New business idea: should I put it on the open Web?
Say I have this new bus idea, not sure whether it's great or not. Should I put it on the open Web on my blog? Would I get honest feedback, maybe support or would it simply get stolen?
Great question. You need feedback to validate your idea. To make sure there is a big enough pain and the solution is ultimately something people will pay for. You can only get this feedback by talking to others. That said, how you talk about it and to whom is always a big question when starting out. You don't need to give away your secret sauce, but can often talk to people about the problem and the general solution (keeping specifics out of the initial discussion). Depending on what your idea is and how specific or general you frame the discussion may impact who you talk too. If you really need to get into specifics, then you may want to start with a small group you know and trust. If you can keep it a bit broader, then get feedback more broadly. With my idea, I initially reached out to a group of people I knew, then I started building a small beta site and invited a larger group (but still targeted mostly people I knew) and once I got additional feedback from this beta group, I launched more broadly. At the end of the day, ideas are the easy part. It's executing on those ideas that is hard. And you need to go out and talk to people to make sure your are working on the right solution to the right problem. Last, but very important, if intellectual property is potentially involved, always consult an IP lawyer first so you don't lose any IP rights. Best of luck!
Open web or blog is most likely to get it stolen by the first few people that can figure put how to monetize this. Do you have a trusted circle of advisors? Maybe a few bright business people that are objective and too busy loving what they do to mess with taking your idea? I know some people have put together a personal, "Board of Advisors," for just this type of reason.
I will take a different angle here based on my own experience (start-up founder and lawyer.) Your gut tells you that you cannot share your idea too much because someone might take it. That is a logical fear. However, most successful start-up founders will tell you that they gained more by being open and sharing than by being closed and secretive. You cannot let the fear of a stolen idea stop you from moving forward - which is what it is doing now. For all you know someone is already working on your idea or something similar. Right not you need speed - learn if your idea in unique, actionable, and if you have the resources to make it real. Worry about the big details later - you can talk about your concept without disclosing the actual IP.
My suggestion - find a Startup Weekend (startupweekend.org) event near you and go pitch your idea. BTW you just missed the London SW but i am sure there are other nearby in the near future.
If not SW - find a start-up orientated co-working space or better yet a start-up accelerator or incubator near you. They typically have great folks to talk things through with.
Last of all remember that an idea in and of itself is worthless -everyone has them. It is what you do with it that makes it valuable. So own it and do not be afraid of someone taking it away. I they do then you were not the right one to launch it or you can still proceed and do it better than them. Being a market-maker can create huge burdens that a fast follower can capitalize on.
Mary-Alice is right, you can keep your "secret sauce" (such as a unique software engineering method or scheme), but share almost everything else to get feedback (and even good ideas you never thought about).
For instance, I have a software company developing an AI system to train entrepreneurs. I launch Free Business Academy to offer FREE training to entrepreneurs, and ask people for feedback on that.
I'm sure about my AI system, but not sure about what entrepreneurs need, how much they'd pay to have their own AI system running their biz, etc. So I ask everybody for feedback!
Thanks! I've talked to trusted friends and colleagues and got a general, positive feedback. Thing is that may not be qualified enough and I'd need advice from pros in the field.
@Mary-Alice it's a good idea to start small with a beta-version, but that woud mean already investing time and resources. I'm still one step before that: is the idea good enough to invest any more time? I've not found anything similar yet because it's so good that nobody thought about that or is it so bad that nobody would even consider it? Or, I simply haven't looked properly?
@Brooks I do have my small "board of advisors", but all work on media, which is the industry I'm in, very different from the idea I'm thinking of. I'm aware of the risk, but what's the point keeping ideas in a drawer for so long, just waiting for the day you read it on the papers? Would you take the risk just for the sake to see it happen, one way or another? Maybe I should just post an abstract on my blog and see what happens. It's called Ideas Open Source, so maybe I should truly fulfill the promise... Not sure I'm ready though
Thanks for all ideas and suggestions. I will try first to talk to somebody from the industry. People I've approached in the past were not really helpful, so I'll look again.
Then I will look for a startupweekend in London (I heard there was an event a few weeks ago) or the Google Campus. Funny enough the Campus is open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm which is exactely my working hours: I should take a day off to go there...
