The Internet continues to give birth to new and exciting ways of doing business and living life. Ten years ago, who would have thought that your mobile phone would be able to do so much? Who could have suspected the uptake of social networking? And how many of us suspected the sheer reliance we all now have on a handful of apps, often in the palm of our hand, that make our lives that much easier?
Hearing success stories like that of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, or Williams, Stone and Dorsey of Twitter, gives us all hope that our idea may be the next big thing!
So how important is protecting my idea?
This is a difficult question to answer in just a few words. In short, yes your idea is very important and you need to protect it.
But let’s look at a broader context. If you have a great idea, but have no ability to build it, at some point you are going to have to share this wonderful idea of yours. The fear that your idea could be ‘stolen’ is a real one, but the most important decision is to whom you share your idea and what provisions you put in place to protect the sharing of that information.
Bearing that in mind, don’t forget the importance and difficulty in executing your idea in a turbulent marketplace! If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Some tips to protecting your idea:
– Get it on paper (or into digital form) as quickly as possible. This proves that you had the idea at some point. If you can email the idea to yourself, or to a trusted person, that also gives it a time stamp, and further proof of its existence.
– Use NDAs. Once you are ready to share your idea with the people you will need to help you get it off the ground, or even just if you want some advice from friends, always use an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). The AppHappening website requires the execution of our standard eAgreement, or allows you to upload your own NDA, whenever you engage with an AppGenius. This protects you legally. Several court cases have been fought on the basis of NDAs, and they are an important part of the process.
– Update your documents. When you grow your idea, continue to update the source document you created in my first tip. This shows the evolution of the idea, and protects you from people who may, conversely, claim that you stole their idea (if they thought of something similar at a similar time).
– Use trusted marketplaces to find professionals. Sharing your idea with the wrong people and without showing any regard for the importance of the idea itself will lead them to treat the idea with the same contempt. More reputable sources, like AppHappening, have a strict policy on the confidentiality of our members’ information. Be sure to vet your chosen provider and ask about their privacy policies.
– Remove the leftovers. If your idea is highly sensitive, don’t be shy to require that any chosen professional with whom you have shared your idea and information confirms that, once they are done with the information, they delete all copies.
Ideas vs Execution
I recently attended a conference hosted by one of the world’s largest SaaS providers. During his presentation, the Company’s CTO requested that we stand up if we had ever had an idea for an app that we thought could be commercially viable. About 80% of the attendees rose. He then asked of those who were standing, to please remain standing if they had the technical smarts to build the app themselves. About half of those standing sat down. He then asked if any of those remaining had the marketing and commercial sense to launch the app themselves. Only two people were left standing. He proceeded to ask, then, if anyone else in the room was confident in their ability to successfully launch and commercialise an app. One or two people reluctantly rose to join the four people now left standing.
The point of my story: in a room of five hundred or so people, about four hundred of those had an idea. About two hundred of those people thought they make it themselves. But only four people believed they had the skill to bring the concept to market and make it a success.
So, while every idea is great, and it is the starting point of any good product, don’t underestimate the importance of getting the right people together for every stage of your project. Protect your idea – but don’t protect it so much that the idea never becomes a reality.