When I was in Chile, most of the Chilean entrepreneurs were afraid to talk about their ideas. They would say "I'm working on a project in technology" or "I have an Internet startup that I think can change the world." I’m seeing the same problem in Madison, especially with young or first-time entrepreneurs. It's a huge problem in places that would like to become startup hotbeds. People are afraid to talk about their startup ideas, mainly because they think people will steal their ideas.
In the Valley, NYC, Boulder, Austin and other startup hubs, everyone talks openly about their business. It's how you test your ideas and get feedback. I can't count the number of times I've gotten a great feedback from other entrepreneurs. Other times times someone has said "oh, that's an awesome idea, you need to meet so and so" or "I'm a reporter for (insert publication), I'd love to cover your story." Or "I'm a programmer/biz dev/sales specialist and I'd love to work for you" or "you should partner with (insert company)."
I met the guys who acquired my first business, my first programmer, my attorney/mentor, my current business partner, got countless press interviews and tons of other connections just by talking to people. Entrustet would be nowhere near what it is today if we had refused to talk about it until we were fully launched.
These connections and conversations are the heart of the entrepreneurial ecosystem people always talk about. If all of the startups in Silicon Valley suddenly stopped talking to each other, deal flow, partnerships and innovation would stop. You need to make ideas run into each other for innovation to happen. You need other smart people giving you feedback if you want to succeed.
So what are you scared of? Do you think some other entrepreneur is going to steal your idea? Do you think your idea is so special it can't see the light of day? I don't remember which startup guru said it, but if your idea is one-in-a-million, there are probably 3oo other people in the US working on it. Entrepreneurship is all execution, not your idea. As my friends at Planet Propaganda like to say, "I'd rather have a ham sandwich than just a good idea, you can at least eat the sandwich!"
If you think you wont be able to succeed because someone else knows a little bit about your idea, you probably shouldn't be starting your business. You need to out execute everyone and you can’t be scared of someone copying your idea. You need to get feedback and make connections and the only way to do this is to talk to people!
Entrepreneurs who are already working on their own companies are the least likely people to steal your ideas. Likewise, they are the most likely to give you actionable, valuable advice that will help your business grow, or connect you with a partner or investor. The tiny risk that someone will steal your idea pales in comparison to the huge benefits you can get in feedback, advice, press and partnerships. Entrepreneurs, for the most part, want to help other entrepreneurs. They are smart and think like you. What better way to challenge your thinking than to have another smart person think about your ideas with you?
Nathan Lustig, from Madison, WI, is the cofounder of Entrustet, a website that helps people access, transfer and delete online accounts when someone passes away.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.