I recently received an email from an entrepreneur wanting advice on a very delicate subject: whether or not he should start a business based on an idea he has.
As well, he asks, should he tell people about his idea, or keep it secret to prevent people from going into competition with him?
Here's a copy of my reply:
Hi Drake (not his real name). You face a common dilemma. Is your idea worth pursuing? Only you can decide that.
Is someone else doing it? Even if they are, your approach might be so different that it is still worth doing.
I hope you don't mind if I answer your question with a link to a past article. I wrote it for entrepreneurs like you who are trying to decide whether a business concept is worth pursuing.
I'd be pleased to hear if this helps you at all. If not, I'm happy to continue the conversation.
Above all, keep in mind that you have more to gain from sharing your business idea than by keeping it secret. There are so many business opportunities out there, it is pretty unlikely that anyone would steal your idea. Even if they do, if you are the right person to launch this business, you are bringing to it certain skills or market knowledge that will be very hard to duplicate. If anyone can just walk in and compete with you with no specific training, investment or learning curve, you're definitely in the wrong business.
On the other hand, talking about your business to people you meet and trust will likely result in valuable suggestions, market insights, competitive information, contacts, and possibly even leads. (If your business requires securing certain scarce resources, such as URLs or other forms of intellectual property, make sure you have those in hand first.) Overall, my motto is: Tell everyone you can, as soon as you can.
Best of luck. Let me know how things go.
Have another suggestion for Drake? Leave a comment below.