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Not telling anyone about your idea is the worst thing you can do. When people come to me and say “I have an idea for a business” but then won’t talk about it or want me to sign an NDA I know that their business will never happen (and I refuse to sign NDAs I think they are a waste of time).
The key point is that people think that it is the idea that is important. In my opinion the idea counts for less than 10%; its the execution – making the idea happen – that is worth 90%, and what we are seeing is people overvaluing their ideas. They hide them away like a gem that they don’t want stolen.
So how do you bring your idea to reality (which is actually what should motivate you – seeing your idea flourish) and if you are in it to try to get funding from silicon valley and flip it to make a load of money, they I wish you failure, because that’s not what its about. Money is just a byproduct of successful ideas happening, not the reason for making them happen. The way to make your idea happen is to share it with as many people as possible who can help you make it happen, or whose opinions you value.
Especially the company you work for. Getting your company behind your idea is way easier than hacking away at it in your bedroom then trying to get some random investor or other company interested in it. The reality is that most of the time the IP you develop while you are at work belongs to the company you work for anyway, but that is a good thing as they will really push it (they are never going to push other people’s IP), and they will likely be way better at making it happen than you will.
“But then the company makes money and not me!” Well that’s the reality yes, but the more ideas you have that make your company successful, the more you will rise to the top of that company and be successful yourself, and the more amazing your CV will look. If you are not happy at the top of your company, or are not getting there, then take all that learning and success and get a kick ass job in another company, or go out on your own and start your own company if that’s what you want. Marissa Meyer is a really good example here. She did great work at Google, and now she is CEO of Yahoo. If she had sat on her ideas, or tried to do them herself in her spare time she would never be where she is today.
[It is worth noting that the company you work for should give you credit, career advancement and rewards if your idea turns out to be amazing. If your company won't do that, then quit and find one that will, there are more and more of them around these days]
But many people say “Why don’t I start my own company and run it in my spare time, while getting a salary from company X”. Believe me that is hard. I tried that with Tigerspike and KPMG and it just doesn’t work. They both suffer, and at companies like KPMG your performance can’t suffer for long before you are found out. If you have started a company on the side, and your day to day work is not suffering then take an honest look at yourself. If you are the sort of person that can start a company and makes it successful, then you should be in a job that demands your time and headspace. If you are cruising in your day to day job and have lots of spare time, then sorry to say this but you are probably not the sort of person who can make your own company successful. If you were that person you would be in a job that didn’t allow for companies on the side, and you wouldn’t be satisfied just cruising.
Its important to look beyond the company you are working for, but also realize that the company can help you too. Think of the rewards of seeing your awesome idea come to life. The reality is that ideas are not hard to come by, and if you have had one good one chances are you will have many. I believe that if you share ideas they will happen and seeing your ideas happen is amazing. You will be successful, either with your current company (if they are one of the good ones), or on your own once you have proven to yourself and others that your ideas can happen.
But life is way too short to hide your ideas away and be mistrustful of companies and people. The only thing that will happen then is you will get older and older and carry NDAs around with you so you can tell stories about how your idea is so amazing but someone else is to blame for it not happening.