Last month I went to an IEEE Entrepreneurship event in Pune that was mostly attended by college students. Though it was a fun evening talking to lots of young & energetic folks, one of the most recurring question I faced was — “What if someone steals my idea?”. Interestingly, it’s not a direct question, but comes as response to other questions like — “Why don’t you ask among your friends for Co-founders?”, “Why don’t you seek mentorship from someone who is knowledgeable.” etc.
Actually this is not a question at all, but a fear that resides among many first time entrepreneurs. And it is most likely the reason why lots of first time entrepreneurs start startups in “Stealth Mode”.
But in my opinion, not sharing your startup idea is the worst mistake that can potentially put you up for failure even before you are starting.
Following are the simple reasons why –
Your idea is probably shit, and needs refinement
Everybody overestimates their ideas. I have been guilty of this myself many a times. When you share with many people, especially with potential customers & experienced entrepreneurs, you get to see problems. Problems can be from multiple angles — maybe revenue model is not workable, maybe you are oversimplifying the problem, there is another competitor unknown to you and is miles ahead, or plain simple your target customers don’t feel it solves their pain point etc. Now what is better — knowing them before hand or after 4 months of hardcore coding and making first beta-release?
To make it big, you need Co-founder(s) and Early employees
One of the many things that separates Startups from Academic life is that Startups require team effort and not individual brilliance. You need highly motivated superstars to join you as Co-founders, Early employees and Mentors. How and where you meet them? Over Conferences, Meetups where you tell about your grand vision that can resonate with someone having similar worldview as you.
Making hundreds of people aware of your idea and also about the fact that you are really working hard to solve it often has an amazing effect. It makes people feel for you and your cause. And result? it becomes a gateway to connections with Investors, Potential customers, Mentors & Influencers.
As conclusion, I would say you got to let your beliefs drive you rather than your fears. So please give up your fear of somebody stealing your ideas, and rather work with community to shape, sharpen and ship your plans.
To people who want to read more on this, I would suggest this article by Steve Blank and this YCombinator Discussion Thread.