6 Startups that Cloned Ideas and Made a Fortune

Some call them ripoffs. Others call them smart.

Dr. Maria Stern
5 min readJun 28, 2021


Photo by Al ghazali on Unsplash

I call them good examples of what works with dubious ethical implications.

We’re discussing startups that copied (“cloned”) ideas from more or less established businesses, altered them a bit, and made a fortune as a result.

You’ll learn:

  • how these seven startups swiped others’ ideas and implemented them onto non-existing markets
  • why Germans can be dangerous for established businesses
  • that there’s a LOT of money to be made from cloning

Ready to learn from the very best in the cloning game? Let’s roll.

Example #1: eBay and Alando

Three brothers (Marc, Oliver, and Alexander Samwer) were mesmerized by the concept of eBay and wanted to reproduce it in Germany.

Unfortunately, eBay never replied to their collaboration appeals.

This wasn’t unfortunate for the brothers. It was unfortunate for eBay.

The lack of response drove Samwers to launch the business themselves.

Fast forward three months. The brothers just opened their fourth glass of champagne to celebrate the HUGE success they achieved in just 90 days after launching.

(I’m guessing they drank champagne; that’s what I’d do).

But their party is interrupted by a noisy phone ringing. One of the brothers picks up; it’s Goldman Sachs on the phone.

eBay realized that Alando is a formidable competitor. They also realized that the best way to get rid of your competition is to acquire them.

Long story short, eBay ended up buying Alando for a staggering $43 million just a month after the site went live.


eBay acquired Alando for $43 million just three months after the startup went into operation.

Example #2: Zappos and Zalando

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Zappos is an online shoe store. They have ads EVERYWHERE.



Dr. Maria Stern

Founder and CEO of GRC. Art addict, science preacher. My formula: and if not now, then when? https://thegrc.co/