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Tell Everyone About Your Business Idea - Don't Keep It A Secret (eaaasyusuf.blogspot.com)
44 points by tonyshili on Mar 19, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 24 comments

Ideas are worthless. Opportunities could have a lot of value. Or not. With tech ideas it's mostly not, but not always. This "ideas are worthless" -- which I firmly believe, by the way -- is just a rule of thumb. It's not one of the Ten Commandments.

Share ideas. Think a bit about sharing opportunities before you do.

I have an idea to sell apples. So what? Everybody does. Share it.

I have an opportunity to buy apples down the street at one dollar and sell them in a nearby town. In this town apples are already selling for ten dollars each and the vendors are constantly running out of stock.

In that case, I'd keep my mouth shut and go sell some apples.

Ideas are just little blurbs. Opportunities are descriptions of value.

The reason your "I'm making the next E-bay for Twitter Reputations" idea is worthless is because it's a blurb, like selling apples, it's not an opportunity.

Thank you for injecting some much needed nuance into this discussion. The "ideas are worthless" meme always rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed obvious to me of counter examples to this, where an idea at just the right time was the driving force behind success. You explained perfectly what I couldn't quite articulate.

Is there such a thing as a good idea that isn't an opportunity, and never was? Or is the difference between a good idea and an opportunity based solely on chronology?

I think the problem is that these Silicon Valley types (I'm in Sweden) have a very low barrier for what constitutes a "good idea". What they call ideas I think of as stoner musings. Like, uhm, Facebook for cats, man. Totally.

No one in my part of the world seems to believe in the "ideas are useless, so share them with everyone" meme at all and I think there's a reason for that.

Then again, I do share most of my ideas: http://ideashower.posterous.com

The only reason I'll ever keep quiet about some ideas I have is to prevent that feeling you get after telling someone about an idea. You know the one: the one where talking about what you're going to do emotionally equates to having already done it. So I may keep quiet until I either have something (anything) to show, or effectively abandon the project due to lack of interest or realizing it's a terrible idea anyway (anyone want instantrummage.com? ha!)

But in general, the article is completely correct. There's not really a good reason to keep an idea secret.

Yeah, I also think it can give you a negative stigma. We all have lots of ideas. If we tell everyone, every time we have an idea, we can start to look silly or naive or what have you in front of our peers. For some that is a mark a great person. For me, eh, I'll err on the side of caution. :)

When faced with this frequent question, I give a simple answer: "people copy success, they don't copy ideas".

By the idea your [lousy] idea becomes a success, copycats are far behind. So go ahead and spread your idea now, you'll get more feedback and iterate faster toward something that actually might succeed.

(*) by now I probably have heard close to 1,000 pitches

Yes, the benefits from sharing your idea greatly outweigh the risks that someone will “take” it and move faster than you.

With Alikewise, my little labor of love, my decision to pursue it (quit my job) was largely driven by the number of people whose eyes lit up when I told them the idea. Keeping it secret, I might not have thought it more than a trifle.

On the other side of it, think of the chain of events that needs to happen for someone to “steal” your idea:

- They need to understand it like you do – the implications, the possibilities, the vision. Even people that “like” your idea don’t see what you see.

- They need to have the skills to execute it.

- They have to make a sacrifice to execute it.

- They need to get the first 30, 50 and 1000 decisions right.

Not to mention, spreading the idea is a great way to find a partner.

Yeah but if you tell everyone, there's no reason you won't create 500 knockoffs, successful or not. What are all these benefits? Sure, you could many people to tell you what's wrong with it or how it can be better. Why not get advice from more trusted/private circles? Once it's out there, you can't take it back. My advice is to think this through carefully, don't just blindly accept the "ideas are worthless" and "be complately open" memes.

I do agree with the principals of this article. Talk about your idea to flush it out. I disagree with the article on the basis that there can be some tact applied to who, how and when you talk to different people.

There many pluses to talking to idea people early on in your development, potential private investors mid-way into development, or very network savvy people toward the end of development. Just starting to develop an idea and telling everyone you know doesn't make much sense to me.

Those were my exact thoughts. There is a difference in running an idea by a couple of people in order to get feedback. Telling the whole world is a completely different thing. There will be times when being ahead of a competitor - even only a couple of months - makes the difference between success and failure.

I think there's a bit of a false dichotomy between sharing what you're doing and keeping it secret. There are many different levels of openness and secrecy. People often err on the side of being too careful by not even talking about the problem space they're passionate about with others. People also err on the side of telling people about ideas they haven't even got around to exploring. Derek Sivers wrote a nice post about erring on the side of being too open, yet he is very talkative.


I'm not very good at picking my battles when it comes to sharing my technical interests but I'm getting better as I get experience.

I don't agree. I submit to you the world of knockoffs as a counterexample. I know of an idea out in the wild right now where the founder chose to tell everyone he could as soon as he could. There is a fairly bad MVP close too launch. The only saving it is that he hasn't been very successful in telling everyone he'd like about it. If many of you guys saw it in it's current state, I'm sure wouldn't be a massive undertaking to make a much better version, more directed. For the primary "tech," it's non-minified JS. This is a hotly debated topic but I think there should be some discretion; it's too easy to just flippantly say "ideas are worthless."

I got to say, it's really annoying to read articles about entrepreneurship that present dogmatic perspectives like this one.

Entrepreneurship is something that happens in the real world. The real world is a messy place. Just because you learned one lesson in a big way from your venture doesn't mean applies to everyone.

One of the big reasons I think I can succeed where most fail is that just taking the leap into entrepreneurship seems to make so many people turn their brains off.

Number 5 is the one that took me the longest to figure out but it is so true. There is basically no chance someone hasn't thought of what you are thinking of.

Agreed. Times when I was afraid to tell other people about something I was working on/wanted to achieve were the same times as when it/I wasn't good enough.

This made me think of it a little differently. You know, I've never regretted not telling the whole my ideas but I could think of many examples where I would regret it, if I had. In fact, it seems very odd anyone would regret not telling everyone, including all of your potential big name competitors, your ideas. You'd have to be really wrapped in that meme :)

HN is hypocritical.

On one hand, people here consider ideas to be worthless and put Execution on a pedestal.

On the other hand, pure-execution copycats like the Samwer brothers are lambasted for their unoriginal ways.

Then again, maybe we just need better definitions of "idea" and "execution"...

There are business segments where this flies. In most other areas you'll be robbed blind and left for dead on the side of the street.

I disagree actually, though for reasons other than in the article.

The big danger is not in being robbed, really, but in bigger established companies coming out with a clone to compete against you and then, after they drive you out of business, dropping the clone as not profitable enough.

Which could happen regardless of if you tell people your ideas or not.

Beware the naked man who offers you his shirt.

Zynga is a counter example to this. They regularly copy ideas and change them a little bit.

While it's not bad to get some feedback, blabbing about your great new idea to the world might not be wise. A bigger company could easily come along and beat you to the market because they have more resources.

The idea from one of my first startups came from another startup. They had a private beta and I was able to get to market first. It didn't work out in the end (this was 10 years ago), but I would have never even had the idea if I didn't see them talking about their idea months before it was even ready for beta.

Why bring on that competition before you can even get off the ground?

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