In the process of digging up interesting startups, we come across a lot of bad ones, and that includes a fair number of uncreative copies. But it’s pretty rare to see a clone that is both as blatantly copied and as poorly executed as Ziuma, an Indonesian startup I stumbled across today while browsing through the list of startups that have submitted to us for coverage.
What initially caught my eye was that the site’s founder had submitted “Welcome to Ziuma” as the site’s one-liner description, which of course gave me no idea of what the startup actually did. But the extreme vagueness piqued my curiosity, and I clicked my way down the rabbit hole that is Ziuma.
The first thing anyone will notice about the site, if they can actually get it to load (I had trouble with this), is that its login page is pretty much the same as Facebook’s, although the folks at Ziuma have admittedly replaced the blue with green and have chosen an Asia-centric orientation for their map. But the similarities don’t end there. I signed up for the site to give it a test run, and after going through the process, ended up at my homepage. The design and layout should probably ring a bell for Facebook users. Note that many of the little logos, like the “Photos” logo on the left hand side, are actually identical to the logos on Facebook.
In my testing, I found the main difference between Ziuma and Facebook is that Ziuma doesn’t actually work. As you can see, it offers a very similar feature set to the popular social networking site, at least in theory, but most of those features don’t actually function. When I uploaded a profile picture, it uploaded successfully but kept displaying a broken image on my profile. When I tried to post to my timeline, nothing happened because the “Share” button seems to be broken. When I tried to comment on a user’s photo, Ziuma redirected me to my dashboard. When I tried to “Like” something, I got a connection error. When I tried to upload a song, it loaded for minutes, then told me “please fill in all the blanks” before redirecting me back to my submission form (with all of the blanks still filled in, because I hadn’t actually missed any). When I tried to add a friend, the server timed out. You get the idea.
Ziuma is only worth mentioning because it’s a poster child for what not to do with a tech startup. Sure, it’s a blatant copycat, which is lame and potentially illegal, and it’s executed horribly, which is also bad. But Ziuma’s main problem is actually much deeper than that: Indonesia doesn’t need its own version of Facebook because it already has Facebook. And in fact, as we pointed out just yesterday, Facebook is actually quite popular in Indonesia and Jakarta alone has more than eleven million Facebook users. Even if Ziuma were more creatively designed and better executed, it would be doomed to fail because it doesn’t solve a problem; it is attempting to provide a service that already exists elsewhere. It’s rare that any startup can get away with that at all, but if you’re going to, you’d sure as hell better have a kickass design and a smooth-as-silk user experience to get people’s attention. Ziuma has neither.
So, entrepreneurs, take note: Ziuma is doing it wrong. Learn the lessons from its failures and don’t make the same mistakes yourself!