Startups · Entrepreneurship

Can I assure my idea will not be stolen?

Ryan Thompson Commercial Real Estate Agent at Stidham Commercial

September 14th, 2016

I have some concerns about sharing my idea with other people. Not that I have a secret patent or something of that nature but just scared that someone else will take it from me and execute much faster. Is it important to share the idea when you have not taken the leap of faith yet?
A great idea is 1% of the work. Execution is the other 99%. In this course, we’ll teach you how to conduct market analysis, create an MVP and pivot (if needed), launch your business, survey customers, iterate your product/service based on feedback, and gain traction quickly.

John Lonergan Author: Antidote at Amazon

September 14th, 2016

No, you can't protect your idea from being stolen.  Even patents won't help when dealing with larger companies.
Your best "defense" is to work quickly.  Reiterate quickly.  Keep re-forming the idea and refining it with market input.  You may be small, but you can be quick.

Nuritzi Sanchez Founding Member, Special Projects Manager at Endless; President, Board of Directors at GNOME Foundation

September 14th, 2016

It sounds like you're not at the product point yet and that it's really just an idea, so I'll base my response around that instead of patents. 

We struggled with this same thing when we started Endless, a company that's making software for emerging markets. We were worried that larger companies would learn about our idea (to make an OS that leverages the internet instead of depending on it, and is easy enough for new-to-tech users to use), and execute more quickly than we would. Because of that, we shared only really vague information with most people and tried to sell them on our mission and vision. We also had people sign NDAs. 

We quickly found out that you can only talk so much about mission and vision, and you really do need to share more substance (the core of your idea) in order to get people to work with you or invest. Most people don't want to sign NDAs just to hear about an idea, and having one generally turns people off. 

We kept hearing "it's all about HOW you execute," and I think that's very true. For example, many people had the idea of building an expansive social network to share videos, photos, etc. MySpace was one of the first companies that everyone remember, but then Facebook came along. And even though Facebook is a giant, there are still social networks that are bigger than Facebook in parts of the world (e.g in China). So even with the idea of "building a social network that lets you share photos and videos, etc," it's all about execution.

Lastly, I'll just say that the team you work with will determine the product you build, and since every person is different, every project will be different too. Your idea will have different DNA than any other project in the world. Don't worry too much about people stealing your idea because you can always learn from what they do and improve upon it / find a niche in the market they create and / or knock them out of the water. Hope that helps, and good luck!

John Lonergan Author: Antidote at Amazon

September 15th, 2016

David, there's a problem with perception about product development.  It's not about the idea.  It's about starting with something and continuously adapting it as you gather more customer experience.  Works for apps.   Works for medical devices.  This focus on the "killer idea" is a red herring.

Kushal Agrawal Co-founder at Giftxoxo.com & Frogo

September 14th, 2016

I feel ideas are like Commodity and are available everywhere free of cost. If you're an entrepreneur, you have to validate the idea using some sort of primary survey or analysis. Execution is the key and we should not shy away from discussing an idea with people. In current generation, entrepreneurs usually try to find out solutions which are pseudo issues without understanding the actual need. They try to convince themselves and people around that - "There is a Need" with poor alternatives. Entrepreneur should have guts to understand and accept failures. If you're failing then fail fast is the key. And every failure enhances your learning curve. If you really are passionate about your idea, I'm sure you will turn the world upside down and make sure your idea is executed. Market will respond basis the need and connect with people. Hope this helps!

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

September 15th, 2016

Keep silent. Sent from my iPhone

Michael Barnathan

September 14th, 2016

No one is going to steal your idea before it gets traction. Ideas get stolen after they're successful, not before.

You can't defend against it, so you should warm to the idea that you'll eventually have competitors if you're successful. You can win by executing better than them.

Eric Marcoullier Partner at Cloudspace

September 14th, 2016

Simply put, if someone can execute on your idea better or faster than you, you are destined to lose anyway. Share your idea, get vital feedback, hustle.

David Martin

September 14th, 2016

How does an idea getting stolen increase valuation? If competitors take your idea they gain market share which decreases yours. Sure if you can create a better product afterwards it could help. But I can't think of a situation where I would wake up and think "Gee I hope someone steals my idea and screws it up so I can prove mine is better and increase my valuation." Competition is inevitable, but what entrepreneur wants someone to steal their idea? In fact one of the major questions investors ask is "Who is your competition, and how will you beat them?" Answering "Mine is better" doesn't increase your valuation unless customers believe it and buy it. And the more junk products who stole your idea, the less shelf space and revenue for you.

Maybe at the pre-launch phase where someone wants to get a similar product out to market quicker it helps with funding. But valuation is more about proven revenue, current capital structure..etc. If anything, if someone screws up your idea, it could devalue your product to investors who will see other failed products in the market and stereotype your ability to succeed based on competitors failure. Or customers experienced the failure and don't buy yours.

In trying to stretch sane logic here, I am still looking for a lightweight hose that does not kink despite the retractable hose breaking on me. But that junk takes up a lot of shelf space that keeps better products off the shelves.

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

September 14th, 2016

I don't think you should share it with anyone, especially not potential customers - who knows what they might do? Paranoia is such a debilitating condition that he stops people achieving any kind of success and leaves bitterness when someone else launches a product that obviously stole your idea - am I right?

Ryan, one of your planning moves is to think about competition, both launched and potential, and what their response might be assuming you launch a product. Think through your product/service proposition and why your approach provides a better solution than whatever your target market is doing now. If your immediate response is "but there is no competition - no one is doing this" then think again. EVERYTHING has competition as no-one is holding onto their cash until your think launches. Either they have an inadequate solution today or they are spending their money somewhere else because they haven't had their need framed by your idea.

Your competitive advantage is thinking through the delivery of your product or service, the infrastructure it has to operate in, the kind of usage models and how you make revenue. Know your strengths and how your first product more completely meets the market need. Explore those needs through social media and market research to test your assumptions and refine your ideas. Know the likely competitive response and how you can counter - remember that you are expecting them but they aren't expecting you! 

 Then go make it. You can talk around the needs without revealing your proposition and still get a lot of valuable feedback. Observe and ask. Then build a team you can trust and go make something. Ultimately if the only thing you have is a half formed idea then no-one is going to steal that, but they may well finish it!

Michael Barnathan

September 14th, 2016

If you're Apple, Google, Facebook, or any other company who have the resources to turn their ideas to gold, people are rushing to steal your ideas. But if you're "WoofyCoach, the Uber for Dogs", most people think you're crazy, and will keep thinking you're crazy until you raise serious funding or show significant traction. The cost to copy an unvalidated idea is too high, as anyone who tries will find out to their detriment. Even the real Uber sounded crazy: "You're gonna replace taxi services across the globe? Yeah right, bub". The difference that makes large numbers of people take notice is going out and doing it.

If patentability is a concern, file a provisional patent and launch. Observe the response and figure out whether you want to follow up with a full patent in the following year. You don't have a lot of time or money to deal with patent filings when you're a startup, you have to build and sell your product or you will fail before even getting something out the door. Plus chances are whatever you start out doing won't be what you end up doing anyway, once you get market feedback.