by Kevin Rabida . November 13th, 2014
You might be a person who, with a sudden burst of inspiration, formulated an exceptional idea for a business. Or you might be another, who conducted a market research to identify opportunities in the market. You have exerted a lot of effort fleshing out the details of your idea. You want to ask for feedback… until you feel a sudden fear.
I might steal it.
Screenshot from The Social Network (2010)
It’s a valid fear, yes. One of the most prominent allegedly stolen ideas was social network giant Facebook.
In 2003, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg began working with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra on a university-wide dating site HarvardConnection. Early 2004, Mark left the three to found his site thefacebook.com. The twins sued Zuckerberg for breach of contract.
Of course, there are more of these startup idea origins with interesting stories, some outright stolen, others inspired by predecessors. Most of the things that we use now are improvements and iterations of existing products.
Kinda reminds me of T. S. Elliot’s “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.”
The world in general.
So going stealthy with your ideas is a logical plan, right? It’s a strategy, sure. But it’s an idiotic strategy.
This fear is prevalent among startups (along with a few others), going as far as being in stealth mode during the planning and development phase until launching their product. Some even makes their investors sign a non-disclosure agreement when pitching their idea, or filing patent requests to protect their potential business.
But if you’re scared that I’m gonna go out of my way, take your uber brilliant idea, and start a business, fret not. I won’t do that. Here’s why:
Why would I steal your dream, when I have my own ones? Why would I risk my own resources, invest a lot of time, money and effort, to realize your idea? It’s unrealistic to think that people would change the course of their life plans just to steal your idea and see it to fruition.
Gif from here
I don’t know the minute details on how you plan to execute your idea. Heck, I don’t have the passion and the interest, perhaps even the talent, to pursue your idea. Those are reserved for my own ideas. Besides…
I’ve mentioned earlier in this post about the products and services we have today as merely iterations or improvements of existing products. Do your research. Chances are, something that is the same or similar already exists in the market.
This may be in the form of direct competitors, or products that people may use as substitute to yours. If you would talk about your idea to your close friends or relatives, they would be reminded by a product or service in the market. Try it! And you would then have to differentiate what you are against them.
Speaking of which…
I’ve read countless of startups which remained secretive with the development of their product or service, polishing every detail and addressing all concerns that might arise. Come launch day, what might have been the day when their efforts would pay off turns out to be a failure.
Reason? There is no sufficient demand for the product/service. They failed to ask feedback on their idea, and if potential customers would use it.
Photo credit: Karl Horton
The risk of losing investment through failure after launch is way greater than the risk of your idea getting stolen. Furthermore…
Large companies are unlikely to steal your ideas because it would be a great risk to them. A failed venture from big companies such as Google results in lower stock valuation or loss of investor confidence. CEOs and high-ranking stockholders wouldn’t risk their careers just to take an unproven idea.
What they would do though is wait for you to execute your idea, determine that there is sufficient demand for your product/service, and buy you out. That, or create a competitor for you. Which leads us to…
Ideas are a dime, a dozen. They can be great. They can be so-so. They can be worth shiz. Ideas matter in a sense that they give you a framework for your business plan. They’re worthless if you don’t execute.
I may have an idea for a social network so exceptional that it would be the end of Facebook. You might have thought of something similar. Even companies and their strategists might have thought of it, too. It all boils down to execution then, outwitting and outmaneuvering your competitor in order to win.
Screenshot from Spongebob Squarepants
Of course, I’m not saying that you should be careless when discussing your ideas, especially when getting feedback from the internet. You can properly discuss your ideas without revealing your secret sauce. Learn from Mr. Krabs and his Krabby Patty Formula. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a Spongebob either.
CHECK OUT: 7 Tips For A Kick-Ass Video Game Kickstarter Campaign
What are your thoughts on startup idea theft? Hit us in the comments!
Kevin is a reader first, a writer second, and a gamer somewhere in between. When not rooting for Tyrion Lannister for the Iron Throne, he's probably writing some morbid short story. He enjoys some surreal art, clever advertising campaigns, and a warm cup of coffee while reading Murakami.