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YC startup accused of stealing design from CBInsights (twitter.com/atestu)
95 points by jusben1369 on Feb 4, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 36 comments

I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but Techlist's analytics capabilities have an uncanny resemblance to CB Insights.

In addition, 12 folks from their team have signed up for our free trial since September including the CEO, head of product, designer, product manager and a senior ruby developer.

Take a look at their heatmap. The color scheme to even the text underneath is exactly the same.

Here is our heatmap which we launched 2 years ago: http://cbi.vc/1AsvNy3

Their industry graphs are also the same. Here is ours: http://cbi.vc/1Asw0kR

On the bright side, this is a bit of an ego boost, and we're flattered that these guys liked CB Insights so much that they wanted one just like it for themselves.

Note: I'm the CEO of CB Insights.

Hi Anand you're right that 2 of our analytics layouts share a very similar aesthetic to those on CBI. On behalf of myself personally and on behalf of Tech in Asia and the Techlist team, I apologize.

We're doing a lot of work to make sure Techlist is unique behind the scenes, and of course the data we're pulling into our site is unique and Asia-focused, but we definitely made a mistake in taking too much from CBI's visual design. It was a shortcut, and one that we shouldn't have taken, as it does a disservice to you, to Tech in Asia, and to our customers. There's really no excuse; we should have put more time into coming up with our own visuals.

In the immediate future we will be working on finding a more unique aesthetic framework within which to present our data.

Note: I'm the CEO of Tech in Asia that runs Techlist.

Update: we changed our location and vertical analytics graph layouts overnight.

http://i.imgur.com/vJLd9Ls.jpg http://i.imgur.com/2KYx7zK.jpg

I can't imagine YC having a problem with team members testing a competitors' product, that's a pretty fundamental aspect of market research. Yes, they admitted to being influenced by yor charts, but you can't really claim IP on a line graph.

The best product will win, and your public cries of unfairness/ foul play is not a positive business signal.

It looks like CB Insights just dropped off of my investor-data-startups heat-map, which my team is working furiously to re-style, we had copied Techlist.

I honestly don't know why someone would go to the effort of starting a company, obviously get some funding and entry to yc and not want the app to be unique and well thought out (not saying yours isn't) - I would want to put my mark all over it and the ui is critical to what customers see.

It is just stupid and shows bad judgment, not a company I would use.

Do you think they just copied you to launch rapidly/MVP and if successful/raise then they would have resources to go in their own design direction?

To be honest, I don't care :)

And copying our work was good enough to get them into YC so guess mission accomplished. Hopefully YC doesn't condone this type of behavior.

When the CEO and 11 other employees sign up for someone else's service to copy it, it seems originality might be in short supply.

It seems like people think you're commenting about this because you want them stopped, which doesn't seem to be the case to me. You just want it acknowledged that they did this shitty thing. I agree that it's shitty and I assume it's not actionable and think you're right to just be right out in the open saying "well, they stole our design and got away with it... more power to them." I do wonder if HN leadership has any comments on this type of behavior, because it really does look shitty coming from one of their teams.

I didn't post the original link. Honestly, I'd love for them to be stopped but this is the internet after all :)

I, like you, am curious if YC condones this type of copying esp since the CEO admitted it on Twitter.

But it's shitty and our team does a lot of hard work so I do hate to see it copied. That said, we've seen plenty of unoriginal folks do similar stuff in the past, and they've all failed as they focus on us while we focus on customers.

Are you suggesting that excuses the copying?

Not at all! Just trying to grapple with how they think they could get away with it over time. Perhaps they didn't plan to.

So someone stole your design and you cry out? WTF? Is it a kind of PR campaign? Get back to work and do something fucking unique that other can't easily steal. Invent. Cool inventions even in UI are hard to steal. You have NOTHING FUCKING SPECIAL in this design to cry about it.

You didn't come up with the idea of a heatmap. Their designs are different enough that I wouldn't consider it stealing. You're in the same space it looks like, of course there is going to be crossover.

The CEO of this company admits they used our design as "reference" to get something out the door quickly.

Here's his tweets that admit this: http://cbi.vc/1u9KQu9

And you just pulled your design out of thin air? You woke up one day magically having this design idea without any prior influence? Please, you had your own references as well.

At my company, we routinely look at what our competitors are doing and we routinely look at ways of integrating their ideas into our product. It's not stealing, it's just business.

The CEO copied us. And admitted it. You seem to think that copying blatantly is fine. We'll agree to disagree.

If the only differentiator and "secret sauce" in your product is a bunch of CSS and some D3 layouts, you've got a problem.

Stop whining and start creating some real backend system and process so that you can offer real value to your customers. I bet you would love to get patents on those charts and color combinations uh?

You're creating a straw man. I don't disagree that he's copied you. I disagree that it's stealing. I don't think what he did is wrong.

Have a look at the non-heatmap pages. They seem to be a copy of each other down to the order of the various parameters; even the labels tend to be identical or slightly rephrased...

It's still different. This is a common layout for charted data. Likewise, Ford can't sue Mercedes for coming out with a 4 wheeled car; that's what makes the most sense.

There's different fonts, different colors, different spacing, some less important elements are in different places. Forget it, this is just a tweet to stir up discussion and generate some page hits.

What's actionable about this issue? The original design was good; they riffed on that. Like everybody else.

They both look like Bootstrap sites to me.

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2015, 10:24 a.m. My view of the point of this story: Copying a design is efficient business. Implementing someone else's idea instead of creating your own is lazy and lacks integrity. Profiting from someone else's work, without attribution or mutual agreement is stealing, is unethical and lacks integrity. Apologizing for acting wrongly is an act of integrity. So is ceasing one's unethical behavior.

The rules are: Take responsibility for your potential and for your actions. Don't be lazy. Don't steal. When you act wrongly, acknowledge it, stop it, fix it.

I would have reached out personally to the CEO, instead of publicly shaming.

Why is that better? (Not trying to pick a fight, just curious how this would lead to a better outcome.)

Well, look what happened. In public. Really doesn't make anyone look good.

Makes CBInsights look pretty good, actually.

I'll second that. It makes CB Insights look good because it now is well-known that a slightly more unscrupulous competitor stole the otherwise brilliant design of CB Insights because they were unable to come up with something they could call their own (or do better than CB Insights).

It's the lazy way. The beautiful thing about it? Those who copy (blatantly) are doomed to fail. In most cases, they will lack the understanding and foundation of how you arrived at the designs in the first place which certainly consisted of iteration and changes based on interactions with & feedback from customers.

A good design team would look at a competitor's site and say, "we can do better". A poor design team would look at a competitor's site and say, "we can copy that".

Normally when you accuse people of plagiarism you present side by side screenshots. That allows rapid comparison.

Linking to a twitter stream is suboptimal. (That's true for any reason except directly linking to a specific comment that some person has made, but especially true here.)

Read the blog post again- there are side-by-side screenshots


Sounds like you might be their Xerox.


It sucks so much that someone else copied it?


"a framework created for people who have no skills or time to invest on CSS or design"

This is hilarious, I kinda agree with it though

Honestly, their site looks a lot better. Taking inspiration from your KPI charts and flow is completely normal, everyone looks at their established competition for inspiration.

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