Why I don’t sign NDAs

Sep 18, 2015

This last week, three (!) different people approached me to discuss their app ideas, but wanted to sign an NDA before starting discussions. I gracefully refused and this is why.

Reason 1: you have a great idea; so what?

I hate bringing the bad news to you, but an idea is not worth much. I think Dilbert puts it more eloquently than I:

I have an idea for a startup

An idea is worth nothing if it remains one. Only with excellent execution, omnipresent marketing/promotion and perfect timing do you stand a chance of creating something truly great. Yeah, it may be the case that you have this excellent idea that will change the world, but chances are that you don’t.

One other point too: if it is so easy to steal your idea and become rich out of it, with just a single page description that you will send me (at most), maybe it is easy for others to copy too. Maybe you’ll face tougher competition than you imagined. Maybe this idea will not make you rich any more.

Reason 2 : what’s in it for me?

I mean, signing an NDA means I stop myself from pursuing future projects. Imagine the following two cases:

A – I had this idea too, really!
What if I was actually thinking the same (or a similar) thing and had already started development/investing in it and you come with your NDA, which I sign without knowing in advance what your idea will be, and you tell me your idea, and I shoot myself in the foot! Not fair, right?

B – loosing future clients
What if I do not get the job, but 6 months later another candidate customer arrives, with a similar idea, and I cannot take it because of the NDA? Why should I loose future business without reason?

Guys, the simple truth is that I will not “steal” your idea because I don’t have the time/funds/expertise necessary to put it into practice. I’m already up to my neck with my current job and cannot handle another startup. If I truly like your idea sooooooooo much and I don’t have any other work to do, then I won’t steal it but I will ask to partner with you: I do the coding, you do the promotion/sales. You found your tech co-founder, hurray!

Please do it the other way round: tell people of your idea, get feedback and revise it openly. This will help you understand if it’s any good and whether to pursue it or not. Trusting no one, will not take you very far. Alternatively, you can always learn to code!

Take care

Dimitris