can also work just like what Amazon did. It gathered businesses to create a central plan that does the job.
You can also offer alternatives for existing mainstream products and services. These alternatives, answer to a competition that hasn’t existed.
Timing is everything, and most of the time it is the most important element of business execution. Learning the right timing for your market is vital to succeed where others have failed.
Efficient marketing is a crucial business component. Even though you have a good company, you can fail if your marketing strategies are not effective. Building a better brand can help you win, even though you’re using someone else’s vision.