27. April 2012–
Tricider's Berlin founders discovered a picture-perfect Russian clone of their startup company, right down to the name - and today managed to make the clone back down.
A startup's worst nightmare
Stephen Eyl and Nicolas von Kanitz, founders of new brainstorming service Tricider, spotted a tweet on Wednesday morning mentioning a Tricider with a Russian domain name. A quick search revealed tricider.ru - a mirror clone right down to the music used in the product video (check out the original and clone).
"Taking the same name is the biggest slap in the face," Eyl blogged that day. "The name, the brand is so personal. It’s odd enough when two people in a room wear the same sweater, but believe me, this is worse. 'Hey, is this your twin-brother?' 'No, he is just a clone…' Even the Samwers [Rocket Internet] don’t do that."
Russian clone Tricider becomes Fortox...
The name, at least, has now changed. Eyl and von Kanitz immediately started searching for the owners of the copycat site and managed to get in touch with the administrators of a Tricider page on Russian Facebook clone VK, who claimed someone else was sending them money to moderate that page. The Tricider team started trying to contact that person via ICQ - initially without success (more on that later).
As news of the copycat went viral last night, a poll started on the Russian clone's website and Facebook page to choose a new name for Tricider.ru. The winner? Fortox. As of today, the site's title is changed and a fortox.ru site is "coming soon" (Fortox.com is already taken, by a German weapon manufacturer).
...after some hardball negotiations via ICQ
"Yesterday we managed to get in contact with the owner and bargain for him to at least change the name of the service," von Kanitz reveals. "He somehow seemed to be a young person, I don't know, a student or something like that. He didn't really say. He told us that he's not interested in making a business out of it, but we don't really believe that."
The contact, identifying himself as "Vladimir" (see screenshot right), offered to sell them the domain name. Eyl and con Kanitz weren't interested. "Why should we buy something that's already our own?"
Tricider's founders eventually negotiated a name change. "[We said] 'It's still really, really bad but if you find another name for the service to run in Russia, in Russian, that would be OK for us'," von Kanitz said.
Will ditching the name be enough?
The Tricider team is in contact with a lawyer about possible next steps. Due the difficulty of taking legal action in Russia from Berlin, much depends on how the original Tricider - and its clone - develop. "We have so many ideas in mind for this year and the future so we're quite confident that our service will always be better than theirs," von Kanitz said. "At the end it will hopefully turn out well."
Tricider, founded in 2011, is based in Berlin and offers free team decision-making and brainstorming tools.
If you're a Berlin startup and you've been cloned, we want to hear from you. Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
For related reading, check out:
Rocket Internet clone showcase Vol. 1 (plus a few outside specials)