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This is an issue faced by many first time entrepreneurs. Namely, the challenge of brining your idea to fruition, while avoiding it being stollen by someone else. Indeed, starting up a business even without this challenge is almost impossible and so by definition, adding ‘keeping your idea secret’ to this challenge, makes it absolutely impossible.

Why are entrepreneurs afraid that someone will steal their ingenious idea? Well, this is because in their mind they are sure that their idea is worth at least $100 billion. Therefore, they conclude that anyone hearing about their idea will immediately steal it and go off to start their own business with the entrepreneur’s ingenious idea.

To solve this problem I challenge anyone who thinks their idea is worth $1 billion (or whatever they think) to try and sell it for $1000, or even $100. I will guarantee that no one in their right mind will pay anything for an idea. Why?

The reason is really that ideas are “dime a dozen”. While you may think that your idea is the best thing that a human being had ever been able to conceive, this is probably not true. Moreover, even if it was true, it is far from being enough to create any value for anyone. Value comes from talented people taking that idea and working very hard day and night to make it work. Chances are that, if they succeed, by the time they make it happen, the idea is completely different than what it was when it was just conceived.

A good example is the light bulb. Thomas Edison conceived of the idea for a lightbulb and he also knew (more or less) how to do it. Still it took him over 10,000 tries (legend has it), before he had a lightbulb that worked. At that point he still did not have something truly valuable because to make it work he had to build a grid and serious infrastructure. Edison’s brilliance was not only with the invention, but also in his vision and ability to portray that vision to the people who eventually went ahead and built that infrastructure (including factories to produce light bulbs, electricity grids, etc’). It took super-human determination, perseverance and linchpin (someone who makes things happen) qualities. Same goes for visionaries like Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford and more recently Steve Jobs among many other great entrepreneurs. So good ideas are good but they are far from enough to be worth anything. Edison captured this best when he said “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

On the other side, some really bad ideas turned out to be great businesses. One of the most famous examples is Twitter. Many brilliant business people thought it was “the worst idea they ever heard”. Essentially, the idea was to take the status updates application from Facebook and make that a separate social network (most people responded as follows: “what? so all you could do is post a status update? and you want to limit it to 140 characters? but it already exists in Facebook? and why would people even want to do that, what would they post? and even if they do, why would other people care? this will never work!” Arguably, these people had a good point. In hindsight we know that it turned out to be a great business.

To sum it up real simple: A real entrepreneur has ideas dripping down of him constantly. Most of them are bad, some of them are good, and very few might even be brilliant. What makes an idea into business is not how good the idea is, rather it is how good the team is in coming up with a plan and executing that plan. Finally, I believe that you shouldn’t be afraid to share your idea with others. If you don’t, they can’t help you.

So go out and share your ideas. You might find other people with similar ideas, or with insights to make your ideas even better. And you might just find the kind of people who would help you fulfill your dream (not necessarily the way you thought about it).

Let me know what you think.


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