He Said He Said
Yesterday a Williamsburg-based startup called Classic Specs posted what looked like a rather damning open letter accusing one of its competitors of attempting to tamper with investors. “We’ve been having a number of great meetings with advisors and potential investors lately,” Classic Specs cofounder Andrew Lipovsky wrote. “That’s why we were surprised to hear that someone was telling them, ‘hey..make sure you know the full story behind Classic Specs (wink).’”
Who would want to spread rumors about Classic Specs, which sells its stylish glasses at Brooklyn Flea and donates a portion of its proceeds to charity? “Our sales keep growing because we have a great product that people love (and that we hand deliver if you’re nearby) and because we have a very attractive dog as a mascot,” Mr. Lipovsky wrote in the stirring letter, which embedded a picture of said pooch.
Mr. Lipovsky suspects that the rumormonger is Warby Parker: the eyeglasses e-vendor, investor darling and customer sensation, that also happens to be based in New York. Why? Because the much-larger Warby had tried to shut Classic down before, he alleged.
The story seemed to have it all: copycats, unfair competition, and underdogs, and it shot up to the top of Hacker News yesterday afternoon, garnering at last count 169 points and 71 comments. “Hipster fight,” wrote one commenter. “This whole thing makes me so glad I got LASIK a few years ago,” said another.
But what, exactly, is the beef?
Attack of the Clones
Zynga has been involved in an ongoing legal battle with Vostu, the king of social gaming in Brazil, which also has a big office here in New York. Zynga sued Vostu for copying it games, to which Vostu responded that Zynga had made its entire business off of copying people’s games. Touché.
With Zynga gearing up for an IPO, it was probably in everyone’s interest to get this settled and keep any doubts from investors minds. The company’s sent Betabeat a joint statement, “Zynga and Vostu have settled the copyright lawsuits and counterclaims against each other in the United States and Brazil. As part of the settlement, Vostu made a monetary payment to Zynga and made some changes to four of its games. The parties are pleased to have settled their disputes and to now put these matters behind them.”
The startup world is rife with clones and copycats, fueled by the ease of opening up shop on the web. You can find ads on Craigslist shopping for scripts to rip off entire sites. But typically it’s the small fry who are aping the success of their larger, more established rivals.
So the folks at New York based Paperless Post were a little taken aback when they saw Postmark, a new offering from Evite, which looked to them like a total clone of their product.
To make their case, Paperless Post laid out for Betabeat the nitty gritty details of the overlap between Postmark and their service. To them, it copied the user experience and design assets, right down to individual cards. Everything had an eerie familiarity, from the pricing scheme to the name.
“We kind of stumbled on it while redesigning our logo,” said Alexa Hirschfeld, who founded the site with her brother James. “We were checking out the competitors and when we got to Evite’s postmark we had one of those moments, it was actually confusing, looking at it and then at our site, realizing we had been cloned.”