Dollyfied: Digital fabrication based business models can easily be cloned

hi,

I’ve been working with digital fabrication for a while now,
enjoying the hype cycle of 3D Printing and exploring new scenarios of creation, production and consumption.

In the past week I had some of hiccups on my projects that I’d like to share,
the first one, came from a twit alerting of a copy of CrayonCreatures.com, a service to turn children’s drawings into figurines that I started 5 months ago as an experiment on personalized goods & on-demand production that turned into a successful worldwide service of customized 3D printed figurines.

The past months have been quite crazy, fulfilling orders, answering interview and sending pictures to press requests. The project was first covered at the Wired magazine just three days after it was launched and it then appeared in various TVs, radio programs, international printed magazines and online publications from the tech-world to the mom-networks. In April, crayonCreatures was flying all over the world when it was published under “innovation” at the KLM’s in-flight magazine. All very nice. Thanks.

I’ve sent figurines to all five continents and orders keep coming, specially from USA and Japan.
During these months, I had requests for licensing, franchising and affiliation in Latvia, South Africa, UK, Korea and China.

CrayonCreatures is still a one-man operation,
it is a nice adventure that I like to run, specially when I get e-mails from satisfied customers and people just saying “hello, I love what you do“. Thanks again.

So, when I got a twit alerting me of a “copy of crayon creatures.
I checked it out, and it was more of a clone than a copy or evolution.

Transient

Fair enough, the tools are out there for everyone to use,
but I’m disappointed to see smart people taking the easy route and copy what already exists, without bringing it a step forward.

By taking, I mean, using the same words that came to my mind the day I put the website together and wrote something quick to describe the service.

English is not my mother tongue, and I’m sure that there might be many better ways to say:

“Kids produce an immense amount of drawings that populate fridges, living rooms and workspaces. Now you can turn them into real figurines“.

How is that possible?
Someone starting a business of something that already exists and describing it with the same worlds…. Didn’t anyone googled it?

From that point on, strange coincidences pile up;
Fonts on the website are very similar to the ones on the v.1.0 of CrayonCratures.com,
Some photos have the same look and feel,

Transient

Here is the thing:
Digital fabrication lowers the entry barriers to the world of making things to a point that anyone can start producing and delivering a goods service in a matter of weeks. And this is GREAT.

I don’t mind people doing similar things as me.
It would be like having a fruit shop and being annoyed by others selling fruits.

What I don’t understand is people deciding to focus their efforts into the new and fantastic world of digital fabrication and doing what already exists out there.

Right now I have a feeling,
and I’m building up an opinion.

I’m in favor for all the OpenWhatever (OpenHardware, OpenDesign, OpenSource, OpenGovernment….),
That’s why I didn’t registered or legally protected the idea behind CrayonCreatures.com
Because being open, you bring to others the opportunity to build upon what you do,
but (naively enough) I didn’t contemplated the possibility of someone taking literally what I did and stamping a new name on it, and this really hurts.

Seriously,
Is there a formula to stimulate innovation without the downsides of restrictive protection?
I know, it is called CC (creative commons), but what about business models?
How to dissuade blatant copies while encouraging inspiration?

</rant>

I have some ideas to help me feel better though:

  • Get serious about it and officially ask them to stop. (not my style)
  • 3D Print a tiny horse head and send it to them. (godfather style)
  • ignore it, and keep delivering a great product and service as I’ve been doing since started.

Plus, as a geographical fact, being in Barcelona, I’ll always be at least one day ahead of any copycat from America 

Thanks for reading.

Transient