A few months ago I received the following question on the Startup Maze Amsterdam meetup group:
Hi Andi, I recently joined the group and I’m new to meetup, so pardon me if this has been discussed already. In the next workshop we are to discuss our ideas and products and what need/ problem they are meant to address – great topic – but how does one make sure that someone else doesn’t steal or copy the idea?
I answered the question and moved on. I thought that it was a one-time question. However, in the following months this issue kept coming back over and over again. And this Friday, as I was talking with a friend, I realised that I have answered this question so many times that now I have a script ready for it. And it sounds like this…
I think you should share it with as many people as possible and here’s why:
Ideas are simple, implementation is hard
Don’t believe me? Well, if it’s really that simple, why didn’t you do it already? Believe it or not a ton of people have a ton of ideas on a daily basis and still we don’t have a ton of new companies opening every day. Toying with your idea in your mind, achieving virtual success, selling your imaginary startup for millions and then spending all the money on a nice car, a nice house, vacation on sunny islands and becoming a Angel Investor… well, I’m sorry to break it to you… we all do that. What we don’t do is actually go through all that…because if F’in hard.
If it’s that simple to steal, then what’s your unfair advantage
Really, if you think that all it takes is for me to hear that idea in order to steal it than you are in serious trouble anyway. When building an product you want to have a unfair advantage, a way to protect that business. Some entrepreneurs rely on patents, some on their knowledge, some on their unique set of skills, some on their resilience….
So, if it’s so easy to steal, how will you protect it once you launch it? Or are you going to be even to scare to share your product with the media and customers? Think about it.
You might build an existent product
I actually have a joke ready for this one. It’s not mine, I heard it from Chris. It goes like:
“I love when people come to me and tell me:
Dude I have an amazing idea. I want to build a product that will be amazing. Not sure how come nobody else did it. Listen, I want to create something that will store your music online so you don’t need to have it on your phone or computer. Imagine you could stream all your music on the go, from the cloud on any device. And then I go: uuuuhhhmmm like Spotify? and he goes: Spotify? What’s that?”
I know the example is a bit exaggerated … I hope. And while I believe/hope that nobody will want to pitch a startup idea like Spotify as a completely new concept, unless they lived under a rock until now, it might be that for niche markets you haven’t heard of all the solutions yet and indeed your big concept might be already a massive success.
You’ll get instant, valuable feedback
Oh, and don’t share it with your mom, dad or close family. Share it with people you don’t know that well. They won’t feel the need to protect your feelings. You will see immediately if they get it or not, which is gonna be great feedback.
If they don’t get it then either:
- your product sucks
- you don’t know how to explain it
- you didn’t pick the right audience
All of the above great learning points and you should do something about it.
If they do get it, if they do like your idea it’s aweosme because:
- the counter reasons of the above points
- plus, you can ask them if they want to be your beta testers. Ask them if it’s ok to contact them for feedback once you have a tangible solution.
It’s not the first thing you should focus on anyway
One of the most common issues with startups and entrepreneurs is that they start with an idea/solution. And on one hand, sure it’s normal to do that. That’s the fun part.
But, there’s a huge down side. If you start with an idea in mind, if you think that you already have every single detail of your solution figured out… well, you are in big trouble. Every successful entrepreneur will tell you that the final product is not the product you have in your mind right now. It will evolve a lot on the way.
So there you have it. If you think that sharing your idea will let others steal it… well, maybe the stealing part is not your biggest problem anyway.