How to protect your idea
It is common for new entrepreneurs to be concerned about having their idea stolen if they share it with others. Let's learn why you really shouldn't be worrying about this and how to protect your idea.
I recently received a request from a new entrepreneur for some of my time to discuss his idea. Due to my current workload, I suggested we start with some virtual conversation. Like many entrepreneurs, he was hesitant to share his idea due to the concern that others might rip it off. Below is some advice I received when I was a new entrepreneur about concerns of my own with sharing my idea. I originally disagreed but came to see this advice as fact.
Reasons why you shouldn't worry
- There are no truly unique ideas anymore. Just versions of old ideas. Who was before Facebook? MySpace. But who was before MySpace? Friendster. This is not a slight on you or your idea. But most likely I will know of or find competitors to your idea rather easily. They may not be exactly like your idea, but anything that can take a dollar away from your business is a competitor.
- If there are no competitors that means there has not been enough demand for a solution and the cost to market your idea will be too high (ala my first startup GoGrabLunch).
- Entrepreneurs and investors alike that have been in this game a long time will not sign NDAs. Especially early in a conversation. My suggestion is to only share the high-level information necessary for someone to understand enough about your idea to take things to the next level.
- You are assuming people want to steal your idea. Entrepreneurs like me have their own initiatives that they are pursuing and don't have the time to add much more to their plate. Investors don't want to steal your idea because they aren't operators. They are investors.
- Such a thought is a scarcity mentality. If you are entrepreneurial enough you will have many, many more ideas come to light. When I launched my first startup I was knocked off so many times you wouldn't believe it. Once a gentleman tried to present my idea as his own at a pitch competition with me sitting in the audience. Even today there is an entrepreneur from my hometown trying to replicate what I did with GoGrabLunch and even dared to ask me to give away my intellectual property.
Execution is your best protection
I am not implying that you should give away your secret sauce. Nor am I saying that things like intellectual property aren't important. But your best protection is to out execute everyone else and that can't happen in a vacuum alone. You will need advice and that takes sharing your idea.
Now it's your turn. Do you agree with my thoughts on why you shouldn't worry? Do you worry about your ideas being stolen and how to protect your idea? If so, how do you do it?