On Copycats and Leeches

This morning, reading my Twitter follow feed and email in bed with my iPhone (typical early morning ritual before I actually get out of bed), I saw something that just pushed me over the edge and thought this (OK, I tweeted something like it too):

Business is hard enough without the copycats and leeches, who shortcut hard work of building their own authentic products to suck brand equity and innovation from you.

These so-called (self-proclaimed) “Internet Entrpereneurs” are only “Internet Leeches.” There’s no creativity, no effort on their part.

They choose the easiest route to “success” and that’s typically on the back of someone else’s efforts.

You know who you are too.

I hate even writing this post because I don’t want to give them any more attention than they are already stealing and sucking from us.

For those of us true Internet Entrepreneurs, who have put in the hard work, this is something we deal with on a weekly basis.

Fraud is rampant. And damaging to both our businesses and those who get defrauded.

Theft is rampant … but I’ve learned to calm my anger over it, because with digital products, it’s hard to police the entire world. And frankly, most times, it’s a waste of time.

But equally, it’s all a headache, a frustration, and an irritation. One I could readily do without.

Become a true Internet Entrepreneur and once the anger subsides and you’ve come to peace with the reality of the situation, one day, your awesome customers will mention an example of all this to you.

They will be mad too. They will ask if there’s anything you can do to take it down. They will defend you. They are almost as jealous of your work as you are!

Now, that’s the upside of all this.

Customers know the difference between the imitation and the authentic, genuine article they support with their hard-earned money.

But here’s another fact: The Internet … that beautiful frontier of opportunity … is still the Wild West. And this is part of deal. You don’t have to like it, but ultimately, you’re better off accepting the situation for what it is and moving on.

But days like today, it spills over and you need to vent. (So I am doing it here, sorry.)

To make this a productive experience though, I have a challenge to budding entrepeneurs or the wannabe clones and leeches ….

  • Do something authentic for once in your life – the easiest thing to do is copy others … challenge yourself to do something great, make something you can be proud of that’s the genuine article, a product of your hard work and creativity. I’d much rather face an authentic competitor with awesome products than a copycat … the authentic competitor makes me better!
  • Don’t substitute talent for easy shortcuts – if you don’t have the talent to build something great, work harder at it! Many people realize they don’t have ANY talent. And they are right, they don’t. But instead of building skill through time and effort, they see the shortcut and take it. Word of warning: When you’ve fizzled out, we’ll still be here.
  • Still don’t have enough talent to do authentic, awesome work? Build a team then – I learned real quick I didn’t have the design talent of James Dalman, or the programming wizardry of Chris Jean. So I went out and recruited them to be a part of our team. I did the things I could do best and when I had the opportunity I hired people insanely talented at the areas I sucked at.
  • Being a real entrepreneur takes real hard work – I never realized how hard it would be to own my own business. There are some days when I think, “Now I know why most small businesses fail.” There are many days when I want to give up, pack it up, shut the doors and go work for someone else. Being an entrepreneur is the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done in my life. I sleep, eat and breath our business. I lose sleep because of it. I work longer hours than I ever have in my life. Most days I beat our team in and stay later than them. We have 7 families supported by our business currently, and I think about them every week and want to be sure they have security in our business.
  • Do the right thing, every time – The one thing I’ve tried to do in my business is run it according to my values. Consistently, I’ve tried to always do the right thing, the right way. I’ve made mistakes. Plenty of them. But I’ve always felt deeply that if I consistently did the right thing that ultimately whatever situation or scrutiny I was under our customers, team and partners would see that, and frankly, that’s all that matters to me. My dad taught me that if I gave my word that I should honor it. That if I worked, I should work hard and do my best. And of course, I’ve endeavored to live by the Golden Rule. People will eventually see through the liars and cheats, the shortcutters and leeches. Who wants to do business, or partner with those types?

So, on that note, here’s my final question for the Internet Leeches out there: If the table was turned, and you’ve spent the last two years of your life building a great business, with late nights, heartaches, and toil, supporting other families through it, creating something you are jealously proud of, how would you feel if someone took the shortcut and sucked some of it for their personal, short-term gain?


  1. i’d feel pretty bummed.

    but, at the same time, i’d sleep soundly at night knowing that (as you’ve said above) “policing” the internet is both stupid and impossible and that my energies are far more useful in doing other things.

    keep on keeping on!

  2. When I first started using Joomla and WordPress, I was initially overwhelmed by the number of sites offering themes and plugins. It didn’t take much time to identify the hard working, creative individuals and teams that deserved my support.

    Let’s not forget that “copycats and leeches” survive and prosper because we give them a market. Consumers need to support the “true Internet Entrepreneurs” through our testimonials and our wallets!

    1. Thanks Erin, John and Mike for the comments.

      Mike, love your final quote. I think also those “genuine” customers heed and honor it too because they know that to build a lasting business that continues to innovate you have to have loyal customers.

      Rock on!

  3. Great post Miller! You know that there are just some people who are too lazy to do things the hard way, but people can pick out the fake and they won’t get away with it for long.

    I would encourage anyone who knows of a business leech or copycat to call them out on it and do your best to make sure they get what they deserve – nothing!

  4. Leeches and copycats have been the prevailing topic over the last few weeks. If it isn’t someone stealing blog content, it’s another copying a business model and even eBooks. It is frustrating, and makes me nervous about starting my own business.

    But, here’s how I “try” to deal with it.
    1. Every dog has their day. Some day, these people will be caught and have to pay dearly, or someone will copy them and they will have egg on their face.
    2. Cheaters never win. While they may gain something in the short term, they will have no success in the long run because they don’t have the brains to figure things out on their own.
    3. My word is my honor and no one can take that away from me. As you and others have mentioned, our true customers, clients and colleagues know we are the real deal. We can sleep well at night knowing we have done right by people.

    I am so sorry this has happened to you. Even though I just “met” you, I am intrigued by your work ethic and drive to help others. You will be a success despite the leeches – they are no comparison to you.

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