Why you shouldn’t keep your startup idea secret

A frequent question entrepreneurs have when they are just starting their company is:  how secretive should I be about my idea?  My answer:  you should talk about it to almost anyone who will listen.  This includes investors, entrepreneurs, people who work in similar areas, friends, people on the street, the bartender, etc.

There are lots of benefits to talking to people.  You’ll get suggestions for improvements.  You’ll discover flaws and hopefully correct them.   You’ll learn a lot more about the sector/industry.  You’ll learn about competitive products that exist or are being built.  You’ll gauge people’s excitement level for the product and for various features.  You’ll refine your sales and investor pitch.  You might even discover your idea is a bad idea and save yourself years of hitting your head against the wall.

In terms of the risk of someone stealing your idea, there are at best a handful of people in the world who might actually drop everything and copy your idea.

First of all, most people will probably think your idea is stupid.  This does not mean your idea is stupid.  In fact, if everyone loves your idea, I might be worried that it’s not forward thinking enough.

People at large related companies almost always think they have already built or are in the process of building all the good ideas – so your idea is either something they are already building (which is a good thing to discover early) or else they will dismiss it as a bad idea.  (I have a personal diligence rule that when speaking to people at large companies, the facts that they tell you are very useful but their opinions about startup ideas no more valuable than any other smart person’s opinions).

In terms of speaking to other entrepreneurs, the vast majority are already working on something and are highly unlikely to drop everything and copy you.  Even if they are in the idea generation phase, high integrity entrepreneurs wouldn’t copy your idea anyways.

VC’s will either not like your idea, or else like it and possibly want to fund you.  They vastly prefer funding an existing team than taking an idea and building a team.  The one risk is if they have entrepreneurs they are working with in a similar area (see next paragraph).  Most VCs have enough integrity to disclose this and let you decide how much detail to go into.

The handful of people in the world who might copy your idea are entrepreneurs just starting up with a very similar idea.  You can probably just explicitly avoid these people, although by talking to lots of people your ideas will likely seep through to them.

Even if your idea gets in the wrong hands, they will probably just get the high level “elevator pitch” which isn’t worth much anyways. Hopefully by that time you’ve developed the idea much further and in much greater detail – by talking to as many people as possible.

A note about NDAs:  1) almost no experienced entrepreneurs/VCs will sign them (in fact, you asking them too is widely considered a sign of inexperience), 2) It’s not clear they have any real value – are you really going to spend years suing someone who signed an NDA?  I’ve personally never heard of it happening.

35 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t keep your startup idea secret

  1. Pingback: Trackback
  2. Pingback: Trackback
  3. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
    I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here
    frequently. I am quite certain I will learn plenty of
    new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  4. I ddo accept as true with all of the ideas you have introduced in
    your post. They’re very convincing and can certainly work.
    Still, the posts arre ttoo quick for beginners. Could you please prolong them a little from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

  5. If some one wants to be updated with most reecent technologies afterward
    he must be visit thijs sie and bee up to date every day.

  6. Hey There. I disccovered your wehlog using msn. That is
    a very smartly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come
    back to learn extra of your useful information. Thank you for the post.
    I will definitely comeback.

  7. It’s appropriate time to make a few plans for the long run and it’s time to be happy.
    I have read this post and if I may just I want to suggest
    you few attention-grabbing issues or suggestions.

    Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to learn more issues about it!

  8. Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a
    community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on.
    You have done a wonderful job!

  9. Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your
    posts! Keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Hi there just wanted to giv you a quick heads up. The wokrds in your content seem to be running off the screen in Firefox.
    I’m not sure iif this is a formatting issue
    or something to do with browse compatibility but
    I figured I’d post to let you know. The style and design lookk great though!
    Hope you get the problem solved soon. Kudos

  11. Do you have a spam issue oon this blog; I also am a
    blogger, and I was wondering your situation; we
    have created some nice practtices and we are lookingg to trade techniques
    with other folks, please shoot me ann e-mail if interested.

  12. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?

    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Thank you

  13. Wonderful work! That is the kind of information that are supposed to be shared around
    the net. Shame on Googke for not positioning this publish upper!

    Come on over and discuss with my website . Thanks =)

  14. As of 2013, both Sony and Microsoft have sold more than 80 million units of their
    respective consoles, the PS3 and Xbox 360. However, watching movies do have
    selected guidelines to comply with. That is the gist  of the story without giving away the ending
    or any of the finer and negligible details.

  15. The longer club that you are gonna use the further up in your stance you want the ball.
    Some of them are Extraordinary Measures, the fabulous movie Twilight,
    feast of Love, The Hunted. If you’ve lived
    a relatively stress free life, then your cup might be small,
    or shrink over time, so that when stress increases suddenly, it affects you
    on a deeper level than it might on others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s