Houston, we have a problem. Stealth mode, seclusion, and fear as a response to people showing interest in your idea. “Thieves! Robbers! Scoundrels!” you accuse whilst keeping it all to yourself for fear of plagiarism. This is not the way. It’s detrimental to your success and completely smothers creativity. Do we want that for our beloved startups? I don’t think so fine Sir/Madam. Share! Cooperate! Marinate!
I recently met a few local entrepreneurs at an event, let’s call them Mr. Pink and Mr. White. I asked them what they were up to, what’s cooking, and the responses were so elusive and ambiguous that it was completely unfathomable to me; “I’m working on an app that’s going to help you discover new things, we are at the intersection of humanity” and the other “Well, it’s kinda like something for water, but not really and actually, I’d rather not tell you about it”. I wasn’t threatening them at gunpoint, I know I can be pretty intimidating at times but I was just hoping on meeting fellow entrepreneurs and chatting the chat. Tranquillo start-up champions, all won’t be lost.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I expect founders to share their deepest trade secrets; how they write their algorithms, what is their secret ingredient, or if they’re into S&M. The reality is that for any startup to prosper, entrepreneurs need to network, find mentors, converse with their peers and listen to advice.
I get it, I really do. I’ve been there. You have a fantastic idea that only you have thought of (so you think) and you don’t want anyone hearing about it. However, other entrepreneurs are very unlikely to steal your idea, they are dedicated to their own projects and don’t have an unlimited supply of funding (minus the Samwers).
At the same time, people copy. That’s life. Look at all the clones around the world. It’s more than likely that if you have a game changing disruptive idea, that people will copy you but it shouldn’t prevent you from sharing. If you don’t want to divulge certain aspects of your business, then don’t. It’s not that hard. No one is going to kidnap you and subject you to waterboarding if you don’t. If you have a valid reason not to trust someone then be cautious with what information you give them.
On the other hand, it’s understandable if you have a science-heavy startup which is built around a key discovery or technology where protecting your IP through patents and other safeguarding is essential. Too much exposure in this case could be prejudicial to the startups future. It’s important to note that only a very small percentage of startups fall into this category.
Rant over. Now to the fun part.
Here are 5 reasons you should spread the love and share your startup with your peers:
1. Sharing is caring! – Ideas are nothing without their execution (See previous post). Someone can try and “steal” your idea, but not the specific ins and outs of “your” way to execute it. Just don’t go telling everyone what’s in your secret sauce, that recipe belongs to you. Meeting experienced entrepreneurs who have been there and done it will ultimately help you sharpen your execution skills, poke holes in your business model and look at your business from an unbiased perspective. You need smarter people than you to help you along the way. People (not Genghis Khan) want to help you succeed, not to fail. The most valuable advice I’ve had is from other entrepreneurs who have experience in areas where I didn’t.
2. Sharing is validating – You need to validate your idea and to find out if what you’re trying to solve is a real problem. Invaluable feedback comes with talking about your idea to people who feel this pain point most profoundly. These customers will be the most willing to help you and to explain why currently solutions don’t work for them. This also helps you get your first customers before even having the product ready. They will help you create a stronger product that everyone in the world will want, yeah!
3. Evolve your idea – Your idea/business model will likely change several times along the way as you validate what works and what doesn’t. As you learn from your mistakes and follow your success, you will make 1000’s of choices that will be impossible to replicate. You will be rocking v8.0 while they are trailing behind on v1.0.
4. You may just find your perfect partner – Perhaps your idea was missing a piece and through talking about it, you get introduced to the co-founder of your dreams, the Ben to your Jerry, the Calvin to your Hobbes, the Ying to your Yang…you get the idea.
5. You want money? Then share – How are you going to raise money if you stay locked away in your dungeon tied in chains? You have to be out there sharing your hand with the money guys. Raising money is all about building relationships, so if you’re not prepared to talk to investors about what you are working on, then you won’t be getting any €€€. Also, many times the investors you’re speaking with will refer you to others in their network more relevant to your project.
Wise words: “I get by with a little help from my friends”. See, the Beatles know best. Wait, was it “by” or “high”? Well, you get the point. Work together, help each other through your challenges, create better solutions and let’s give Barcelona a more dominant position on the innovation map. Exposure won’t kill a startup but fear will prevent it from ever getting off the ground.