“Knowledge is not power. If that were true, then universities and libraries would rule the world. It is only the application of knowledge that leads to power – that is why businesses rule the world.” – Napoleon Hill, Think and grow rich.
It is one of my favourite quotes, and one that I find myself repeating more often than not. Every time someone tells me about this fantastic idea they have all worked out, but haven’t even got a paying customer (or sometimes even a minimum violable product worked out) yet.
I’ve chatted to a number of startups who think that their idea is so awesome and worth so much that they need me to sign a contract of secrecy or NDA with them. I find it ridiculous. If the economic definition of somthing’s worth is the value that someone else will pay for it, by definition, if no one is paying for it, the idea is worth nothing. It also clearly means that you haven’t even started yet. That it’s still just in the idea stage and that you actually don’t have anything tagible yet. You may have it all planned out, you may know exactly how you think it will work. But, until you actually do something, it’s just wind. Action is the only thing that affects reality.
It’s not easy to start a company. Needing a NDA means that you haven’t crossed the huge chasm between planning a startup and doing it. If you had crossed it, you’d realise what an insane pile of work it is. What a huge mountain it is to climb and that anyone who hasn’t even attempted it, doesn’t stand a chance.
Don’t worry about others stealing your idea. If you’re a startup, the idea is worth nothing to another startup as they’ve got to be focussing on their own product. Without this insane focus they’ll fail anyway. The chances of them dropping what they’re doing and stealing your idea is incredibly low. If you’re working with corporates and they want your idea they’ll take it. You’ll never be able to sue them. Your only hope is to do it faster and better. (Generally not an impossible task) The only time when I’d be cautious is when talking to someone else who has a track record doing exactly what you want to do. But that is pretty obvious and if they don’t have a track record of doing stuff they don’t count. But if you’re just an idea and they have a product/service, you really should be doing something different.
I honestly believe that you gain far more by sharing your idea, by bouncing it off your networks, talking to people, let them open doors, give feedback and ask the critical questions. Justifying yourself in these conversations is what hones your sales pitch to your customers. It what helps you define your business in the market. And you don’t get that from just holding it all in your head.
Sharing your idea, when it is just that, is the surest way to make sure you’re on the right track, to identify your much needed support structure, and move you closer to customer validation and actually starting something. ‘Cause it’s all worth nothing till then.