For the 5th time this week, I have heard someone say “I am worried to share my idea with people because they may steal my idea”. This statement isn’t just from people newly considering entrepreneurship. I have also heard this from entrepreneurs who have spent a ton of their money building a product that they refused to tell anyone about, to prevent someone from stealing it. So this is a real fear, and today, it’s time for us to address this.
First, it’s been widely reported that the mind has about 70,000 thoughts a day, but less than 10% are implemented. What does this mean? It means that in the midst of your thoughts and worries about stealing your ideas, some other thought will cross your mind, and if there is no implementation, your idea will be just as useless as the other 90%. Ideas are easy but implementation is difficult.
Second, if the idea is good enough for someone else to hear it, act upon it, and be successful in accomplishing the goal of making it a “billion dollar idea”, you were likely to be crushed by competition anyway, because you either do not know how to withhold what’s most important about how to accomplish this idea, or you really never had anything unique, and your only value would have been the first-mover advantage, which also does not guarantee victory.
Third, consider that there are nearly 8 billion people in the world. This means that there is often enough space for multiple players in the same space. Imagine having only one football team in the world. There will be no competition, no improvement, and certainly no interest over time. Look at how Lyft and Uber co-exist as multi-billion dollar companies while serving the same customers. This is an example that you are capable of welcoming competition.
In addition, think about feedback from your potential customers or investors, and how having that data could help you shape the best product, or help you realize that there is no market for what you are building. This method is used so often by the AI-fearing business magnate, Elon Musk. Elon is well known to share his thoughts about a product publicly, long before it is live. This way, he gauges customer interest and decides if it is any good. This was the case with his tweet about the hyperloop which is being developed by the boring company. In his tweet, he talked about transporting people from New York to Washington D.C in 29 mins. A road transport route that normally takes an average of 4 hours, was now being sold for 29 minutes. It certainly got people talking, and he certainly listens. That being said, you shouldn’t take all feedback as gospel. Be selective with what you apply in your business.
Here’s one more you wouldn’t want to miss out on…$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. After Elon Musk tweeted “Really exciting @TeslaMotors announcement coming on Thursday. Am going to put my money where my mouth is in v major way” his company’s stock went up 2.5%. In your case, sharing could result in your company receiving funding from an investor with interest in what you are working on.
It will be wrong to end this without recommending what to do when you finally decide to share your idea.
- Don’t give away all of your details. This is one of the best ways to protect your idea. You might discuss the general idea with someone, but you don’t want to give them your detailed execution strategy. If you were pitching to investors, they would want the details to validate that you have thought it through and that your team can actually execute with the right backing, so feel confident to spill the beans but also consider asking them to sign an NDA if this is an Angel Investor.
- Consider an NDA, but most people will not sign it. I DO NOT. A non-disclosure agreement helps protect your idea by prohibiting others from sharing your idea for a certain amount of time. Considering the number of ideas most investors review, they are unlikely to sign an NDA, but you can certainly use it when working with some software engineers or angel investors. You can get a good NDA directly from Cooley Go (NOTE: Ensure that you are abiding by any Cooley terms and instructions when utilizing their documents).
Summarily, as an entrepreneur it is one of your duties to convince people that what you are doing is good, so not sharing, can only hurt you. You miss out on potentially good feedback and obvious things that you have missed. So squash the fear. Apply this knowledge and GO ROCK!!!
What other fears do you have? We can tackle them together.