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Business Mistake: Keeping Your Idea Secret

Topic: How-to,Tips & Tricks | Comments (1)

Posted on August 28, 2009 by admin

I have been doing startups of one kind or another my entire career and have heard the phrase, “we’re working on something that’s going to be huge but we can’t tell you about it”, many, many times. In each case the founders would have been a lot better served by talking to me and everyone else around them about the idea. There are a number of benefits to “socializing” your idea:

  • Honing Your “Pitch”
    Selling the idea or vision behind your company in very few words is critical to its success. If people (potential investors and customers all) can’t understand what you are doing or how it would benefit them then you shouldn’t be doing it.
  • Test Marketing Your Product
    You are probably surrounded by quite a few smart people. In total they are certainly smarter than you. But they don’t know about you, your product or your company. Tell them about how your product will benefit them. Then stop talking and listen to what they say. Incorporate their suggestions and repeat this process. Never stop listening and improving your product.
  • Introducing Yourself to Potential Partners and Customers
    Every time you talk about your company and product to someone you are introducing it and yourself to that person’s entire social circle. That can be an enormous number of people and can lead to connections and opportunities far beyond what is immediately obvious. Word of mouth still plays an important role in the successful marketing of any company. Social media online makes it easy to broadcast but the mechanism is still the same. One human talking with another.
  • Checking Your Sanity
    Many ideas seem to be perfect in every way in the middle of the night. Many even make it through the early morning shower. But few indeed survive contact with a rational human being. This doesn’t mean you should listen to nay-sayers. You shouldn’t. But many ideas have a major flaw that someone else can clearly see. Maybe it’s illegal or regulated or completely impractical. It’s best to find out about structural problems early.
  • Focusing on Secrecy Rather Than Execution
    The majority of success is in execution over time not the original idea. Getting things done day by day is much more important than the beauty or originality of the idea that got it all started. If you think your product will sell itself, no matter how good it is, you are very likely wrong. Talk openly about your company and product while working hard to make it work.

A successful mentor of mine went around broadcasting his business ideas. When I asked if he was afraid of having them stolen he replied, “Heck no! Even if they stole the idea and competed with me tomorrow, I could do it far better than they could and I will eventually take back the market they helped me create.” That kind of thinking has stuck with me to this day. And has me look askance when I hear, “I have this great idea but I can’t tell you…”

More on the this topic:

Chris Dixon Says:

There are lots of benefits to talking to people. You’ll get suggestions for improvements. You’ll discover flaws and hopefully correct them. You’ll learn a lot more about the sector/industry. You’ll learn about competitive products that exist or are being built. You’ll gauge people’s excitement level for the product and for various features. You’ll refine your sales and investor pitch. You might even discover your idea is a bad idea and save yourself years of hitting your head against the wall.

Closer to the Ideal goes further:

I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who are obsessed with secrecy about their idea. Some of them ask me to sign non-disclosure agreements, just for hearing the basic idea of their business. This kind of secrecy is always a mistake.