“I’ll have to get you to sign an NDA first”: News flash, no one is trying to steal your business idea


Talent marketplace theright.fit founder Taryn Williams.

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.

This article was first published on Taryn Williams’ website. Read the original here


Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Drew Klonsky
Drew Klonsky
1 year ago

Totally agree with your thinking on NDA shenanigans Taryn, thanks for sharing sane thoughts. Your wish for an “ideator” is totally viable. The business model is the basis of many Startup Studio and is not new (go figure, shhh!!) It is tough to pull off as typically you raise a fund that is the source of realising all your mates great ideas. I implemented a shared investment/equity program to incentivise internal IP development with my employees at Citizen and we launched successful businesses such as https://www.iotashome.com/. The legend example is Quirky – they raised over US $200M and crashed and burned in 2017 as a epic fail https://hbs.me/3n2Q0W5. Google the story, its both inspiring and tragic. Success with your idea can be seen In Europe with eFounders https://www.efounders.com/ and in the States with Pioneer Square Labs http://www.psl.com both have coopted buddies and the community into spin outs both real, funded and successful based on some version of “towel” talk.

Last edited 1 year ago by Drew Klonsky
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.