Home Making a Copycat Site? At Least Copy an Idea That’s Working

Making a Copycat Site? At Least Copy an Idea That’s Working

As the old saying goes, lightning never strikes twice. For some entrepreneurs that saying doesn’t hold water and they strike it rich time and again, but rarely with the same business. When Alex Tew came up with the seemingly silly idea to sell pixels for $1 each in 2005, most people thought he was nuts. But sure enough, a little over 4 months later Million Dollar Homepage had indeed racked up over $1 million in sales. A flood of copycat sites appeared, but most failed. Lightning didn’t strike twice.

Undeterred, Tew launched his second venture, Pixelotto last December. The idea was basically the same with a slight change: pixels would cost $2, and half of the two million dollars the site expected to raise would be given to one lucky visitor (while 5% would go to a charity of the winners choice). Pixelotto got off to a good start, raising over $100,000 in the first few days, but sales have since basically stalled. The prize fund has only advanced $15,000 in the past six and a half months and it seems unlikely that Tew will reach his goal of a $1 million prize by year’s end (the pot sits at $152,000 right now).

Likely, the first couple of weeks of torrid sales at Pixelotto were due to Tew’s earlier fame as the progenitor of the pixel sales idea. And yet, the copycats persist, even as Tew himself can’t make the idea work this time around.

A couple of days ago I came across a site called Blog For A Year. The idea behind the site is that bloggers sign up, donate to a prize fund, and then get people to vote for them. At the end of the year, the blogger with the most votes gets half the prize pool as payment to write their blog full time for a year. (Sounds like a twist on something familiar, eh?)

Alex Tew himself can’t seem to replicate the success of Million Dollar Homepage.

The site was launched on July 1st, and already has $1,762 in their blogger fund (I’m not sure if that’s the prize amount or the amount that will be cut in half). 149 bloggers have entered and over 45,000 votes have already been cast. Impressive numbers for a 5 day old site, to be sure, but there are some flaws with the design of their contest that makes me highly skeptical that they’ll ever reach their stated goal of $160,000 raised in the next six months.

The first is that they rely on donations. That’s donations, not entry fees. This is likely to get around some tricky legal issues, but it means that anyone can enter and accumulate votes without putting something into the prize pool. The field might grow, the competition might get stiffer, and the prize might never get bigger. That is not a great selling point for getting people to pony up some cash when they enter. The second flaw I see is that they’re picking the winner based on votes. So the closer you get to the end of the contest (either when they raise $160,000 or January 1, 2008), the more disadvantaged late entrants will be, because they’ll have less and less time to catch up to the established leaders. This will likely leads to a progressive slow down in the number of entries and donations as the contest goes forward.


So what conclusion can we draw from this? Please, some originality people. Lightning never rarely strikes twice. Copycat ideas can sometimes be successful, but they’ll almost never equal the success of the original. And copying generally unsuccessful ideas (not that Pixelotto hasn’t made an impressive amount of money, but it won’t live up to its stated goals), just doesn’t seem like a good way to spend your time. If you do feel the need to borrow an idea, you should definitely make changes and try to innovate and push the concept in new directions. But if you do, you should do so to ensure a greater chance of success, not the other way around.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.