Why I won’t sign an NDA

I am constantly approached about helping someone start the next “Apple” or “Google”. I have had some success in the tech startup scene, which made me a de-facto and pro bono consultant to friends and friends of friends. Most developers and entrepreneurs will know where I am coming from.

Ideas are abundant. Everyone has them, and everyone is sure that it has never been done before. 80% of the time a quick Google search turns up an exact match for their idea. The rest of the time there is something very similar. What is sad is the fact that they are adamant that their idea is better than the competitor’s product. I’ve heard the same app ideas over and over again.

I normally get approached via LinkedIn or an email that says that they would like to discuss an idea with me that is ‘revolutionary’. I like to help people out and foster entrepreneurial thought so I almost always agree to hear them out. The person is normally excited to discuss their ideas but before they can even tell me what industry it is in they want me to sign an NDA they copied and pasted from a website and fax it back to them.

This is where I stop and say I do not sign NDAs. I will offer them advice, for free, that will not be sensitive to the business. All of them find it weird that I will refuse to sign it. There are a couple of reasons on why I will never sign your NDA, and stealing your idea is not one of them.

  1. I am a busy person. I hate doing menial tasks such as scanning and emailing forms back and forth with signatures. It is a huge waste of time and I’d rather be doing 10,000 other things that are on my to-do list.
  2. You are asking me to give you free advice in exchange for… nothing.
  3. I build startups for a living. We pivot, add new features, expand to new markets. I will most likely either be in the same market or have some of the same features as your idea.
  4. You think that your NDA will cover things so generic half of the sites on the web would be in breach of your NDA.
  5. If you don’t pursue your idea you can just let it die, while I have a burden for X amount of years.
  6. You will restrict my creativity when we are building new products out of fear you will sue me because you wanted a search bar on the sidebar (see #4).

There is really no reason why I should ever want to sign an NDA. 1% of the success of a company is your idea, 99% is execution. A lot of people have the 1% but not the 99%. There are an infinite amount of ideas out there. As an entrepreneur I have 1000 on my list of next ventures, all of which I believe have the potential. If I were ever to steal your idea (which I won’t) it’ll be #1001. Something I’ll never get to in this lifetime.

If you want my help, especially for free, please don’t ask me to sign an NDA.