Will Your Idea Get Stolen? Blunt Advice About NDAs

I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen in my life. And within – you know – ten minutes it was obvious to me that all computers would work like this some day - Steve Jobs on seeing the GUI at Xerox Parc

People worry about having their ideas stolen. I’ve signed more NDA’s than I care to remember. Potential clients come to me with an idea for an app or website and then refuse to tell me anything unless I sign a piece of paper.

The difficulty with refusing to tell me anything is if I don’t know what I’m building, I can’t tell what’s needed.

Would you withhold the blueprints to your house from a builder before getting an estimation on your house?

Probably not.

Yet, people do it to Software Developers all the time.

Signing random bits of paper can put me and my business at risk. Remember, we might have just met for the first time. Would you sift through 100’s of pages of legalese just so you can tell me if we could work together?

Probably not.

Do you have a great idea that will be the next Facebook?

Probably not. (No offence but get real)

Do I want to help you?

Absolutely. I’m all ears. If I’m not able to help, I’ll try and point you in the right direction.

For the first-time entrepreneur, I can understand why they might think an NDA is necessary. It’s the stuff of Hollywood. Stolen ideas have been a common motivation for villains across Bond movies, hero movies and especially business movies.

Steve Jobs claimed that when he saw the mouse and GUI at Xerox Parc, he immediately went back to Apple to develop their mouse, paving the way for the personal computer revolution. Jobs later claimed that Xerox could have been the IBM and Microsoft of the ’90s. This account is disputed but its story scares would-be entrepreneurs.

Stories like this scare founders.

If your idea has yet to generate interest then trying to get an NDA signed is the least of your worries. You must talk to your target customers.

Ideas on their own are worthless. People come up with ideas all the time. Solutions to problems worth solving are valuable. In the beginning, don’t focus on making customer’s or potential business partners sign an NDA.

When to get that NDA?

When your idea has a proven market fit i.e commerical interest has been expressed, an NDA may be required.

Do not create an NDA yourself or copy and paste one from the internet. Pay the money to a legal professional. This gives you the most protection in the long run.

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