There are hundreds, probably thousands of challenges involved in starting and scaling a venture, there is no need to add more. If I had a dime for every entrepreneur who came to me for advice and started off the conversation by telling me that her idea is under wraps and not to talk about it, I would be able to fund them all, and have some left over capital to buy myself a Bentley. Here is the secret to startups in 2018: There are no secrets.
Now before I jump into why keeping your startup idea to yourself is a bad idea, let me just say, I am not, by any means, implying that you should buy a billboard on which you broadcast your idea to the world, nor should you go around talking about it with strangers who you do not know or trust. Having said that, from there to not talking about it at all is a huge leap, and a dangerous one. Allow me to explain.
How many times have you had a thought, an idea, and in your mind, it made total sense, but when you shared it with someone else, that person pointed out that you had actually forgotten something that made your idea totally unfeasible? It happens to me all the time. By talking about your startup idea, again, with people you trust, you are able to collect feedback.
By sharing your idea with people you trust, you might become aware of competitors you did not know about, challenges you were unaware of, or maybe even fundamental flaws in the possible go-to-market strategy.
In the early days of building a venture, feedback is key, and by keeping your idea hush-hush, you are basically preventing yourself from accessing this important step.
Building A Community
By talking to your friends and colleagues about your idea, you are in essence involving them in the process. You are engaging them in your journey, which turns them into partners, something you will benefit from when you eventually do launch.
Many years ago, when I launched my first startup, I talked to anyone who would listen about the idea. The day I launched, I received hundreds of emails from those people telling me that they felt like this was their launch, that they were part of this exciting day. I did not know it then, but by involving these people in every step of the process, what I had in essence done, was build a very engaged community of eventual users and even ambassadors.
Preparing Yourself For Launch
In addition to the benefits of getting feedback and building a community, by sharing your idea with others, you also prepare yourself for the questions you will be getting later on from investors, journalists, and partners.
"Isn't that a very saturated market?" "Isn't that other company that raised hundreds of millions doing the same thing as you?" "How will you ever acquire enough users to build a sustainable business out of this?"
When you talk to people about your idea, you are able to train yourself to take on, and answer the toughest questions. Embrace those questions and use them to become a better entrepreneur.
But... What About Being First?
And to address the reason people keep their ideas a secret in the first place, "If I talk about it, won't I risk the danger of someone stealing my idea and going to market before me? Isn't it crucial that I am first to market?"
Well, to sum up the response to that in one word? No.
It is not crucial that you are first to market. Apple was not first. Facebook was not first Google was not first. First doesn't matter. Execution matters. Let someone else try, and you out-execute them.
Let's put it this way. Like every decision in life, you should weigh the pros and cons of sharing your idea. The cons? Someone you trust might turn on you and steal your idea, which would mean that you have to work harder to make your product that much better. Sounds like a win to me.
The pros? Feedback, community, and preparing yourself better for the upcoming journey of building a large successful business. Win.