“It’s a chance to have some fun. Let Sparkle have all of our stale, secondhand, grody ideas.” 13 Going on 30
Why you shouldn’t worry about keeping your idea secret.
I hear it from students and from new entrepreneurs — “I have a great idea, but I can’t share it because someone will steal it.”
It’s hard to say it, but…your idea may not be that great. And if you don’t share it in order to get feedback and refine it, it may never be great.
5 reasons why you should stop worrying about secrecy, and start worrying about innovation
1. You want investors. As with anyone involved in your business, you should definitely be cautious about who you talk to about investing. That said, most venture capitalists and angel investors will not sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). They hear so many ideas that possibly overlap (like the 90th and 99th pitch about the newest Groupon knockoff) that it could quickly look like they disclosed even when they didn’t. This is true of most good advisors you will encounter.
2. Your idea is original. If the mere mention of your idea is enough to spur a hundred copycats to action so quickly that you can’t even get off the ground, your idea is probably not that great.
3. You can describe your idea without revealing the Secret Sauce. We talk about KFC and Coca-Cola all the time without needing to discuss the seven secret herbs and spices or the (allegedly) secret formula. Your idea needs to have a story that can be told without revealing your secret sauce. Practicing your story will better enable you to convince customers, partners and investors why it’s fantastic.
4. The value in your idea is in the execution. We’ve all had that friend who, usually after drinking a few beers, says, “you know what this world needs, man? A TV that prints out a pizza you can eat.” And we’ve all had that moment of seeing something on the market and slapping our foreheads with “I had that idea 4 years ago!” Pizza-printing TVs might be a great idea, and that thing you thought of 4 years ago might be fantastic, but without execution, they are just ideas. There is a reason that IP laws only protect the embodiment of ideas and not the ideas themselves — society only benefits when implementation happens.
5. You know innovation is a constant race. Even if you have the best idea ever, you will always have to keep refining, refreshing and reinventing to stay ahead. You will also have to accept that your idea will never be all things to all people, and that you may have to allow competitors to take your idea to other markets. Think of the Herman Miller Aeron chair or the Dyson vacuum. Curt Bailey, president of the product development firm SundbergFerar points out in his talks that both of those firms truly innovated something new in their product arenas. What happened next was really no surprise: their competitors saw the reaction and decided that they needed not to do something very different, but to copy Dyson and Herman Miller. The difference? Dyson vacuums sold for $600; Aeron chairs sold for $700. Dyson knockoffs sold for $175 and Aeron copies sold for $220. And of course the knockoffs don’t match the quality of the originals. Not only does Dyson especially continue innovating, but it isn’t trying to serve the upscale market and the deep discount market, at least not with the same product. This is where you have to be.
Yes, sometimes it makes sense to keep your idea close to the vest. But overall, it’s better to get to work and start finding out what the market thinks. Don’t worry about keeping your idea secret as much as you should worry about getting it to the right people at the right time in the right place.