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February 29, 2020

Why No-One Will Steal Your Business Idea (So Stop Worrying!)

I used to think entrepreneurship was all about having a great idea in my 20’s. I would think to myself, “If I can only think up the next Facebook, then I’ll make a ton of money!”

But, when I actually got into creating a real business, I learned that ideas are a dime a dozen. Let’s go over why it’s ridiculous to worry about other people stealing your business ideas.

Actually Building Something is Hard

My first attempt at building a business failed. Not because I had a bad idea, but because I failed to actually finish building it.

In my early twenties, I was trying to build an app while working a full-time job. I was a good software developer, I figured I’d be able to finish an app in no time.

I quickly learned that after coding all day long for my job, the last thing I wanted to do was write more computer code. Even if I did feel like writing computer code after work, I only had an hour or two to be productive. The other option was to give up my weekends, but I rarely felt like doing that either.

Months went by, and I didn’t finish the app. Years went by, and I didn’t finish the app. Heck, I still haven’t built that app over a decade later!

Executing a business idea is harder than you think. It requires a certain level of talent. Even if you are willing to sacrifice massive amounts of time, building something isn’t as easy as it looks!

Ain’t Nobody Got Time to Steal Your Idea

Over the years, I’ve gotten way more productive. Now when I set my mind on building a business, I have the talent to actually build it.

Despite that, building a business no matter how small takes up tremendous amounts of time. Writing this blog post took a few hours. Writing an entire blog worth of blog posts is something that took me years. Building a new app would take months of my life. The list goes on, building stuff takes time.

To steal your idea, I’d have to drop the business ideas I’m already working on. There aren’t enough hours in the day to build both businesses.

That’s like worrying another parent is going to think your kid is so great that he steals him. Our own businesses give us enough problems already, we don’t want yours.

You’re Not That Original

Every time I would have a “good idea,” I’d immediately Google it to see if I was the first person to ever think it. 99% of the time, there was an entire website or app already dedicated to that thing. If not, there was definitely a series of Reddit posts discussing it at length.

The Internet is a humbling place. It makes you realize how difficult it is to have an original thought.

It begs the question, “If your idea is not original, then why are you hiding it?”

90% of People Aren’t Entrepreneurs

It takes talent to build a business. A regular guy isn’t going to overhear your idea, put his life on hold, and then become capable of beating you to market.

In theory, only the 10% of Americans that are business owners would steal your idea. Which seems like a lot of people, except that’s counting everyone who makes 1099 income.

In reality, significantly fewer people than 10% are capable of stealing your idea. 99.9% of people either don’t have the talent or are in a completely different niche. For example, I create software tools to help bloggers blog, how many people are in that niche worldwide? I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never met one in person.

People Are Going To See Your Idea Very Soon

Being first to market is a big deal for branding. It’s often better to be first than good. So I can relate to being fearful that somebody beats you to market.

But, the second your product hits the market, it’s not a secret anymore. There’s a very short window in which somebody could get a head start copying your idea.

If people want to copy your idea, they’ll copy it. I have a few thoughts on this.

  1. It’s a good thing if people want to copy your idea. It means it worked!
  2. If your idea is easily copyable and crushed by that competition, maybe it wasn’t a great idea after all.

Marketing is All That Matters

I created a Blog and YouTube channel as a way to sell my apps for free. Because even if you create an excellent app, you still have to sell it. People don’t magically find your app simply because it’s good. You have to get it in front of them.

Imagine we both created a piece of software from the same idea. Only your app came out way better than mine did. We launch on the same day, with two differences.

  1. I’m selling my app on my Blog, YouTube Channel, and via Ad Networks.
  2. You’re not.

Whose app would get more downloads? The answer is mine, and it’s not close. It doesn’t matter that your app was better. Marketing, in many ways, is the most essential part!

And if marketing is the most critical piece, then why was your idea so valuable again?

There’s Room For More Than One Player

Even though I out-marketed your app, your app will probably still find some success. There is room for more than 1 player in almost any market.

For example, how many email marketing companies are there? Let’s count. There’s MailChimp, ConvertKit, SendinBlue, Klaviyo, Drip, Hubspot, and more. Seriously, I could list 100 companies, and they all make money.

If your idea is McDonald’s, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a Burger King, Arby’s, Hardy’s, Wendy’s, Five Guys, and more. Even if somebody blatantly stole your idea, it’s not stopping either of you from becoming successful.

Big Players Are Too Big To Steal

Google has definitely tried to steal what other tech giants are doing before (Google+ anyone?). That said, notice the word I used was “Tech Giants.”

Google is a big company run by shareholders. If they’re stealing an idea, it’s an idea that has already reached critical mass. They make too much money to take ideas that will only net them a million dollars a year. However, for a regular person, a million+ dollars a year is a life-changing amount of money.

For a tech Giant to steal your idea, you have to be approaching a “B.” As in a Billion dollar valuation. Before that, you’re not on their radar.

All Businesses Pivot

YouTube started as a dating site, Shopify sold snowboards, Slack was a video game. I could go on.

The point is that your final product will not be your original idea. And in a lot of cases, your final product may not even resemble your initial design. I can guarantee you that this will happen. It happened to me several times already when starting businesses.

If your final product doesn’t even resemble your initial idea, why are you protecting it?

Every Person Would Implement The Same Idea Differently

I’m building an iPad/Mac app that syncs with my blog and has a ton of cool blogging features built-in. Dark-mode, markdown, distraction-free writing, etc.

Go ahead and copy my idea, I dare you. First off, you won’t. But, even if you did based on that description, we’d come up with two products that look nothing alike. People interpret business models incredibly differently.

Even if you stole my idea, what you’d build would look nothing like what I’m building. So why hide the idea to begin with? If I can blatantly tell you what I’m thinking and you still can’t create a clone of it, what’s with the secrecy?

You’re Secretly More Afraid of Failure Than Somebody Stealing Your Idea

We tell ourselves the reason we don’t want to share our ideas with others is that they might copy us.

But, that’s bullshit. The primary reason you don’t want to share your idea is that you don’t want to put yourself out there. You’re afraid of mockery; you’re scared of what other people think, you’re worried you might fail. Rather than admit that, you blame thieves that don’t exist for your lack of sharing.

If you’re honest with yourself, that’s what’s going on. And it’s surprisingly normal to feel this way. But, recognize it for what it is, a bad habit. One that you should rid yourself of immediately.

This fear is actually the theme of this blog. Failure Mountain is based on the idea that we fail upward. If you start doing business stuff, you’re going to look like a jackass more than once. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

But, you learn so much from looking like an idiot. And you grow. Grow to the point where you become a giant. Standing on a mountain of your own failures.

But first, you have to have the courage to put yourself out there. Will you do that?

When Shaun Poore got into entrepreneurship, he thought that your business idea was the most important part of your startup and thus needed to be protected at all costs. Through experience, Shaun now understands that your idea really doesn't need any special guarding for 99.9% of new entrepreneurs.

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