Somewhere Between NDA And PDA

An entrepreneur’s biggest fear

Unfortunately, we have this belief that when others hear our idea, they will take it and run. They will make all the money in the world. And, somehow, they will get it just right. I’m not going to argue whether an idea is important or not; I’m going to address the elephant in the room startup world: a hidden fear found in most – if not all – entrepreneurs that others want to and will steal their precious idea.

Once we have our idea, we tend to hold on to it and keep it to ourselves. Why is that? Probably because we think someone will copy it, steal it. We don’t realize that one day someone will do the exact same thing and that someone is a competitor. So why do we focus so much on keeping it secret in the first place, why are we so competition-averse at first but not later, why are we paranoid and afraid?

It’s stupid to think that talking about an idea means giving it away; it’s naive to think that our idea is original and no one has done it before; it’s short-sighted to think that someone won’t copy it sooner or later; it’s undermining to think that we can’t do it better. Facebook wasn’t first, and neither was Google. Elon Musk isn’t afraid to publicly discuss his ideas (see this image of him talking about his plans for Hyperloop on Twitter) and I doubt he ever feared telling people about his idea to build a high-performance electric vehicle. And you know what? He’s doing just fine.

Just because you think your idea is great, it doesn’t mean someone else will. And even if they do, they may not take a huge interest in it. And then if they do, they will not have the vision you have. You can always do it better than others; you have to if you want to be successful. Think NDA’s are going to save you? Think again. I’m not telling you to start flashing your idea around like a couple engaging in PDA at the bar, but do try to be more open about it. Don’t be paranoid, but don’t be careless either.

What’s an entrepreneur to do with an idea if not tell the world about it?


Obsession Is Your Enemy, Keep Him Close

A dose of obsession

I’ve talked about an entrepreneur’s best friend, so today I’ll talk about your enemy number one: obsession. Obsession, according to Dictionary.com, “is the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc”. Successful entrepreneurs obsess over their idea (and over every detail of their startup), unsuccessful entrepreneurs obsess over their idea as well (and every other detail of their startup, too). So what’s the difference??

Obsession isn’t all bad; Google offers the following synonyms for obsession: compulsion, infatuation and even passion. It’s also a strong desire, belief or love for something. It’s the kind of desire, belief, or love that gets you going, motivates you, encourages you, and drives you. In part, it takes a bit of obsession to get into entrepreneurship; an entrepreneur has to be a little bit crazy, right?

On the hand, obsession can be bad, it can be a disease, and perfection is often a symptom. Unfortunately, perfection is an inhibitor and it may lead to analysis paralysis, a state in which over-thinking actually stunts a startup’s growth by impairing your decision-making abilities. How can you sell your product if you’re spending too much time preparing a demo? How can you ship your product if you’re analyzing its design too deeply? How can you ship your product if you’re afraid of people’s reactions?

The good side of obsession is persistence, the bad side is blindness so beware tunnel vision. Find the balance that is right for you and steer your startup in the right direction. Use your obsession to push yourself forward, but don’t let it hold you back. Obsession is wanting to make dreams to come true, but is that really so crazy?

Can you tame your obsession?