Tell Everyone You Know About Your Idea
tldr: Tell everyone about your business idea- they can’t/won’t steal it and their feedback is valuable.
When you’re just getting started with an idea for a company, my advice is to tell every person that will listen about your idea and hold nothing back.
Too often, aspiring entrepreneurs are unwilling to talk about their idea. The two primary reasons they hold back are 1) they worry someone will steal their idea or 2) they’re afraid that the idea isn’t good enough or “isn’t ready”.
The truth is that no one is going to steal your idea. Mainly because your idea isn’t very good, but even if it were good, the “idea” part is the easy part- execution is what’s hard. Even if I gave you the precise recipe for Coca Cola, starting a Coca Cola is a different matter entirely. Even in this age of cheap web hosting and software stacks that make it easy to build neat things fast, turning an idea into an enterprise simply doesn’t happen with the snap of your fingers.
Most people, even if you convinced them of how brilliant and profitable your idea is, wouldn’t even be capable of stealing it.
But what about a guy like me? I know a decent amount of software engineers, designers, and investors- maybe I have the resources and ability to steal your idea. Maybe. But I also don’t have the desire- I’m working on my own thing that is already all-consuming. And if I wasn’t working on my own thing, I have other ideas of my own that I’d prefer to work on. I don’t have the time, desire or energy to steal your idea.
Not only that, but because you came up with your idea you probably have some unique insight or knowledge about the problem you’re solving and the solution. You have the vision. And that vision is what’s required to navigate a product through conception to execution to iteration. Just knowing the idea isn’t enough to navigate the many twists and turns you’ll have to take.
All that is to say that noone is going to steal your idea. And please don’t ask folks to sign an NDA- it sets the wrong tone and professional investors and entrepreneurs whose feedback may be most valuable won’t sign one.
But the main point is this: You should tell EVERYONE about your idea because you need their feedback. This is especially true at the idea stage. Your business idea WILL evolve- it wasn’t born perfect. It needs to evolve. And you need feedback from others to help it evolve. The only way to get that is by telling them your idea. If you hold back your “secret sauce” or don’t tell them what it actually does, they can’t give you feedback.
The shotgun approach works well here- the more people you tell the more likely you are to hit your target. That is, most people probably aren’t potential customers- that doesn’t mean they won’t offer good feedback, but feedback from potential customers is much more valuable. But the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to stumble into potential customers. (Related: specifically seek out potential customers to get their feedback!).
Not only is the feedback and insights you get from others valuable, but you also may gain valuable fans or connections/introductions that can help down the road. This topic deserves a separate post, but I can’t tell you how many random interactions have led to critical breaks that have made a huge impact. But by talking to as many people as possible, you maximize your chances for serendipity.
Serendipity works in odd ways, and you can only find it in retrospect. You never know what a random coffee meeting or crossing of paths will lead to, but if you don’t open yourself up to those opportunities by telling others what you’re doing then you may never find out.