Me Too is a scorned strategy among many entrepreneurs, but it sometimes works quite well.
Case in point: HouseTrip.com, which just lined up another $17 million in funding from investors including Index Ventures and Balderton Capital. Think of the company, which was founded in Switzerland and allows homeowners to rent out their properties on a short-term basis, as a kind of HomeAway or Airbnb, but with European flair. Its top destinations include Paris, London and Barcelona; rentals include a houseboat in Amsterdam and a cave house in Santorini.
HomeAway did very well for its VC backers, including Redpoint Ventures and Institutional Venture Partners, raising $216 million in an IPO in June. Shortly afterwards, Airbnb.com — which allows people to rent out rooms and sofas as well as entire houses or apartments– raised $112 million from backers like Andreessen Horowitz and DST Global.
While entrepreneurs say they prefer to get creative, copycat companies often reel in big bucks. LivingSocial, the daily-deals site that followed Groupon, is said to be raising $200 million at a $5 billion valuation. Online-based ventures seem particularly easy to copy; scores of companies are building businesses on variations of existing start-ups such as microblogging service Twitter and games company Zynga.
HouseTrip has some ground to cover before it catches up to the more established sites. It’s generated bookings for about 500,000 nights so far, compared to 2 million nights at Airbnb. But still, that’s not bad for a site that launched early last year, compared to Airbnb’s 2008 headstart.