Why you can’t just copy an app

Why do you open up the Uber app on your phone and hail a cab? You do this for explicit and implicit reasons.

The explicit reasons are obvious. Uber is convenient and cost effective. You have complete transparency on how long the journey is and how much it would cost you. The app also handles payments and offers you a cheaper alternative to booking a traditional taxi.

The implicit reasons are harder to discern, but more important. You book an Uber cab mainly because you trust Uber. You are familiar with the brand, your friends and family have used it and your own experience with Uber has been good thus far.

If you didn’t have an implicit reason, you wouldn’t use Uber even for the best explicit reasons. For instance, if a new, unheard of ride hailing company, ‘Linker’, emailed you with an offer for 10 free rides, stating that they are cheaper and quicker than Uber, you would not jump out of your seat to download their app. Instead, you would wonder how they got your email address.

When a developer looks at an app like Uber for the first time, she might have the feeling that she can replicate its code over a weekend. And this maybe true – digital technology is replicable. In fact, one could even enhance it while copying it (Uber wasn’t the first app based ride hailing company).

But what you cannot copy-paste is the story you tell customers and the trust that it fosters. You can’t outsource that either.

An entrepreneur’s foremost responsibility is to focus on the implicit reasons for why somebody should seek them out. And in the age of digital and outsourcing, it might as well be their only responsibility.

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