No one is trying to steal your idea

Why keeping your idea a secret is going to lead to your downfall

Lucas J. Pols
4 min readApr 10, 2018

Please, please stop asking people to sign NDAs for your billion-dollar idea. It is painful when I sit down to grab coffee with an entrepreneur and they ask me to sign an NDA. In all honesty, I just want to hug them and tell them it is going to be OK.

Ideas are categorically worthless. The best example I can give is when I did a nationwide venture pitch:

A group of graduate students from different universities across the country were selected to provide a five minute pitch of our ideas to investors. Each participant had the option to watch the other pitches online after theirs was complete, and of course, I took advantage of this as I love seeing what other people are up to.

Within the first five pitches, I witnessed two companies represented by people who had never met, and who lived in separate states, each deliver pitches on the exact same idea. It was the most uncanny thing to witness from an entrepreneur’s perspective, but this is what VCs and angel investors see every day. They see the same ideas, with the only difference being the team and their ability to execute on that idea.

The reason that investors in pre-seed, seed, and round A stages place so much value on the team is that there is a good chance that your golden idea will change. Startups pivot all the time, and not necessarily in large ways. They follow an ebb and flow of what their customer wants while holding onto a vision of where they think they are going; that ability to execute is what separates a successful venture and one that fails.

Don’t be a rookie

The only people who ask you to sign NDAs are entrepreneurship rookies. Somehow, either through media depictions or otherwise, we have been tricked into thinking that ideas on their own are powerful things. They aren’t, but the execution of these ideas is.

When you are creating a startup, you are looking to solve a problem; a problem that is widespread enough that you can monetize your solution. If the issue that you’re solving is that extensive, then of course multiple parties are going to think of a similar solution.

“When the time is ripe for certain things, these things appear in different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.” — Farkas Bolyai

This notion is impossible to compete with. If there are seven billion people on the planet and they all come up with new ideas, ideas are then impossible to differentiate and compete on.

What happens when you keep a secret close

One of the best speakers who ever visited one of my classes was John Tabis, Founder and CEO of The Bouqs Company. He is a brilliant guy with a genius business plan (make sure to check them out), and he had the opportunity to present on Shark Tank. Unfortunately, he was utterly destroyed by the sharks, though don’t feel too bad for him as he just raised his Series C and is up to $43 million in total funding.

His single biggest take away from his Shark Tank pitch was that he wasn’t able to convey his story accurately. He hadn’t talked to enough people and screwed up enough times to hone his perfect sales pitch.

The same thing happened when I started my sales career. My first sales pitches were disasters. I was all over the place not knowing what to say or how to say it to drive home my point. What did I do to get better? I continuously made a fool of myself. I told my sales pitch to anyone that would listen. The more times I said it, the easier it got, and with incremental improvements, I slowly started to shed the foolishness.

Now let’s bring this back to a startup. You, in every waking moment, are selling your idea and your business. If you are keeping it close and making people sign NDAs or even refusing to tell them the idea, you are losing valuable feedback that would otherwise provide you with a foundation upon which you can build your venture and your pitch.

The example I’ll give is with Spark xyz itself as we started as a pure networking app. I started talking to potential customers by telling them my initial idea, and ultimately found that the market wasn’t buying. If I hadn’t started talking to them, I would have built and spent a ton of money and time on something that would have inevitably failed. I saved myself and my venture an incredible amount of heartache by just getting out there and talking to anyone that would listen.

If you refuse to talk to people, you are essentially running a race with your shoes tied. Don’t keep your business, idea, or dream to yourself.

Tell anyone and everyone

In all honesty, if someone can steal your idea that easily, they are probably doing you a favor. As soon as you get any traction, you’ll be crushed by larger companies that are much better funded and have a much better ability to execute.

If someone is willing to listen to you practice your pitch — you’ll be that much more successful because of it.

“If you aren’t telling your idea to the person in line behind you at the grocery store, you’ve already failed.” — John Tabis, Founder & CEO, The Bouqs Co.

Lucas is the founder of Spark xyz, platform management software for incubators, accelerators, Angel groups, and VC’s.



Lucas J. Pols

Chairman of the Board @ Spark xyz | President Tech Coast Angels