Copy What Works-
There is no invention created from nothing. Every creator has been influenced in some way by others, and this is a good thing. Smart entrepreneurs know the validity of studying the evolution and attributes of successful companies and to steal what they can.
The story and characters in James Cameron's film Avatar were completely unoriginal with components copied from such films as Dances with Wolves, The New World and pretty much any story about the effects of colonization on a native culture. Even with a painfully predictable plot and cheesy dialogue, the film has grossed $77.3 million in the first weekend. And you have to admit you got a little teary eyed at those gushy "I've already chosen her" and "I see you" moments.
That's because we can all relate to this universal epic, and no matter how desensitized you are, you cannot deny empathy for the hero who overcomes greedy imperialism to save human life (or alien life, in this case). Cameron knows what gets to us, and why tamper with that formula?
What he did reinvent, and brilliantly, was the delivery. He raised the bar so high on his cinematic vision, that he had to wait 15 years before filming for the technology to be able to manifest it. The same strategy can be applied when creating a succesful startup...stick with what works, and change the game by how you present it.
Learn From History-
More important than studying what other companies have done right and copying that, is learning what they've done wrong and avoiding that. Americans truly are amnesiacs when it comes to learning from our foibles in the past. It's hard to watch Avatar without a pang of guilt for the illumination it makes on our foolish pattern of national imperialism.
Colonists wiped out an entire Native American culture with superiority complexes so overblown they justified genocide. It's tough to deny elements of that in the way we invaded Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Not that we are the only nation state with these narcissistic tendencies, it seems an inherent flaw in our human makeup. Yet history loudly proclaims the indecencies and consequences of these actions, though these redundancies of self-entitled domination continue.
Instead of living vicariously through our fictional protagonists in films like Avatar, why not walk the walk by acknowledging our sordid history, and do the opposite?
As an entrepreneur, you could try not dominating the world, or your market, with your agenda, and instead create a product that makes life better for all...you may even be called revolutionary. In fact this simple approach is so novel a concept, that companies like this have been termed conscious businesses, and are still the minority. At the end of the day, it's a win-win situation to not take from others in order to gain for yourself, so break the mold and serve your community .
We Are All Connected-
Just as the Na'vi can plug into a vast electromagnetic network via tentacles in their braids, most people on earth are logging into a global web of computer networks Pres. Bush likes to call the internets.
The world is shrinking quickly in this age of globalization; allowing people to connect and exchange information instantaneously beyond physical boundaries. And it's not hard to imagine this transnational circulation of ideas becoming so tight knit that it will feel like we are tapping into one consciousness. Some theorists even claim this it's already happening on our planet ecologically the same way the botany on Pandora interacts; called the gaia hypothesis.
To whichever degree you believe this system of interconnectivity exists, it cannot be denied that community is essential to the success of a company and the network has become the lifeline of most thriving startups.
So better to hook into this concept now, and build a company that honors the profound interconnectivity of not only our human community, but our interdependent relationship with our dying planet.