Uh oh. Is this Bubble 2.0?
One might be forgiven for thinking so, in light of recent developments in the tech-blog realm.
For on Friday, you see, TechCrunch posted a lament about the glut of knockoff messaging apps that are hoping to be the next Snapchat.
And then -- bam -- Saturday morning The New York Times' Bits blog posted a lament about the glut of knockoff startups that are hoping to be the next Uber or Airbnb (or Uber-meets-Airbnb).
And then -- wham -- Saturday afternoon yours truly knocked off this lament about the glut of laments about knockoffs.
If the glut of knockoff tech offerings itself isn't enough to get you thinking Bubble 2.0; then the glut of blog items about the glut of knockoffs might be.
Both the TechCrunch and Times pieces inspire a knowing smirk or two, and they do give a sense of the sort of tulipomania that once again may (or may not) be gripping Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and other such tech centers.
The Times' Nick Bilton dryly displays his Digital Era reporting skills and search-field resourcefulness:
On Angel List, a network for investors and entrepreneurs, the proof [that so many startups are slightly tweaked knockoffs] is visible in aggregate. Search this site for "Uber for," "Uber meets," or "Uber of," and you will be met with hundreds of startups that are pitching themselves as a slight variation on Uber, the fast-growing, taxi-like service.
An amusing search idea, one that conjures up images of hair-raisingly annoying pitch meetings at your gourmet latte stand of choice. (My own whack at an "Uber meets..." query on Angel List, however, turned up far less than hundreds of examples.)
TechCrunch's Sarah Perez also captures the seeming jump-on-the-bandwagon hysteria in a way that's worthy of a grin (or a sigh):
Too many otherwise talented people are building messaging apps or Snapchat alternatives with only slightly improved or differentiated feature sets. Worse, they're building messaging app gimmicks. An app for winking selfies? It's enough to [make you] genuinely fear for future generations.
Still, knockoffs and gimmicks and ill-advised FrankenVine Meets the Wolf-Chat hybrids do not necessarily a bubble make. Rip-offs have always been around. And there may yet be a few more 23-year-old CEOs who'll get the chance to turn down billions, courtesy of ravenous, sexting teens (or frantically pinning Net-era Martha Stewarts).
Then too, as has been said by more than one person (in this case, we'll borrow the phrasing of one Richie Hecker): "It's not about the idea, it's about the execution. Whoever executes better, wins."
And who knows? Perhaps some truly useful and original products will erupt from the scrum. We'll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, though, it's sort of amusing (and, yes, disturbing) to be a fly on the wall at this latest tech-fueled Gold Rush-meets-feeding frenzy.