I will also investigate an incubator thru my university and the Alumni association and see if I can picth there,
Time, more than money, is my scarce resource and I'm really far from quitting my job to try this full time.
I have to say I'm still tempted to put it on my blog (which is very small by the way) and share it, hoping to get good and honest feedback.
Personally, I'd be hesitant to put any idea on the web, even if I didn't think it was a great one. All it takes is one person with talent and money/resources to compete with you and take it.
However, whether I'd share the idea also depends on how unique/good I think it is. If my idea was something like "Create a pizza shop with fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes," I'd be fine with sharing this publicly because there are tons of closely related companies. But if I was Larry Page or Sergey Brin (founders of Google) in the late 90's, I'd be privately rushing to build a prototype to give me a headstart on the competition.
I'll also agree with Mary that execution is ultimately the most important thing. But in the early going, sometimes execution is limited by resources. So if you don't have funding, keeping it private or with trusted friends/family might be the way to go.
Don't make the mistake of hesitating with a new idea for fear of losing it. Even if you are unable to proceed with it immediately, begin doing the ground work etc for it as if you did.
I have a great idea, and although the resources required are not in place at the moment, I keep developing the idea, improving it and testing it, so when everything is ready, a lot of the hard work or proof of concept work is done.
Adopt the lean startup approach.
Use a business model canvas http://bmfiddle.com - the canvas will be your your scorecard as you develop your idea.
Start with blocks 1 and 2 - value proposition and customer segments.
The items on the canvas are all really guesses. So once you have them on the canvas you need to validate them - turn guesses in facts by proving them true or false. You do this with tests.
Depending on the nature of your idea it may be viable to create a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) with which to test (a prototype version with limited features).
Tests can also be a simple webpage with information and "sign up" form to gauge interest. Validating by talking to potential customers etc.
Update the canvas as you get results and add new "guesses".
This approach will minimize waste/costs and get you to a working solution quicker.
Luca, I am a serial entrepreneur. When you get an idea YOU believe in, study it, research for similar ideas (Google?), put the fear of succeeding or not away - there is no place for fear as an entrepreneur. If you never fail, nor will you succeed if you never try. When you have tossed every facet of your plan back and forth like a big piece of bubble gum for weeks or months, even years, contemplate problems, staffing, end product, etc. but don't panic, just prepare from beginning to end. Owning your own business is no different than having a baby. You will plan; plans will change - be ready. Know your product. Once you OWN it in your heart, register the name you choose for your new business and sign up with your local Municipal Building, and an LLC group. You can find one here on the Internet. Legal Zoom. I am not sure if they cover Australia, but they can direct you. None of this is expensive. With all of this belief in yourself, pick a website maker. Tell the world what you have to offer. Remember the economy slump and make your service more than reasonable. Google offers a free website. Wordpress will put you on the map. Facebook is doing a fantastic job at getting into the website business. Set a timeline for the amount of money you want to invest in your fame and fortune. I set 3 years for my first business. If I was not making a profit by then, it was time to find employment again. So your budget is something to study closely in the beginning. Just do it, Luca. Fear is what stands between all business men/women and entrepreneurship. Kitty Kelso p.s. Good Luck, keep me posted. Ask questions. I am in the process of starting a new venture at LI and FB. I am drawing on my wall. I think big. It's in my blood. You can do this. ....
Here's a tip from NYU Stern where I coach MBA candidates on startups. Candidates are encouraged to market test their ideas with 'man-on-the-street interviews that lead to commitment in the for form of an email for more information, a donation of some nominal amount to support the idea, or signing a form stating their interest.
The idea is posed as a what if....in the case of Pinterest, born at NYU, the question was posed as: what if there was a platform where you could post pictures about your interests....for example, books, flowers, fashion, videos, etc. The students received email addresses as a form of commitment to the concept.
It's the concept of the idea that you want to market test first.
This past summer, I conducted a market test on Linkedin on the topic of career. The real secret sauce in this format is gathering the pain points of what's missing in the market place where you learn where you can fill in the gaps.
This is not scientific, but it does result in real world response from which you can craft your business plan.
