One of life's grand injustices is that it's very hard to come up with an idea that's both original and good. Even harder to make money from it! But that's not stopping anyone from trying to cash in with a half-baked version of someone else's startup. Uber for nose jobs. Pandora for plants. Silicon Valley has a serious imagination problem.

This is already the stuff of stale punchlines—just use this stupid startup idea generator.




Ha. Except that last one is real. BabyClip describes itself as "an easy and fun way for moms to discover and share babies/kids product recommendations," and is a near pixel-for-pixel duplication of Pinterest. The site and its founder, Tao Yang, occupy a slot on AngelList, an enormous directory of fledging startups hoping to cop a hurried check from a less-discerning investor. BabyClip isn't alone. When you search AngelList for the words "instagram for," you get an avalanche of unoriginality, startups that shamelessly pitch themselves are the something of something else. A sample:

  • Viddy ("Instagram for video")
  • Just Sing It
  • Playvuu ("Instagram meets YouTube")
  • MightBuy ("Instagram for Retailers")
  • Trendabl ("Instagram for fashion with brands and celebs")
  • Pictorious
  • Kinderloop ("Secure Instagram for child carers & parent")
  • Sharelook
  • Incuvo
  • Opuss ("Instagram for Words")
  • Waddle
  • ProductGram
  • clikd
  • Puppystream ("Instagram for dog owners")
  • Pixplit
  • SimpleCrew
  • ishBowl
  • MyStyle
  • Werdsmith ("Instagram for Writers")
  • Zazzy ("Instagram for Jewelry")
  • PicThatWord ("words with friends meets instagram")
  • InstaCam
  • Readingly
  • Scribz
  • NuffnangX ("Instagram for Blogs")
  • oogababy
  • GifBoom
  • Crowd Surfn
  • Mixtape
  • FrameBlast
  • Poasty ("Instagram for Yearbooks")
  • Modera ("Instagram meets “Hot or Not” and makes it a Klout for fashion" [???])
  • Sparkly
  • FoodShootr ("Instagram meets Foursquare for food")
  • TextaPet ("Instagram for pets")
  • Braggr
  • Karmr
  • Bedloo
  • Kisstagram
  • bottlcap
  • Picturizr
  • Hooplenz ("Instagram for basketball junkies")
  • Miletu
  • Divinely ("The Christian Instagram")

That's not even all of them. And we can laugh all we want, but some of those have locked down hundreds of thousands (or millions) in funding.

It's not just Instagram. There are the "________ of Pandora" clones:

  • Rockify ("Pandora for music videos")
  • Hotlist ("Pandora for your social life")
  • DealSquare ("Pandora radio for local deals")
  • StyleSeek ("Pandora for E-Commerce")
  • Umano
  • Deeno ("Pandora for Children's Media")
  • ContextMedia
  • Fashon Metric
  • Pearescope ("Pandora for your social graph")
  • Dhingana ("Pandora for Indian Music")
  • Coursebook
  • Friendeo
  • Snackr
  • Widdle
  • inkWIRE
  • Hoppit
  • Frogo TV
  • Vititude
  • YogaTailor ("Pandora for Yoga Videos")
  • Matchik
  • Swirl It!
  • Froof ("Pandora for your palate")
  • Next Glass ("Pandora for wine")
  • Wine Cue ("Pandora of wine")
  • Jobs You'll Love ("Pandora for Jobs")
  • Vintage Graphs ("Pandora For Wine")
  • GigDog
  • Prevail Health Solutions

That last one describes itself as "Pandora for mental health," which is a manifestly bad idea—psychiatry on shuffle?—but is a real thing. Reality and stupidity are by no means mutually exclusive in this world. Let's see the Uber clones—a highpoint in catering to the 0.0001%:

  • Caviar
  • Handybook
  • Swifto ("Uber for Dog Walking")
  • Ringadoc ("Uber for doctors")
  • ("Uber for Laundry")
  • Get Maid ("Uber for Maid Service")
  • ServiceRoute (Uber for snow plows, lawn mowers and trash trucks")
  • Medicast
  • StudyHall
  • FoodCouriers
  • Flinja ("Uber for jobs")
  • EvoLux ("Uber meets AirBnB for Helicopter Transport")
  • Where Is My Bus?
  • Aperiteu

Many of these bill themselves as "Uber for food," which has existed for some time now. Aperiteu claims to be Uber for French food, so, at least that's something? "Where Is My Bus?" wants to be "Uber for Busses," and yes, it is spelled wrong.

The Airbnb clones—you can pretty much guess their slightly altered purpose from the name:

  • Weddingful ("AirBnB & Etsy for Weddings")
  • Kodesk
  • Shared Earth ("Airbnb for land owners," also known as COMMUNISM)
  • ThingShare ("Airbnb of Tools")
  • ("Airbnb for food")
  • Surfelocity ("The AirBnb for surf trips")
  • Fun2Boat ("AirBnB for Boats and Yachts")
  • Boatbound ("Airbnb for boat rentals")
  • Roomz ("AirBNB for shared accommodation," not to be confused with "Airbnb"
  • fitboo
  • Gastromama
  • becoacht

There are not enough idle boats out there bobbing in the waters to justify multiple "AirBnb for boats" startups, I promise you this.

Pinterest clones are maybe the most brazen, as they often look exactly like Pinterest:

  • Sworly ("Pinterest for music")
  • Pixcited ("Pinterest for Men")
  • Feistie ("Pinterest meets IMDB for Music")
  • BabyClip
  • KidKidBangBang ("Pinterest for Paranoid Parents" [???])
  • CherryPic'd
  • Anywhen ("Pinterest for history")
  • Anjuna ("Pinterest style website for Big Fat Indian Weddings")
  • Ysper ("Pinterest for what to eat in a restaurant," called in other parts of the world a "menu" or "Yelp" or "Foursquare" or "a friendly waiter")

The people behind these sites are to blame for hoping they can make a buck on a pre-existing trademark. They chose to come up with a name like "Sworly" or "Froof," names more suitable than taboo sex maneuvers than businesses. They chose to make it happen. But they didn't choose a business climate that rewards this kind of slavish crap. When Vine launched at the beginning of the year, it was pretty much universally labeled (and more importantly, celebrated) as a video Instagram. Now the "real" Instagram for video is expected to drop tomorrow—and everyone will pick up the pom poms once more, encouraging, I'm sure, another wave of plodding, soulless clones. Fab—basically Amazon for nice stuff—is worth a billion dollars after today. These are the examples to follow. These are things that get rewards. The money machine is clogged with gunk because it's clogging itself

Image by Jim Cooke, glasses by Shutterstock