April 22, 2019

How Otonomo, with nearly $55 million in funding, is illegally cloning our product

Sahas Katta

CEO + Co-Founder

We started Smartcar a few years ago with a powerful mission: making it possible for developers to easily build apps for cars. We created a standard API for cars. Developers can read our docs and use our API to locate or even unlock a car’s doors with just a few lines of code. We’re proud of the product our team has built and we’re glad to work with the customers we serve.

As developers ourselves, we know that great API experiences need great documentation. That’s something we realized early on. It took us months of ideation, engineering, chatting with customers, and iteration to launch our platform.

A few days ago, we came across Otonomo’s publicly available API documentation. As we read through it, we quickly realized that something was off. It looked familiar. Oddly familiar.

That’s because we wrote it.

We didn’t just find a few vague similarities to Smartcar’s documentation. Otonomo’s docs are a systematically written rip-off of ours from the overall structure, right down to code samples and even typos.

Compare the following screenshots, from Smartcar and Otonomo as of April 16, 2019:

Register and redirect URI

Even the sample identifier we randomly generated in the custom scheme section of the table is an exact match.

Authorization URL

The randomly generated string we added as a placeholder for the “&state=” parameter value was copied too.

Auth code response

The order, structure, tables, labels, descriptions, and even the code snippets are identical.

Request access token

The screenshots speak for themselves.

Otonomo raised approximately $55 million in disclosed venture capital funding from well-regarded VCs including Bessemer. The company has a valuation of nearly $400 million from a recent financing round and stamps of approval from auto-industry heavyweights like Delphi (Aptiv). They are not some rogue company. I’m baffled.

Did none of the over 100 Otonomo employees (according to LinkedIn) think that what they were doing was wrong?

Smartcar’s team has worked day and night over the past few years to build an incredible product. We are driven by the firm belief that our work will empower developers to build the future of mobility.

Today, we are taking legal action. We have sent Otonomo a cease and desist, demanding that they immediately stop ripping off our hard work. Stay tuned.

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