Yesterday, I wrote a post about Innovation Works (Innovation Works or Shanzhai Works) and it got quite a few feedbacks.  Some agree with its general idea.  And of course, some don’t.  (One person in Innovation Works actually gave me a call to talk about it. )

First of all, I want to clear one mistake: Dianxin is not an Android clone.  It is actually built on top of Android – an Internet smart-phone operating system (based on Android) tailored for Chinese users.  And whether Wandoujia is modeled after 91 Assistant can be debatable.  (Maybe we can address this later after more research.)

But, Umeng is definitely very similar to Flurry and another Innovation Works project, DianDian, is close to Tumblr.

Innovation Works has 26 projects so far.  And some of them are very similar to other internet companies’ ideas.   The reason of it, according to the Innovation Works person, is because they work in China.  “These are not our ideas.  They are the entrepreneurs’ ideas,” said the person.

When I think of that, I suddenly realize: of course, if you are an incubation center and say, many of your applicants present you with business plans that are clones / remakes (or whatever you would like to call) of some successful western models, you will inevitably have chosen some.

The problem is not Innovation Works, or any particular incubation centers.  The problem is the general atmosphere.  Renren’s IPO price just increased another 30%, because it calls itself Facebook in China.  When Renren just started it looked exactly like Facebook and Joe Chen, CEO of Renren, admitted he was copying Facebook.   (And he is not ashamed of.)

The new generation of Chinese internet entrepreneurs are just following Joe Chen’s footsteps.  And this is encouraged by all the investors, who bid up the price of Renren, Youku, Sina Weibo, etc.

Sherman So

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. (http://redwiredrevolution.com/) She previously was the lead China technology reporter...

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5 Comments

  1. I think the copy-to-China model is going to exist for a while until the macro-structure changes. Innovations don’t necessarily reward to the entrepreneurs or investors. Copy-to-China speeds up the process of building high-tech and high-risk ventures in China.

    Today I talked to a famous UI designer @disinfeqt who is also involved in the design of Zhihu.com (the Quora.com of China of course), who showed me how Diandian completely cloned some paid themes on Tumblr. There was no “tailoring” or “localization” involved. Given the money, reputation and all the other intangible assets IW has, it should definitely (and be able to) be more patient in the process of “innovation” to allow for original ideas.

    However, IW might think of using another name.

  2. the idea itself is worthless. it is the execution and product and teams ability to adapt to userbase that will lead to long-term growth and success. sina weibo might be considered a twitter clone, but it has since evolved to have much richer and more social functionality than even twitter, and is directly catered to Chinese user habits and preferences. calling Innovation Works a Clone Factory is meaningless – none of these startups will be successful if all they do is clone. they need to innovate and adapt to build value, as is the case in any country/market.

  3. the idea itself is worthless. it is the execution and product and teams ability to adapt to userbase that will lead to long-term growth and success. sina weibo might be considered a twitter clone, but it has since evolved to have much richer and more social functionality than even twitter, and is directly catered to Chinese user habits and preferences. calling Innovation Works a Clone Factory is meaningless – none of these startups will be successful if all they do is clone. they need to innovate and adapt to build value, as is the case in any country/market.

  4. Is TechNode a clone of TechCrunch? I enjoy this article but at the same time it would be good to be self reflective as well.

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