Every so often, I get an e-mail asking me for feedback on an idea, with a generic NDA attached that I’m asked to sign before I can hear what the idea is… I don’t want to come off the wrong way, so I try to let others do the talking:
TL;DR: Nobody should sign an NDA just to hear your idea.
Mar 2000: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000071.html
Oct 2005: http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/the-myth-of-the-great-idea/
Feb 2006: http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2006/02/why-most-vcs-dont-sign-ndas.html
Feb 2006 (agreement): http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2006/02/why_vcs_dont_si.html
Jun 2009: http://mixergy.com/why-i-wont-sign-your-nda/
Aug 2009: http://cdixon.org/2009/08/22/why-you-shouldnt-keep-your-startup-idea-secret/
May 2010: http://dashes.com/anil/2010/05/one-more-time-no-ndas.html
Jan 2011: http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/33560/do-you-keep-your-ideas-secret-and-why
Feb 2011: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/got-a-great-idea-tell-everyone/
Feb 2011: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-02-17/strategy/30002166_1_business-advice-secret-job-title
Mar 2012: http://www.yusufuqdah.com/2012/03/tell-everyone-about-your-business-idea.html
Apr 2012: http://blog.jpl-consulting.com/2012/04/why-i-wont-sign-your-nda/
Oct 2012: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/stop-trying-to-protect-your-business-ideas/
I’m happy to give feedback (who knows if it’ll even be useful to you…), however the points in the last article summarize the theme very well:
- Your idea already exists or Being new can be a problem
- The value is not in the idea
- Sharing ideas makes them better
If you’re going to share anything generally considered “secret sauce” (such as access to your code repository or the special formula for the Red Bull competitor you’re starting), an NDA is fine (a first e-mail typically wouldn’t be the place to discuss sharing that level of detail though…).
Otherwise, see your idea for what it is: something that hasn’t materialized yet and will likely change a lot as you work more on it.