Monday, March 12, 2007

startup lesson 1 of 496,324

Keeping quiet about my business idea has been very difficult for me. Anyone who knows me knows that you can't get me to shut up on something I'm excited about. But I've been trying hard to be pretty hush hush about what I'm working on.


For one I've found that, for some inexplicable reason, whenever I talk about something, my effectiveness at actually executing on it dwindles. I dunno why, but it's as if the energy expended in talking about it takes away from the energy required to do it.

Second, I really want to get a first customer on board so that I can hone in on the idea and also develop some comfort that I'm barking up the right tree.

Well this morning I had breakfast with a friend, who's also starting a company. He's a little further along than me, though, and has funding and a formal company structure. After some conversation where I was being my usual evasive self when talking about the idea, he offerd to sign a mutual NDA so we could talk more freely. That threw me off - it's the first time someone has offered that. So I accepted and we spent the hour talking about our respective ideas and challenges and stuff.

After leaving, though, I felt like a bit of a dumbass. Why? Because the reason I wasn't talking about the idea wasn't/isn't lack of trust. It was for the reasons above. And yet, by agreeing to talk after signing an NDA, I basically affirmed that I don't trust him enough to tell him about my idea without signing some stupid piece of paper.

Obviously I don't regret the conversation itself - I learnt a lot from it. And hopefully you (I'm assuming he'll read this at some point) didn't walk away thinking that I don't trust you unless I have a signed piece of paper saying so. I think I just have to be a little more aware in the future.

Maybe I'm being naiive, but I think friendships are much stronger than any signed document.

What are your thoughts?

Specifically: 1) would you sign an NDA with friends? 2) are NDA's even effective at all when talking to peopled you don't know that well?

(NDA = Non Disclosure Agreement)


Umang said...

1. No
2. Would you enforce an NDAs? They are good deterrents but the other party must believe that you wil enforce it if you have to.

It can be fun (and a bit of a shock) to throw people off the track (or get thrown off yourself) like that! ;-)

Nate said...

So do people in Seattle just walk around with these NDAs at the ready along with their umbrellas, or do the coffee shops stock them next to the napkins?

Vikas said...

Many friends I've talked to themselves offered to sign an NDA to know more.

In the end it depends on what you are looking to get from the conversation. If you are looking to get ideas, feedback, suggestions, then throwing an NDA in is not a good idea. It will act as a deterrent. For conversations that might be more formal, even with friends, e.g. to potentially hire them, doing an NDA is OK, even desirable.

And in the first case, even with people who are not friends, bringing an NDA up when you are looking for advice would be a poor idea.

wisbin said...

1. No I wouldn't, with friends. I would kick their buts though, if they would abuse the confidential info.

2. I think this a very small safety net if you need to proof someone stool your ideas. But I could be wrong, I have no experience with the law on these matters.

I would talk more about it myself, but thats because I talk a lot about my world changing ideas.

I think you should do too!

Cheers! and good luck!