So let’s say I have an amazing idea for disruptive and game changing product. Let’s say it could be bigger than Facebook.
How do I bring the idea to market without being crushed by competitors, investors, and other capable people who are more opportunistic than honorable?
What steps can I take to ensure that I retain control of an idea that may be the next big thing?
Start by thinking carefully about what you’re seeking to build: A product or an organization? Startups are companies — organizations — that take a product and turn it into a business that yields financial returns for its founders, employees and investors if all goes well. Do you see yourself building a company around the idea? Would you quit your day job and live leanly to devote all available time and money to the relentless pursuit of this idea as a growing business — YOUR business?
If the answer is unequivocally yes, the critical pieces to assemble are people and capital. As a solo founder, unless you have unusually broad skills and are able to bring the entire thing to fruition yourself, you’ll need a co-founder or two. (Investors also tend to be biased against solo founders.) Take a careful inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, and find a trustworthy partner who is strong in the areas in which you’re weakest. You’ll have to share some information with this person to bring him or her on board, so do it in stages, revealing just enough to pique the person’s interest, then ask him or her to sign a basic NDA before going too deep into details. If it’s the right person, they’ll become as excited you are about the idea and eager to join you.
The more you’ve fully developed and thought everything through, turning it into a business/financial/marketing/technical roadmap rather than just an idea, the more it will be apparent to anyone you meet with that you have a big head start on them, even if they were inclined to steal your idea and run with it. Everyone wants to be on (or back) the winning team, so the more impressive you make it up front, the easier it will be to get funded and recruit the best people rather than competing with them. Even so, if it’s a great business, competition is inevitable; as they say, imitation is the best form of flattery.