Advisors · Advisory boards

Is it smart to seek an advisor who works or has worked for a competitor in your industry?

Jasmine Diaz

April 12th, 2015

My business partner and I are seeking an advisor in the dating space for a new dating app/start-up. I am already considered an expert in this field, but seek someone with a stronger background in this space to aid in the growth of our start-up.

We are concerned (my partner moreso) that by seeking or obtaining an advisor in this field, we might open ourselves up to ideas being stolen. Now, I know that shouldn't be of concern, but we're a small fish in a very large pond, and I don't think it is unreasonable to think that perhaps a bigger fish could fairly easily bring our product to market far more quickly.

Are we crazy? Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

tbh I never get this "idea is precious" debate!  I run a popular Mobile Apps related monthly event in London and time n again meet/talk to people who are very protective about their idea...  I usually document my learnings at guides section of appsjunction.net. Here are my observations as an industry watcher/speaker  and mentor/adviser to few London based App startups in this space..
1) An idea is more or less worth nothing, its all about execution, growth hacking, marketing strategy, hiring the right people, motivation in team, continuous innovation to stay ahead of competition, gap analyses, finding new markets, opportunity seize over and many such things which keep your graph going up or atleast horizontal on investors' scale).
2) if you dig deep into copyright and patent laws, you can't protect 99% of ideas anyway.
3) as soon as you launch it, anybody can copy it in max 2-3 months anyway (e.g. google groupon clones). for those 2-3 months, its not worth the hassle of not discussing it with right ppl/advisers/experts  and get the right advice at right time as it costs a lot to re-invent the wheel..
4) NDA agreements are just hype. Ask any experienced lawyer in this domain. They are nearly impossible to implement. Also they are legal documents with different definition and implementation in different parts of world.
5) I recommend the best approach is to actually discuss you idea with not just industry experts but also with your target audience and find out the market-product fit early on before spending even a penny of hard earning money into that. Just like when you think about investing significant money in a car, you discuss your choice with the people you think can add value to your decisioning process... make an intelligent choice here,, :) 
6) Am an app/web domain mentor. If your idea was about something else then my suggestions here may not be a good fit., Please seek advice of experts in your domain. You are always 10X better off with a mentor than not having one.  Try someone in your region and area of expertise with good recommendations and if after listening to your business idea, if you get one good credible guide, that is like half battle won. 
good luck! 

-Navin
~ views here are my personal opinions, they don't represent the entities I am associated with ~

Anonymous

April 12th, 2015

Jasmine:

I've mentored and advised 100's of tech and healthtech startups.  Generally any idea comes down to execution.  Unless you have a new source of energy, it's unlikely that you will need an advisor to sign an NDA.  Also, as an advisor and angel investor, I know personally that any advisor or investor worth their salt would never sign an NDA.  Again, it is all about execution.  

On another note, I would love to advise you folks.  I actually purchased a dating startup last year and have been unable to find the right person to run it.  I am not suggesting that you take it over, but just letting you know that I am familiar with the space.

Please let me know your thoughts.  Feel free to connect with me at tom.denison@gmail.com.  Of course feel free to check out my background on LinkedIn or simply do a search for Tom Denison.

Look forward to connecting.

Thanks,

Tom

David Bergman CTO, Co-Founder of Stackray, Inc.

April 12th, 2015

Good thing you added #6 in your enumeration, Navin. There are fields and aspects in IT where ideas are more like innovations, so exposing them might not be proper.

I have had two such innovative ideas "borrowed", which has led to quite some success for two companies and their founders, but, nope, not for me :-) Yes, they executed it well, but the innovation/idea was an integral part of their success.

Lawrence Lerner Digitalization and Transformation Coach

April 12th, 2015

2nd and 3rd to the previous responses.

Unless the advisor has a non-compete (which is likely) then there is no reason not to get advice from someone knowledgeable in your industry.  Have your own agreements in place about confidentiality and Intellectual Property. 

Good luck! 

Jasmine Diaz

April 12th, 2015

Thank you Lawrence & Tom. Great advice and feedback. 

Jasmine Diaz

April 12th, 2015

You know, I should know better :-p I definitely believe it would serve us well to have an advisor with industry experience.

Thank you, Navin.