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Will someone steal my business idea?

I often get asked when is the right time to tell people about a business idea.  Some people are worried about it being stolen, others that people might not like it or think it’s a good idea.  But if you keep it a secret forever, nothing will happen!

Let’s dispel some myths.

No one has done anything like this before

Is that true? Is it genuinely unique? Has it really never been done before?  If the answer is really yes – then keep it to yourself until you have a prototype, then you’ll be too far ahead of anyone else if they were to copy your idea.  But actually, most ideas are already in the market somewhere on the planet if you look hard enough

Someone will steal my idea!

I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone who had their business idea stolen and someone else is now running a company based on their idea.  There might be some but it’s not common.  Mainly due to 1 – see above.  Also …

A big company will steal my idea!

This is also unlikely.  If your idea is using cutting edge technology or something you’ve invented, it’s unlikely a large company will be able to work at the pace you can or even have the resources to take a risk. 

Mentors will steal my idea!

Even more unlikely!  Mentors help others by sharing their experiences without expecting anything in return.  Of course, the relationship is always two way and a mentor will learn as much from you (yes, they really will!) but I’ve never known a mentor to steal a business idea.  Usually they’re too busy running their own businesses!

People won’t like my idea

One of the most important things you can do as you start your business is talk to potential customers.  If you don’t tell them about your product, how will they ever buy it from you? Ask people for their feedback and expect good and bad.  Sometimes it can feel personal, but re-frame it as the way in which you can improve your product or service, then you’ll always see it as a good thing.

How to protect yourself in the early stages of starting your business.

If you want to talk to someone in detail about your business, ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  This means that you can both discuss aspects of your businesses but no one can talk to others about it without prior agreement.  Visionnaires members can access our template NDA here (link).

If you send someone your photos, artwork, pitch deck, business plan or business canvas, and secures your copyright ownership. If you also put a copyright © at the end of the page with the date, it makes people think twice about sending it on (but can’t stop them!)

The other way to protect your intellectual property (something that you’ve created) is to get a patent or trademark.  This site will give you the basics: and it’s worth discussing with a lawyer to get advice on the process particularly if you are considering a patent.

Remember, sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling if you’re not sure about someone and their intentions, but at some point you’ll need to trust someone with your business idea – choose wisely, and get more information on our free programme – sign up for more information here.


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