You’ve got your business idea, it’s the hottest thing since sliced bread and you’re already envisioning yourself on the cover of Time and the Economist. You’re convinced it’s going to be a unicorn, you see those 10 billion valuations – and then the paranoia starts taking over. You start thinking that you need to be hush-hush about it, you’re thinking ” Should I get my wife to sign an NDA?”. Jokes aside, maybe not your wife, but definitely the dev shop you’re going to contact, and absolutely those angel investors you’re talking to next week. Will my startup idea get stolen?

One of the major mistakes start-uppers make is keeping their idea to themselves and having everyone else sign an NDA.

  • Objective 3rd parties who are not emotionally attached to your project can give you a better view of it that you can yourself. Will it succeed or fail? Is it marketable? Does it satisfy a need? And pose problems that you may have missed.
  • Most people already have jobs, those who don’t most probably won’t start their own companies (an entrepreneur is a funny animal), and most entrepreneurs already have their own projects to deal with.
  • Sharing with others may well provide you with opportunities you didn’t notice yourself, can augment your business model and even create additional revenue channels for your business.
  • Network. If you need capital, if you need a mentor, if you need a partner – the only way you’ll ever get this is through your network and talking about your product, getting people interested, and involved. And by sitting on your idea you’re actually hurting yourself more than you know.
  • Even if someone did want to steak your idea, they probably lack your knowledge, experience, and background in the industry associated with your idea give you an advantage.
  • If someone does take your idea it doesn’t matter, businesses are made on execution, not ideas. If they were built on ideas, I’d be sitting on a private island right now, and now working through the side hustle.
  • Investors won’t sign NDAs. You’d be surprised how many similar businesses they get pitched. The same goes for agency owners, when I ran my old product studio, we’d see the same idea come across the table from early-stage founders over ten times a year.

But let’s say you did reinvent the wheel, and your product actually is hotter than sliced bread. What now? Following these simple rules ought to keep your business yours and the lawyers happily notarizing papers instead of preparing for litigation. That said, here are two tips.

  • Provisional patents should keep you protected if the product is patentable. This will help protect any real intellectual property you may have.
  • If you’re sending out documents to 3rd parties, always date them, send them in PDF format, and always add a watermark.

Have any additional tips for us regarding intellectual property protection? Let us know in the comments below.

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