“There can be only one” ~ Duncan McCloud, Highlander
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Often it is absolutely true. But stealing, ripping off and/or trying to trade on the name of others crosses the line between right and wrong, legal and illegal. As a co-founder of the true, one and only DevOps Institute, I was appalled to see the efforts of another company, whose name I won’t even dignify in this article, trying to launch “the DevOps Institute.”
If you told me that this company perhaps did not know that there was already a DevOps Institute (it’s not like we hide it), I would say OK, maybe it was an honest mistake. But no. In this case, the company in question actually reached out to DevOps Institute—us—and had several conversations/interactions regarding becoming a registered education partner of the DOI. What the company reps were actually doing was fishing for information as they sought to launch their own version of DevOps Institute. So this is certainly not a case of an innocent mistake; rather, it’s a deliberate attempt to misappropriate the name, assets and hard work of another. Where I come from, the streets of NYC, we call it stealing.
You have to ask yourself: Knowing what we know of the situation, why would these people commit such an unethical, illegal act? I can only come up with a few reasons:
- They are seeking to deceive and confuse the public by literally trading on DevOps Institute’s—our—good name to make a quick buck.
- They are part of those in the world who do not respect intellectual property, seeking to sell out the back door anything they get their hands on from the front door.
- They are unscrupulous thieves who are incapable of building a business by themselves.
No matter whether one or all of the above, none of the reasons are very good.
In generally acceptable business practices worldwide, there are more than several acceptable ways for companies to imitate the business strategy and models of others. More power to them—after all, competition makes us all up our game.
In the DevOps education training and education space, there is certainly no shortage of competitors. Just do a Google search of DevOps Institute and look at the companies buying that ad word or otherwise using SEO to get listed. Lots of competitors, for sure. Remember, this isn’t even a generic “DevOps training” search, but actually searching for DevOps Institute.
Taking another’s name crosses the acceptable boundary. So now we have to lawyer up to protect our rights and property. No one likes to throw good money at lawyers to go after bad actors. But protecting one’s brand, reputation and IP is that important.
For those of you familiar with the DevOps Institute, you know that the team has worked hard for more than four years now to lead the way in curating content for bringing DevOps training, education and certification to the market. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. When DevOps Institute launched, we faced strong headwinds from those who thought a training/certification program around DevOps was wrong. We listened, we learned, we set up the feedback loops and we iterated (like good DevOps should). We have won over many of our critics; they saw the good work we were doing.
More than that, they saw DevOps Institute try to be stewards of and active participants in the DevOps community. We are not in this for the fast buck or the quick hustle. The executive team has plowed our revenue back into the company and community, expanding the association’s offerings and reaching out to DevOps communities throughout the world. Today, DevOps Institute has ambassadors in Europe, South America, AsiaPac and of course here in North America. We go wherever DevOps goes.
Recently DevOps Institute has tried to build a greater DevOps community based on the Humans of DevOps and our SKILS framework (Skills, Knowledge Ideas and Learning). We have worked with the leading names in the DevOps industry to do research and help bring greater understanding of DevOps. We have sponsored and spoken at many of the DevOps events you have attended. In fact, I am satisfied to rest on our laurels.
If you are not familiar with the real DevOps Institute (and that is at https://devopsinstitute.com, btw) check it out for yourself. We have nearly 200 partners around the world who deliver training for our certifications. We have a healthy global community and active engagement with industry thought leaders. We obviously are doing something right.
Finally, I wanted to speak to my entrepreneur friends in the audience: Those of you know who know me, know that this isn’t my first rodeo. I have founded and helped several venture-backed startups through IPO and exit. I have had my share of wins and my share of losses. I am not one to whine or back down from some good competition, but this kind of shadiness has no place in the business world.
We put a good chunk of our own blood, sweat and tears into our businesses, and for someone to swoop in and steal the fruits of our labor is just plain wrong. Brandjacking is stealing. I started this article off with the quote from “Highlander.” So if you see me walking around with a severed head or sword in my hand, remember: There can be only one.