Why Keeping Your Big Idea Secret Is a Bad Idea
Guest post by Gina Waldhorn, President of Quirky
On your entrepreneurial journey there comes a moment – many moments in fact – when we’re asked “so what’s your idea?”
Your heart stops. You start to think: Who is this person, really? Can they be trusted? Who’s listening at the table next to us? Do I have an NDA in my backpack? Next thing you know, you’ve decided to to forgo any support they might offer or feedback they might share at the risk of them stealing your brilliant idea.
My advice: don’t be that person. Not sharing your idea because you’re scared someone is going to steal it is likely a crutch upon which you’re resting, masking the fact you’re not pursuing the idea aggressively enough. It certainly was for me.
Having experience founding my own business, working in open innovation and startup sourcing for major brands like P&G, Nestle, EA Games, and more, and licensing inventions at Quirky I feel qualified to offer my rationale for why you should lift your own gag order and share your idea:
You need the validation. You may have confided in family and friends, but unfortunately they’re not a representative (or unbiased) sample of the population to whom your product or business must appeal. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything. Unless your elevator pitch also includes an invite to your private Google Drive and a time machine to go back and make all the mistakes and achievements you’ve already accomplished you’re not giving them much to steal. Confidence is infectious. If you’re looking to network you’ll need to give off the impression you’re confident in your ownership and execution of your idea. Clamming up communicates it’s not much more than an idea in your head and you believe someone else could easily bring this to market faster/better than you can. Contrary to popular belief, most corporates don’t steal ideas. It’s usually cheaper to buy or license an inventor’s idea than face litigation, never mind the PR nightmare that comes with a lawsuit. Given their fear of litigation, corporates will also do everything in their power to make you fully aware of your legal situation before you disclose anything. How many times have people shared ideas with you? How many of those ideas have you stolen? (mic drop) Are there any situations to look out for when you absolutely should NOT share your idea? Perhaps. You never want to jump into a marriage without dating, so certainly spend time getting to know the person asking you about your idea. Were they introduced by a friend or trusted associate? Or did they just wheel their chair over in your WeWork after eavesdropping on a phone conversation of yours? Even ol’ WeWork wheeler is probably harmless, but ultimately you’ll need to trust your gut.
The benefits of sharing your idea will vastly outweigh your paranoia. Through sharing you’ll open yourself up to introductions to like-minded individuals, resources, or even potential funding sources. You’ll be able to watch as someone genuinely recognizes the value proposition behind your concept, or furrows their brow in confusion. You’ll also improve your pitch by building your confidence and refining your explanation based on what’s resonating. If up until now you’ve been a closed book when asked the inevitable “so what’s your idea?” it’s time to open up.