Personally I am not a fan of posting the idea either in an open Web on you blog.
The other avenue you might explore is interviewing the people you think are in your target market and pose questions as what if.
May I recommend Disrupt by Luke William who lays out exactly how to test ideas in live markets.
You can also research LinkedIn answers which I did and discovered my idea was not compelling, which led to a refined concept, launching in 2 weeks.
You will receive honest feed back on your idea and concept and much unsolicited advice on what the listener would want to have, use or own.
By the way, everyone here gave you really good insight and advice. So I thought I'd add my two cents too. :)
Hope this helps.
I think after modeling your business, raising key issues, possible problems, you should try an experiment. Before you run this experiment make sure you target your audience first (who probably you will give an honest feedback). Try a online survey to identify as many key issues as possible. Do not make a website/blog with all possible or conceivable features. Try to get things done by a simple process. Protect your IP running small experiments divided into parts. Good luck and send me news.
Keep your idea close to your chest. Research it first until you know whether it's great or not.
Luca, I just went through this myself. I have found more people willing to help than wanting to steal my idea. My product was very time sensitive, (mobile app for car dealers) and although there was competition, it was unique in its ability. Someone else touched on the bigger issue. Ideas are the easy part, don't under estimate what it really takes to get to market. It may seem incredible and simple to you but conveying that message at a profit is the real challenge.
You will probably find out, that all of it may happen simultaneously.
It depends, how big it really is. If you suspect it is not that big you may want to float it to make it better, if it is big, I would only do it if it benefits from network effects. Most ideas get commoditized on Internet. It's the big flattener.
If you make it public, you have to expect others may adopt it as their own, so clearly you need to tread with caution. If there is anything remotely resembling IP in your idea, then absolutely not.
If feedback is what you are after, approach your close network, armed with an NDA if necessary, and get them to let you know what they think.
If you have a good idea and want to lose it, then share it on the internet.
If your idea is good and you want to protect it, consult with a patent lawyer.
And then share it, but only with people you trust.
I wouldn't worry too much about others stealing your idea. For example, I heard a very successful business person give a speech where he said that he has so many great business ideas that he can't possibly implement them all. They're still great ideas so he shares them when he speaks to audiences of about 5,000 people. He said that, on average, of those audiences, maybe 2 people do anything with the idea.
And everyone will implement a new idea differently. Three people may start companies that solve the same problem in generally the same way. All three can be successful (and possibly work together) if they're targeting different niches or are very conscious of their branding (companies that don't do this generally aren't very successful).
Putting an idea on your blog may or may not help, depending on your readership and why they read your blog. I agree with Joshua to get involved in your local startup community. Talk to experts at starting similar companies (serial entrepreneurs, investors) and listen to their advice. At this point, don't talk to lawyers and the like who can strangle a great idea before it's ever hatched.
Why don't you go a step ahead!!??
research about your idea a bit more,
write a brief,
record a video
and upload to kickstarter.com!!?
There you will have basically two important things, feedback and money to start a prototype or right the business... and as a plus possible help
I would do this, in fact.....I'm doing this!
Wish you the best and as some others said DON'T HESITATE! in a creative process you will ALWAYS think at some point that your idea is not worthy enough, is natural just FORGET! that thought and keep going....
Clearly, the answer is "it depends". If someone that visits your site perceives that idea is good, he's got right abilities to do it, and that you are unlikely to make any quick progress, yes you will get stolen. From other people you might get honest feedback.
Generally, I wouldn't recommend going to web before you have something more than just conceptual ideas, the later you go the more likely you will receive only the benefits and not the problems.
Two things to consider:
#1 Consider ability to patent and protect your idea once you share it. I am not sure of the patent laws in Europe, but in Australia you are NOT supposed to divulge your idea to anybody before you patent it (excluding where NDA and confidentiality agreements exist). Doing so is crossing the threshold of making your idea public and therefore not being 'revolutionary'.
#2: On the idea of startup weekends & pitch events, personally I am cautious on this. Getting together in a room full of entrepreneurs who build businesses from viable ideas, who have networks of capable teams to deliver these ideas and then telling this group your 'unprotected' idea... that just seems like a recipie of circumstances to avoid, in my personal opinion.