Aaron on NDAs

Mar 5, 2010 business
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From time to time, I get approached with a new project from an excited business person. They are just bursting to tell me all about it, to see if I can help them out (or even make it for them), and looking for some clarification on their next steps. This inevitably is hindered by my reluctance to answer their first email. You know that email. The one that includes the attached Non Disclosure Agreement.

Why the Entrepreneur Thinks They Need It

Hey - it’s your baby, I understand. You were watching the market, saw a need, and put together your thoughts. You spawned this idea, mulled it around, and started coming up with a plan. You put a lot of yourself into this idea and you don’t want anyone to steal this from you. People who come up with new business ideas want to protect this intellectual process and product. Once again, I understand that. Your idea is amazing and you’re afraid that someone (like me??) will steal it. I’m sorry, but let me burst your bubble:

No one cares.

Ideas are Easy

No one wants to hear that their ideas don’t matter. It’s hurtful to one’s ego. But it’s the truth. Chances are you’ve worked under a boss before. You came up with a great idea and brought it up the chain. Finally, someone said “that’s great, but show me it in practice.” You were sent back to your hideaway to actually implement the idea. And that’s the key point here.

Implementation is Key

People are scared. Implementation is scary. This may mean loans, taking risks, and failure. Lots of failure. This is where the real value is. Once you have your idea solidified, you move forward with gathering resources to implement this. You still have an agile business so you can move into any niche and explore any market while planning your implementation.

When is this less the case? Giant, giant corporations. These are guys who have no wiggle room, their market is heavily saturated, and they have the resources to implement anything their heart desires. Think Insurance companies, auto mobile makers, grocery stores. This is where that idea becomes valuable. For the 99% of us left, however, it’s the implementation.

First of all, there is not a lot of successful court cases where the NDA was upheld. After doing a quick court search, you can verify this yourself. To top it off, the cost you incur getting your lawyer all over this case (most likely while the other side ignores you), can be very detrimental to your overall business growth. Basically, you’ll probably bankrupt your business at a chance that you won’t win. Scroll up - it’s all about implementation.

Second, it is a legal document. I am not going to sign a legal document without a lawyer. The only way I can balance my cost in this is to charge you to deliver a quote. Cool? Probably not.

Finally, do you know what you’re asking? For the most part, the NDAs I’ve seen have been way too overarching. They’ve attempted to take away rights that I have for my own products, thoughts and services that are not used to implement your product. They also attempt to limit the knowledge that I submit to the general public in direct contrast to the license that we must agree with to use some open source products. (This means, some products I will use to implement your idea have a license that requires any modification I do to them needs to be submitted back to the community.)

What Does This Mean?

I’m taking a bold step:

I will not sign the NDA.

With all of this background information, let me give you my reasons:

  • Idea vs implementation. You will be successful by your implementation. Ideas are easy. If you don’t believe me, let’s go get a beer. I’ll give you five free business ideas.

  • For every five ideas I can give you, there are five other people with their own idea. I hear a lot of these. I want to help you succeed but I can’t always be as invested as you.

  • You already trust me. You must believe that I can do the work I say I can. This is why you’re coming to me for a quote. Also, the internet makes the world a small place. It is not in my best interest to leak details - or I become Pariah #1.

  • It’s a legal document. I am not a lawyer.

  • It’s just another document with my signature on it that I have to track. I hate paper.

  • Chances are, it’s far too restrictive and I can’t agree to it in it’s current form.

This is a benefit for you

If you’re still reticent to send me your idea and have me help you, let me state it a different way. If we’re not busy working out details of our ‘secrets,’ we can be working on the project. I bet you want this yesterday. So do I. Let’s do it now - instead of waiting for something (such as an NDA) that is no longer providing any value to either of us. Let’s get it DONE!

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