I woke up on Christmas morning to this question on facebook from my aunt. Apparently she has been reading TheNextWeb =)
That is a great question. And, I get why TNW wants to sensationalize this issue. Facebook has a running history of either ripping off features from other companies, or acquiring other companies to duplicate the functionality.
The short answer is:
- Instagram isn’t complaining for being acquired for $1bn
- The only good reason to be an entrepreneur is to build something you love, and love building it
Getting copied is a reality of creating pretty much anything. Art. Music. Books. Movies. Products.
In about 8th grade, I went to Lake Texoma summer camp for water week. We did canoeing, sailing, swimming, and water skiing. And, I thought I was pretty clever for “inventing” a trick. (Basically just going outside the wake, yanking the rope to get some slack, and then hanging on real tight for all the extra speed going back to the wake.) The next turn, another kid started doing the same trick. I got pretty pissy about it. But then the camp counselor told me, “imitation is the highest form of flattery.”
If your product is getting copied, you might be doing something right. At the very least it means that someone else likes the idea enough to spend their time working on it. And, it might validate your assumption that there is a big market for your product.
Like I said before, Instagram isn’t complaining about being acquired.
In fact, many companies can be overly focused on being acquired. Rather than focusing on building a sustainable business they keep spending money and time building a product (and a debt) they assume some bigger company will take off their hands. A lot of startup hearts have been broken when those plans fall through.
The other possibility (or distraction) is an acqui-hire. That’s when a larger company acquires your company primarily for the people and many times ends up shutting down the actual product. This is great if you want to have an exit (a.k.a. get a payout for all your work) and move into something more stable. But, for anyone who truly loves their life’s work (remember the comparison to artists, painters, writers, etc.) this seems more like ‘selling out’ than ‘being successful’.
End of the day, if an acquisition is structured in a way that actually makes you happy, then there aren’t too many complaints. In other words, don’t worry about it.
If you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else does. You should focus all of your attention and energy and creativity into building the best product possible for the largest number of people who need it.
Why spend a day of your life not working on something you love with people you love?