Those who study entrepreneurs often set apart those companies who don’t innovate – create a new product or service that customers want – but rather imitate existing products and companies.
To some extent all companies have some degree of being imitative entrepreneurs, in that they don’t recreate everything to do with business from scratch. This phrase focuses on whether or not the products or services are “me-too” or to some small or great extent distinct from the competition such that there are customers who are highly attracted to the company’s value proposition versus others.
Sometimes, beginning business as an imitative entrepreneur can lower startup costs because product development costs are minimal, and it provides a business the chance to learn what customers want before investing in innovative product development. One could argue many Chinese businesses have chosen this bootstrapping strategy, and are now making the transition to being more innovation based.