New idea · Entrepreneurship

Why are people so fearful about their ideas being stolen?

Anonymous

November 17th, 2014

People are coming up with new ideas everyday and yet, many are so scared of someone from somewhere stealing their business idea. There are hardly any evidence that supports this fear, so the question leaves us thinking, why does the fear still exist?

Tom Frank

November 17th, 2014

No reputable VC will "steal" your idea because Silicon Valley is a small gossipy place and new founders will not go somewhere that gets a rap for appropriating a great idea from someone else. Everyone has a horror story of "I knew this guy who was the first one..." Just ask the founders of "Friendster" or "Myspace." It should be noted that a microscopic percentage of new entrepreneurs ever receive venture financing. Common sense dictates one should be judicious in who they share any information with; again...exposing your idea is a very personal process. But don't kid yourself that patents or other forms of "protection" are more important than putting yourself out there. An earlier comment talked about the importance of executing and I agree.

Tom Frank

November 17th, 2014

Jonathan Barronville I do not dispute a single thing you say. Undoubtedly all true and correct. I have worked in industry *and* start-ups for many years. I am an old guy, but one who does a pretty good job of staying current and relevant. I have listened to superiors present my ideas as their own since I worked as a dish-washer in high school. The experience of people "adopting" other people's good ideas won't change with technology. If you own a proprietary piece of anything; code, family Barbecue recipe, fail-safe way to alleviate global warming...and you have the passion, drive and wherewithal to bring that to the world you have a chance as good as any; but focusing on "protecting" what you know or think to be "yours" is rarely the important part of the story in my humble experience.

Brent Goldstein

November 17th, 2014

Taking an idea all the way to a product is really quite hard, and the idea alone is rarely worth much. Until you've actually tried to get people to use it and gone through real customer development you'll have no idea what a market product would even look like.

I'm sure there are cases where an idea could get 'stolen', like Jonathan mentions, but this has to be pretty rare as it means the idea alone is worth taking with nothing else.

What you have to ask is whether you can take the idea to a real product in the first place. Are you a domain expert or able to get the domain experts to make it real? Otherwise it's more like armchair quarterbacking a startup.

-Brent

Jeanine Polizzi Marketing and Branding Expert

November 18th, 2014

“Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” - Oscar Wilde

I think there is a scarcity mentality and business owners forget that someone isn't buying ONLY your process, they are buying you. If you don't have a strong brand, then it makes sense that you would be overly protective of your process as it is the only thing you have to sell.

Sean Goldsmith Interviewing The Worlds Top Franchise Experts

November 18th, 2014

The world progresses through adopting (copying) new technology and processes i.e. Ford isn't the only car manufacturer in the world. 

The thing is that the look, feel, tech and physical processes can always be copied. But what cannot be copied is the context, thinking, vision, drive and attitude you exert. Spend your time maintaining a winning attitude and focus on your  forward motion.... even Usain Bolt knows that looking back over his shoulder does nothing but slow him down. 

Anonymous

November 17th, 2014

Actually, it does happen. I mean I don't know a study I could link you to, but I know folks whose ideas have been stolen and folks who have stolen ideas. The thing is, though, [IMHO] an idea is simply an idea and does not belong to anyone--what belongs to you is the execution of your idea. I think where the fear comes from is when you're confident you're on your way to executing on your idea and someone "steals" it. For example, many VCs will tell you that they don't sign NDAs (very understandable) and that they won't "steal" your ideas when that isn't necessarily true. I'm aware of cases where a VC heard an idea and saw the potential but didn't quite like the founders, so they turned them down, grabbed some ex-Googlers, ex-PayPals, et cetera, and went to work. Of course when you hear about things like this, you'll be worried about that happening to you. The way I see it is that every founder should at least have a high-level pitch for their ideas if they're afraid of getting their ideas stolen--don't tell anyone your "secret sauce". And make sure you only approach potential advisors and investors who have reputations to protect, keeping them from doing sketchy things (side note: this is why I don't like the idea of putting key differentiators and "secret sauce" info on AngelList--all accredited investors can see them).

- Jonathan

Tom Maiaroto Full Stack Consultant

November 17th, 2014

I'd say limited understanding of technology and the industry. Not to say people aren't intelligent and not to say their ideas aren't good. It's just that there's so much noise on the internet right now. It's a very crowded space.

I truly believe when people think of ideas that they think they are unique. A little bit of research goes a long way.

I also think that people believe their idea has some sort of edge for being slightly different...Or that there's no way someone else could do the same thing(s). Sometimes people don't need to do the same exact thing (technologically or from a product feature standpoint) and yet they can end up with mind share in your space.

So truly I believe this comes from misunderstanding and fear. Anxiety. People get very worked up over startups. 

Matt PE Co-Founder at The Next Co.

November 18th, 2014

I believe it can happen, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a result of insecurity or lack of understanding. I think its particularly a concern in circumstances where a founder may not possess the necessary skills to build the entire product (hardware especially). The concern may be that by reaching out to experts for help, if the idea is indeed a valuable one, who's to stop the consulted experts from running with it?

I know someone who was subject of this. He had a very cool and quite unique hardware product idea. He needed help with specialized hardware design, so he reached out to an expert (who has many more years experience and much deeper pockets). 10 months later, this expert is developing the same exact product, with the same features, even some of the same marketing content (line for line). There is no way to be certain that this expert took the idea, but it's highly suspected.  At least for me, I don't see why it can hurt to put a little effort in to be a bit more careful.

Dan Clifford Advisor to startup founders. Co-Founder of industry-leading Inc. 500/5000 firm.

November 18th, 2014

I'd chalk this up to Loss Aversion and the "status quo bias".  An owner values their possessions more than anyone else.  Decades of studies have backed this up.  One example - study participants were given a mug, then asked if they wanted to sell it.  They wanted at least $5.78 for the mug.  What were others willing to pay for the same mug?  $2.21.  This can account for the discrepancy in opinion about the value of ideas.  Others might view my idea as "just an idea", but since I created it, it will feel much more valuable to me.

More on the topic from Psychology Today:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-decision-lab/201108/loss-aversion-why-do-we-hang-things-no-reason

Steve Owens

November 18th, 2014

If anyone is lacking any ideas, I am happy to provide my list. No cost, no obligation. I do not have time to work on all the ideas I come up with, and would rather see someone turn them into a product - even if there is no monetary benefit to me. BTW - I have made this offer many times - so far, not a single person has taken me up on the offer. If I was an economist, I would conclude that my ideas have zero economic value.