Last year, I was working with a guy who was trying to introduce a new product to the health industry. He brought me on board to help with online marketing and to fix the design of his website. I actually got pretty excited about the potential for his product, and decided that I wanted an even bigger role in the company.
A few months later, we went our separate ways.
I wanted to focus on making sales and gaining some traction. He wanted to take care of international patents and ensure that his design could never be stolen. That’s a bit oversimplified, but it was ultimately this fundamental difference in our approaches that caused the split.
A few months prior, I was talking with someone about an idea he’d been wanting to pursue for years. I distinctly remember him saying, “You’re free to take this idea from me and run with it, I’ll probably never get around to it anyways.” And he said it as though he’d just blessed me with a million dollars on the spot. What a saint! He didn’t realize, however, that (A) I don’t usually care about an intangible idea unless it was mine to begin with, and (B) I don’t have the energy, time, or money to waste on someone’s half-baked concept when it has no legs.
The most difficult hurdles for realizing any idea are gaining traction and building momentum. The vultures that you think are going to swoop in, steal your idea, and be more successful than you are usually imaginary (I think it’s actually far more likely that your business partner will screw you over, rather than some stranger who catches wind of your idea). Being protective of an idea is fine to an extent, but it’s counterproductive when you become paralyzed by your own paranoia.
If you’re in the early stages of getting an idea off the ground, it’s silly to sit around and count your chickens. You haven’t accomplished anything yet! I think it’s more important (and practical) to put your energy into these things:
- Determining whether your idea is solving a problem or not.
- Developing a deep understanding of the industry you’re going into, on both a macro and micro level.
- Finding a way to be first in a category (even if it means creating a new category).
- Building a narrow and loyal customer base.
- Actually getting those people to buy.
Worry about the patents and NDAs for when they’ll actually matter. No point in stressing over paperwork if it’s only protecting a hypothetically successful idea.
Stop being so defensive. Just go out and make something happen!