I’m sorry, but we won’t sign your NDA.

And it’s not because we’re scheming to steal your idea.

Damian Makki
Jan 30, 2017 · 3 min read

Epic App Ideas

A few months ago, my business partner Joe Tannenbaum and I came up with an idea to market our design and development studio, Sammich Shop. We called it “Epic App Idea.” Simply put, we wanted to hear pitches and ideas from people with an epic app idea (everyone’s got one, right?). The intention was that if the idea was good, we’d propose working together to bring the idea to life. On the other hand, if the idea wasn’t the right fit for us, we’d point them in the right direction and give them some tips on how to get started.

We were surprised by the response. A lot of people read through our pitch and wanted to have a conversation. And while many were comfortable sharing their idea with complete strangers, there were also those who asked us to sign an NDA before we even started a discussion.

Let’s just get this out of the way — NDAs are almost always a complete waste of time. And I’m sorry, but we won’t sign your NDA.

NDAs are almost always a complete waste of time.

The Holdups

We’re not trying to steal ideas. It’s really not a good look for our business. Our work is what we’re passionate about and base our livelihoods upon. Besides, we’ve got too many of our own ideas to work on before we’d want to steal yours.

We’ve got too many ideas of our own to work on.

We understand that sharing an idea you’ve been thinking about for months (maybe even years) is nerve-wracking and difficult. You’ve probably been sharing it with friends and family. In our experience, overestimation of the uniqueness and novelty of an idea is common, though. In fact, a cursory Google search often proves an idea has already been implemented in some form.

Overestimation of the uniqueness and novelty of an idea is common.

While the initial idea is absolutely part of the process, validation (researching competitors and determining the potential for success), proper execution (building it), and a solid marketing plan (selling it) are all necessary components to bringing the idea to life.

Restrictions & Liabilities

By nature, NDAs are restrictive documents. They’re one-sided and designed to make it easy to pursue litigation in the event a breach in the agreement is made.

Our industry is all about remixing and combining ideas into something new. If we were to sign every NDA that came our way, we wouldn’t be able to produce anything at all due to the inevitable overlap. Signing an NDA hamstring our ability to take on future clients that may have a tangentially similar idea. It’s possible that signing an NDA would implicate our existing clients.

Most of the NDAs we’ve seen have a significant amount (if not all) of their content pieced together from the first page of a Google search for “NDA. It’s sloppy legalese at best and if were were to sign, we’d potentially be putting our entire business at risk. What’s more, we’re almost never offered anything in return for our signatures (except for the idea, of course).

NDAs Have Their Place

Wait, what? Yes, I just spent the last few paragraphs telling you why NDAs are a waste of time, but they do have their place.

We’ve encountered individuals and businesses with plans that are both significant and tangible. These clients typically come to the table with a business plan in-hand. Or paying customers. Or proven marketing channels. The ability to point to something that’s confidential raises the bar immensely. When this type of client asks us to sign an NDA, it is limited in scope, not all-encompassing or overly-restrictive. It’s then that an idea makes the transition from a shower thought to an idea worth protecting with an NDA — one that we’re willing to sign.

Sammich Shop

Thoughts and ideas from the team at Sammich Shop.

Damian Makki

Written by

A traveler, designer, and developer.

Sammich Shop

Thoughts and ideas from the team at Sammich Shop.