NDA’s don’t work IMO for this scenario and only work in situations were people are copy-pasting code or similar. Nothing stops a consumer from using your product (which is what you want) and immediately going out and making a better one. This entire post also assumes the best case scenario where you idea becomes a successful startup. If your idea “doesn’t work”, or doesn’t catch on, it doesn’t matter who takes your idea if it doesn’t work.
There are two types of startups:
- The “hush hush” idea startup, where your idea is so awesome, its bound to gain traction, and could change the world, but you don’t want the world to know yet. This is probably the type you are in, or want to be in. These are very rare, odds are most ideas aren’t original ideas.
- The “remix” idea, where you take an existing idea (lets say MS Word) and re-apply it, change it, and make it better (google docs). These are most startups, and most big companies.
In both of them you can’t really protect your idea. The 2nd scenario basically totally prevents the first one from every being “the only option” after a set time. So how do you succeed if you have that 1st idea? Even though people will be using the 2nd approach to “catch up”? Simple, you don’t.
There’s no protection for ideas that can be “remixed”. You see it every day, heck most great ideas are remixes of existing ideas, just done better. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft all took existing ideas and made them better. The only way to protect your idea is to keep innovating and utilizing your head start with your idea so you stay successful.
Imagine the moment you start creating a startup based around your idea a timer starts ticking. When this timer hits zero, a has competitor has “caught up” to your original idea, and probably passed it up.
How much time is on that timer is what really matters. If your idea requires skills X Y and Z, and you just happen to have excellent skills in X Y and Z, then you have probably a good amount of time. But, if your skills are lacking, then the timer probably starts with lest time, or heck no time.
This is why there is a saying with startups: “Don’t start with your best idea”, because it’s too easy for someone to remix it, take it, improve it and make your company/start/idea irrelevant. Your better off making sure your head start is as large as possible upfront, so by the time a competitor comes around you already have everything sorted out.