This article first appeared on March 11, 2011.
NDAs are vital for protecting confidential and proprietary information and their use is widespread. They’re easy to understand and analyse with the help of a good lawyer.
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But an idea for a start-up is worth as much as the paper it’s written on.
Start-ups have very little to do with ideas. In fact, it’s almost 100% certain that there are already multiple groups of people already working on your idea somewhere in the world.
The best strategy for start-up ideas is to share them widely and freely, seeking feedback from as many parties as possible. This will allow you to sharpen your idea and kill the useless bits of it while identifying new areas for exploration.
To an investor, asking them to sign NDA shows that you value the idea too highly and don’t understand the importance of execution.
There are many people who will disagree with this view, but the hard part of growing a business involves grit and determination and bloody-mindedness.
Most businesses are very different from the idea on which they were founded.
Twitter started as a podcasting network. Groupon started as a political and community engagement tool.
Facebook started as a way to see which people did the same classes as you.
Share your ideas widely, be flexible to feedback and focus on execution above all else.