How do I protect my ideas when meeting with people who could help me?
BY Guy Kawasaki
Finance & Capital mentor Guy Kawasaki responds: When you are presenting information to potential investors, you have to be careful. Before meeting with any investor whom you don't know personally, do your own due diligence. Has this investor funded a potential competitor? How well does the investor understand your market space? What is the investor's reputation in the start-up community?
When you first talk to investors, ask them questions about their own expertise and investing experience. Ask right off the bat if they have financed a rival company or if they are considering any investments in a company in the same market space. Give investors enough information to get them interested in your business, but don't provide any critical or confidential details until you are comfortable with them as potential partners. Most venture capitalists won't sign nondisclosure agreements, so the burden of protecting your information is on you.
Most investors are very busy and won't be too patient when meeting with start-ups. They are inundated with companies looking for funding. The key to a successful investor meeting -- and to protecting your intellectual property -- is getting the investors interested in the concept and comfortable with the team and technology without giving away too much about your start-up. Don't be paranoid, but be smart and prepared.