Free your ideas
This is the first of hopefully many blog posts for Kicklet. Good product blogs are hard. Most are vehicles for fluff about how great the product is or how awesome the company building it is. At their core, they’re essentially hollow marketing tools. We're going to do our best to keep the fluff to a minimum and give readers something useful. This brings me to our first topic: ideas.
I've been meeting with a number of developers and entrepreneurs lately and many share the fear that someone is going to steal their “million-dollar” idea or project they're working on. Please don't do this. You're only hurting yourself. Free yourself of secrecy and harmful NDAs and let me share why I think you’re better off letting others in on your plan to join the three comma club.
Before I go any further, let me clarify that when I use the term “product” in this post I’m not just referring to things created for sale, but to all projects that have a clear creation process, whether or not they're ever sold. Products in this sense can refer to anything from mobile apps to games (videogames, card games, or board games even), business applications, social networks, books, movies, or even physical goods.
To start, I’d like to share the 3 most common excuses I hear, and why they’re nothing to worry about:
Excuse #1: Someone could steal our idea.
You're right. Someone could steal your idea. Worrying about it is a bit silly though. Here's why we think so.
- If it's a good idea, there's a good chance that several other people are already working on it. Talking to others can help you discover your competition (I've personally had this happen).
- If it's a great idea, you probably reached it because you have some expertise on the subject. If you're trying to create a successful product, you should be the best person for the job, after all. If you are the most qualified creator, your version will be better than anyone else's, so making others aware of it won't hurt you. If they copy you, they'll always be one step behind. If you're not the best person to create it, then you probably won't create the best version of it and it will likely result in a failed product anyway. If it's something that lots of people could do, refer to the first bullet point.
- Most people with the drive and entrepreneurial spirit to build something are generally working on it already. It's usually something they believe in too. It's unlikely these people are going to drop whatever they've been passionately working on just to steal your idea.
- If your great idea is so simple that someone could copy it tomorrow, they're going to do it as soon as it hits the market anyway. Build it today, and then talk about it.
What about the Winkelvoss twins? Sigh... Well, they did make something like $65 million in their Facebook settlement if that's any consolation (it should be). Take that $65 million you earn in your settlement and create something else. Or buy an island and retire.
Excuse #2: It's not finished yet.
This is one excuse I've never understood. It's fine if whatever you're building isn't finished. This shouldn't keep you from talking about it. Some things are hard to explain, sure. Eventually, you'll have to convince people to use your product though. While something might make sense to you, making it a success will require you to convince others of its value. Get started on this as early as you can, even if it means bumbling through words at first, because it could take awhile to perfect. Talk about it until your pitch becomes polished and clear.
Excuse #3: It can only survive if it reaches market share before the copiers do. (e.g. social networks)
You're going to have a tough road ahead, and there's no easy answer here. If it's something simple (e.g. Snapchat), then others could certainly copy it if you don't get to market first. However, if it's that simple, you're really only talking about a couple weeks before you can get it to market. Maybe don't tell the world about it during the couple weeks it takes to build an MVP, but you'll need to tell people about it once it's up (you want users, right?).
If you don't have the ability to build it yourself, you're going to have an even tougher road ahead. You'll have no other option than to contract it out or talk to someone and convince him or her to work with you.
If it's something more complicated, most people aren't going to be interested in stealing the idea anyway. Complex social networks are no small task to build, will likely not be profitable for a very long time, and its success will lie in your ability to get users to believe in and adopt your product. There are probably thousands of social networks out there right now that have such small user bases that they'll never succeed financially. Let’s be honest. There are easier, more profitable ideas for people to steal.
The benefits of talking about your idea or project
I've already touched on a few of these benefits above, but here's a list of why we believe you should talk to people about whatever you're working on.
- Idea validation. Don't spend 2 years of your time and resources working on something that may have an overlooked fatal flaw. Find out as early as you can if it's something people will actually use.
- Feedback. Even if your idea is viable, your approach might not be perfect. To save yourself time and headaches down the road, get feedback on every aspect of your product as soon as possible. Get feedback on your message, design, user experience, and marketing/branding. Then iterate and get more feedback. Realize that not all feedback is good though, and you'll need to discern what feedback is worth acting on.
- Find users that believe in what you're doing without additional effort. Through validation and feedback, you'll find people that want to use your product (assuming validation goes well). Having a way to re-engage with these people once you're ready to launch your product will make building your user base much easier. Collect their emails or something, so when you're trying to find people to use your product, you'll have a head start on some people that are already interested.
- Nail your pitch. Like feedback will help you adjust your product, talking about it to others unfamiliar with it will help you perfect your pitch. Your idea probably makes perfect sense to you in your head, but describing it in an appealing way to others in ~60 seconds usually takes some practice. Perfecting this pitch will probably result in slight changes to your messaging and marketing too.
Easier said than done
We believe in what we're saying. We talk to friends and even strangers about ideas all the time. It's not hard to find threads on sites like Hacker News or Reddit of people sharing what they're working on or even just free ideas they're willing to give away. In addition to sharing some of the things we're working on, we'll be periodically sharing some free ideas we'd love to see made. Still uneasy about talking about whatever you're working on? Let me know why in the comments.