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I get a lot of calls from app startup founders. Several a day. Most of them are in a very early stage with their business. Some are at such early stage, all they have is their concept.
But there’s a problem – they don’t want to share it with me.
Fearing to share a concept or idea is probably one of the biggest trends in my daily conversations with app startup entrepreneurs. Their main concern is that someone else might steal their app idea and run with it.
Their first question I usually get is ‘Will you sign an NDA?’.
But here’s the thing, it’s the wrong question.
You should never be afraid to share your app idea. In fact, you should tell it to as many people as possible – especially app experts like the ones at MindSea.
Why? Here are a few reasons:
Your idea isn’t as unique as you think.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same idea – twice – on the same day. There are macro trends in app startups year over year. You may think you’ve got something novel, but in fact your idea is a response to a lot of common realities and market forces being exerted on everyone, not just you.
Chances are high that right now someone out there is working on the exact same idea.
Even ideas that are wildly successful aren’t necessarily new. Instagram is a breakaway business in the app world, but it wasn’t the world’s first photo sharing app – nor is it the last – Snapchat is essentially the same idea done a different way. This doesn’t mean you should give up now and stop pursuing your dream – but sharing your idea will help you uncover competition you may not have thought of, or help you give your idea shape and differentiation.
It’s actually impossible
There’s this old adage that goes something like ‘if your idea is really that good, it would have been done already’.
Sometimes I hear pretty out-there ideas from app entrepreneurs who think they’re about to solve a lot of problems – and I hate to break it to them – but the reason their idea doesn’t exist already is because it’s not technically possible. Egregious examples are obvious; no matter how badly you wish iOS would enable your perfume retail app to generate smells with your iPhone, it’s not going to happen, but the impossibility of other ideas isn’t always so obvious.
For instance, how about an app that notifies you when any consumer good you’re interested goes on sale? Great idea right? Only it’s impossible right now to integrate with every single retailer system or point-of-sale out there to make this concept work – there are too many retailers and too many items (and why would any retailer consent to allowing another business to access to this info – what’s in it for them?).
I did hear this idea by the way, and it does sound great, but it’s a technological nightmare – for now.
An idea isn’t an execution
The execution is WAY harder.
Think about all the other elements that go into a successful business. First you have to take your concept out of your brain, envision it on paper and bring it to life, then you have to build your actual business up around it. From marketing, to management to business plans, finances etc – there’s so much more to a business that’s as important if not more important than your idea.
How about your go-to-market strategy for example? A great marketing plan can sometimes cost more to execute than building your app did in the first place!
If all it takes to be successful in business is to steal other people’s ideas, there’d be a lot more successful people out there. Your execution is what makes your idea different and unique, not the idea itself.
We’re too busy to steal your idea
No seriously, we’ve got too much on our plates already. It’s not that your idea isn’t amazing – in all likelihood, it could be – it’s just that we know how much work you’re going to have to put into it and we’ve got our own business to handle.
Starting a business seems like a win – have idea, then profit, right? Well, no. Getting to the part where you actually profit means years of long hours, sweat, potential pitfalls and even failures. It’s like moving a mountain.
App startups aren’t a glamorous way to suddenly have a billion-dollar valuation and a seat at the table in Silicon Valley – they’re hard work. That’s why only a few people do it – not because they were the only ones with the idea, but because they were the ones willing to put in the effort.
An idea gets better the more you share it
You may think you have to keep your idea safe, but the truth is, you should be trying to destroy it. Trying to break it down helps you find flaws and fix them. Asking everyone you meet whether they like your idea will help you validate it by gauging others’ interest in it. Tapping pros for their feedback can only help you shape your idea for the better. You should talk about your idea everywhere you go – and when you encounter a naysayer, view it as a learning experience. How can this criticism make your idea more solid? How can you improve your value?
Besides – how will you sell your fully built app to users if you can’t sell your idea to anyone in the first place?
When you keep an idea hidden, you ensure it’ll never go anywhere. Don’t have a great app idea and keep it bottled up – because at some point, if it really is good idea, someone else will build it. Then all you’ll have is regret.
I can’t sign an NDA anyway
I’m not allowed. Only my CEO has the authority to sign one. More than that, if I sign an NDA for every single app idea I hear, I’d be signing them all day. MindSea would literally be buried under a mountain of paperwork. And as I mentioned above, sometimes app ideas aren’t really as different or unique as you might think. If I hear a similar dating app idea twice in the run of a week, wouldn’t I technically be violating the terms of any NDAs signed with all these would-be app entrepreneurs with lookalike ideas? Not good.
NDAs are costly to defend, track, manage and enforce – costs you probably don’t want to incur while you’re bootstrapping your app startup.
There’s a reason why ideas aren’t protectable under copyright law. If you ask me to sign an NDA, I’ll probably say no.
Your idea will change
Lastly I think the most important thing to remember is that there isn’t a single successful app out there that hasn’t gone through multiple iterations of its core features.
App companies introduce better experiences and functionality all the time – some even revamp their entire user experience to meet new realities.
Think about how different Uber is now from when it launched – right down to its app icon, which has gone through several iterations. Sure Uber’s core idea is the same, but the way the app brings it to life and creates an experience has gotten smarter in ways they probably couldn’t have imaged back when it was just an idea – from estimating arrival times to learning your routines to integrating with your personal calendar. These incremental improvements are all a result of ongoing feedback to the original concept.
The truth is your original idea might not even be recognizable by the time you get to look back and say, ‘wow, this really worked’ – and we do hope you get to say that 🙂
Are you ready to build your app? Share your idea with me! Let’s schedule some time to chat.