I bumped into an acquaintance today who, knowing I am in the startup space, excitedly told me that he too was embarking on a new business venture of his own.
I responded: “Ahh, this is exciting!!!” I genuinely do love hearing people’s ideas, sharing war stories, hearing the passion that exudes from people before the grind wears the sparkle out of their elevator pitch. So, of course, I asked: “What is it?”
“I’ll have to get you to sign an NDA first”, he replied.
Insert a very blatant eye roll here. Coupled with an exasperated sigh.
This kills me.
Every time I hear someone say this (the best ones are the cold outreaches on LinkedIn, asking for your advice, but only if you’ll first sign their NDA), I just want to take them firmly by the shoulders and shake them.
I don’t though, cause that sort of thing is frowned upon… so I’ll rant here instead.
If every brilliant startup just needed an idea to be successful, then we’d all be millionaires. (I mean, really, what were they going to do? Sue someone with money they don’t have, for stealing IP for a business that doesn’t exist yet, which they mentioned in passing in a cafe one day?)
Ideas are the easy part.
Over my Christmas break last year, I was on the beach with some of my most talented, successful, hardworking, entrepreneurial, status-quo-disrupting friends. (There was a combined six businesses and two successful exits around the towels.)
We were in firm agreement that we wish there was a ‘place’ we could drop our great ideas off to — filled with executors, do-ers, finishers — so our gems could live to see the light of day as successful businesses.
I envision a sort of Y-combinator, incubator or hackathon where the ‘ideator’ (can you even call them a founder?) can keep a small chunk of equity but none of the responsibility moving forward. There would also be an executor, searching for that spark of an idea they are passionate about, who could reap the fame and rewards.
I would love that. Can some finisher go invent that, please?
Because we were all painfully aware that ideas weren’t the problem. The time, energy, resources, skills, people to execute them were.
The pain is 100% in the execution.
No one — a friend, acquaintance, lover, bestie, neighbour or co-worker — is waiting for you to come along and share your idea so they can steal it from you and make it a roaring success while you tell your grandkids you invented Google before Larry stole it off you.
People are busy, with their own ideas, their own dreams, their kids’ school projects, Katy’s sister’s daughter’s Christening. They’re busy.
Hopefully, they care enough about you and your passionate idea to give you some feedback, take time to ask some open-ended questions, perhaps connect you with someone they know could help you on your journey, or send you an article they read about a startup in a complementary space you should talk to.
What we lose by not sharing ideas is exactly this. The broad variety of sounding boards who can offer us a different perspective, their insights, their hundreds of thousands of hours of reading and watching and learning as we do as humans from a different viewpoint.
What could possibly be better than that when trying to validate an idea? As broad a range of perspectives as possible? Before you go and quit your job, mortgage your house, and tip your parents’ life savings into your venture.
In full transparency, I’m not a lawyer (surprise!), and I’m not advocating for you to post your intricate algorithms or detailed product wireframes on the net.
But I am saying, inherently, I believe people are good. And I’d prefer to err on the side of positivity when it comes to birthing new ideas.