If you are writing about the global startup scene you often come across the notion that all of the innovation happens to take place in the US whereas Europe, especially Germany, is going to clone the successful concepts, build a local version and hope that one day the US company is going to acquire its European clone in order to get its foothold on the other side of the pond.
And often this is true. The German Samwer brothers have built an entire global empire based on cloning US startups and here in France we also have our fair share of clone-startups that have been acquired by their US-based originals.
What always baffles me is how the tech press is making a difference between a clone and a “European version” of a startup. Especially when former founders who have been acquired are then invited and celebrated as European innovators. Sure, I am willing to give them credit that they figured out how to successfully select a concept to clone, scale and finally sell their startup but that is also the only thing they have achieved – therefore the only thing they should be allowed to speak about in panels.
Cursopedia – Udemy’s Spanish Cousin
A couple of weeks ago I came across a new clone in the education field. Cursopedia, a startup that is currently part of the 2020 for 2020 Startup Madrid Accelerator program. I usually tend to give the benefit of doubt based on parallel innovation that might happen, but in this case it is quite obvious that Cursopedia has been heavily inspired by US-based Udemy. If you compare the home pages and the way the courses are displayed the origin of Cursopedia is pretty obvious.
Cursopedia just announced its open beta and looking at the course selection the team is also targeting a tech centered audience. Most courses are around the topics of programming, graphic design and entrepreneurship which probably targets the Madrid / Barcelona based startup scene similar to how Udemy started off in the Bay Area.
Why European Clones are Inevitable
And here is where the whole cloning debate is getting interesting. Local startup scenes across the globe are not that different from one another. Therefore one can assume that people in the startup space in Spain have similar needs and interests like their US counterparts. The problem is that the biggest players in the space, namely Udemy and Lynda.com, are not offering their content in other languages.
Especially with US-based companies I don’t understand why Spanish localization does not seem to be on the road map. There is a huge Hispanic audience in the States that would probably appreciate to get courses in Spanish. On top of that it would also open up the platforms to users in Spain and Latin America.
Successful language learning startup Voxy has even built its entire business based on this promising demographic that will only gain more relevance in the years to come.
But as long as US startups think that English is enough in order to scale there will always be an opportunity for localized clones. Though it might not be innovation that is taking place it still fulfills the need of an audience that otherwise won’t be served.
Interestingly I had the same discussion about Spain, Udemy and cloning a couple of years ago, with the only difference being that back then Udemy was the clone and innovation came out of Spain.
Most of you won’t remember Sclipo, an online teaching platform that was far ahead (too far ahead) of the curve. When Udemy launched and got its first press coverage I had a talk with Christopher Grant who used to work as SVP at Sclipo. His notion back then was that Udemy was essentially a clone of earlier platforms like WizIQ, Sclipo and the Israel-based Sparkeo.
Today Sclipo hit the deadpool, WizIQ ans Sparkeo are still there but compared to Udemy far less relevant. One should also not forget that two of Udemy’s founders come from Turkey, therefore Udemy is also kind of a European startup if we agree to use the word European a bit loosely.
Learning the American Way
The main difference is that over the years Udemy has managed to trim a lot of fat that was added to the online learning platform space. In its last iterations Sclipo offered a huge set of different tools and features both for live and recorded lessons. The team at Udemy also started with far more features than you are going to find today. Just watch my first interview with Gagan Biyani to get a sense how it all started.
Again, the difference lies in execution and finding the minimum viable product, something US-based startups are obviously better at than their European counterparts and this makes it far easier to clone their business models.
Back to Cursopedia, with the current MOOC craze I am pretty sure that the team is going to get some funding for their course marketplace. Then, it will come down to execution and whether Cursopedia will be able to grab significant market share in Spain and LatAm.
Latest posts by Kirsten Winkler (see all)
- EdTech Market Brief: Germany - March 9, 2017
- European EdTech Raised over €62 Million in Q4 2016 - February 23, 2017
- EdTech Startup List: Netherlands - February 1, 2017