Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. – T.S. Eliot
Good artists copy, great artists steal. – Pablo Picasso
Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal. – Igor Stravinsky
Good artists copy, great artists steal. – Steve Jobs
Real artists ship. – Steve Jobs
At the seed stage, a founder’s responsibility is to find an efficient way to test the hypothesis for their business. Fundamentally, a start-up is an like any other experiment. You want to limit the variables and cost (including time) required to get an answer.
If you are starting a new company, you want your early releases to isolate the core principle underlying your product or service. For example, if you are launching a new retail commerce business, you want to understand whether or not there is sufficient consumer demand for the products you plan to sell. There is little need to know whether your team can build a better registration flow or checkout experience. There will be time to tweak them later.
For these non-core features, identify the best-in-breed elements (i.e., reg flows, carts, checkout) of other service providers and steal them. I feel pretty strongly that every commerce business should ape Amazon’s checkout flows. It’s been tested and it’s heavily optimized. Users are familiar with these flows and can move through them without thinking and without distraction. And each transaction (or lost transaction) will provide feedback on the core experience.
More importantly, mimicking well tread user flows allows founders to focus their limited resources. Focus on making the core experience insanely great. In T.S. Eliot’s full words,
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn.
This is the founder as scientist artist. Focus on the core experience. Craft something unique. Isolate the primary variable. Steal the ancillary parts. Ship something insanely great.