I’m often approached by people who swear they have the next big idea. They ask for a meeting or run into me somewhere in the city and the conversation usually goes something like this:
Them: “Hey, I have this great idea for a new ____________”
Me: “Well, what is it”
Them: “I can’t say, what if you or someone else steals my idea.”
(Insert Amanda’s annoyed face)
Something similar happened a few days ago. I had a young lady write me and detail how she dedicated two years to an idea only to have it stolen once she attempted to launch a kickstarter. The other company had since launched to rapid success and she wanted my support in publicly shaming them.
My response was as followed:
I am very sorry to hear that this happened to you.
The best, most sincere advice I can give you is to move on. Do not dedicate any more of your time shaming this company. They sleep comfortably knowing they stole your idea and are profiting off it – there is nothing you can do to change their ethics.
This may sound harsh but one thing you need to accept is that ideas are worthless until they are actually executed. There are literally dozens of people in the world, whether you know it or not, who have the same idea as you. This will never change. Start dedicating your energy towards the positive in this situation – the fact that someone thought enough of your idea to steal it validates that it was a good idea. It also likely suggests that you’re bright enough to compose another equally great idea.
Stop writing these messages. Start building a team who can support your next great feat. You’ve got in in you, now you just have to execute.
For aspiring entrepreneurs who may be in this same position, there are a few things you need to consider when you either have a fear that someone will steal your idea or before you approach someone but aren’t ready to share the idea:
1) Your idea is absolutely worthless until it is executed. You cannot trademark or patent a thought. That does not mean it is not worth a try. Before you approach someone about it make sure you have done your research and have set the plan in motion.
2) Chances are you are approaching this “expert” person for free advice. You need to realize for most people, advice comes with a hefty consulting fee. If they are generous enough to give you their time for free that means they really, really like you alot or they think you are worthy of their time. Try not to insult them by being so brazen to suggest that this person would drop every venture they have on-going to steal your precious idea. If you’re that uncomfortable, ask them to sign an non-disclosure agreement, non-compete or work for hire agreement – but don’t insult them by suggesting they’re a thief.
3) Someone may have already “stolen” your idea and there is nothing you can do about it. There are literally 7 billion people in the world, chances are 1 of those 7 billion people has the same idea you do. Tough Pill. Swallow. If you’re afraid of a little competition, quit now. So you don’t have the resources or the money to do what they do. So what? Everyone’s got to start somewhere. Find a way to do it better. What if Wendy’s would have stopped because there was a McDonald’s, or Hardee’s quit because of Burger King. There is enough room for everyone, but you have to accept that you may not have the whole pie and even if you do, someone is eventually going to come for what they believe is to be their share.
4)Lastly understand and accept that you WILL need other people to bring this vision to life. Start surrounding yourself with people who can execute your vision.
Do you research, use NDA’s, file a provisional patent, contact your competitors (if you must) and leverage the resources you have in front of you right now.