Curebit is under fire after a heated exchange with DHH of 37 signals over copying of aesthetics, code, and assets from the Highrise website. In the ensuing discussion, some commenters have questioned whether it’s such a big deal. After all, copying isn't really stealing, so isn’t it ok for a "small startup" to hustle and use “inspiration” to run quick and dirty tests? The answer is no, and here’s why:
The actions of a business reveal its values
All the small, trivial seeming actions that a business takes, when viewed in aggregate, are a reflection of its values. If you take a short view on decision making, if you allow the constant tyranny of urgency to drive actions, if you fail to carefully articulate the values you want your business to be built on, then you run the risk of allowing capricious actions to corrupt the values of your business.
Building a business takes courage, tenacity, and integrity. It requires that you balance the needs and desires of a myriad of different stakeholders including customers, employees, investors, etc. A business needs to stand for something, or else it will too easily bend to the influence and be pulled apart in a thousand different directions. In order to build a business that’s worth a damn you need a strong foundation of values on which to build.
Buzzwords are not a substitue for knowing what you’re talking about
The “we’re lean” excuse is a cancer that we need to excise from the startup community immediately. This is just the most recent and highest profile case of a startup using a concept they clearly don’t understand as an excuse for cutting corners. The Lean Startup may be the most important challenge to entrenched, traditional management in recent memory, but unfortunately the principals defined within are so widely misunderstood that they have been repeatedly used to defend shoddy work, and at times to even argue the complete opposite of what the points made in the book. The Lean Startup is a set of guidelines to help in the execution of entrepreneurial ideas, it is absolutely not an excuse for cutting corners in your product, or in your business. The concept of a “Minimum Viable Product” has nothing to do with delivering half-assed work, it is simply a strategy for validating ideas with the minimum viable amount of work. Sometimes that means testing a product concept with a landing page and a sign up button before writing code, it doesn't mean pushing out half-finished products, or copying others to get things done faster.
The bottom line is: ideas are cheap, execution is hard, but there are no shortcuts to building things that matter, especially when it comes to defining what you stand for.