A few months ago a writer from Entrepreneur Magazine asked me to comment on how much information a business person should share about a new venture. This is tricky question because it depends how far into the development process you are with the venture and also how complex is the technology involved.
I remember my first real business venture. My partners and I had developed a collection of fairly revolutionary t-shirt designs. One of which went on to be t-shirt of the month in Playboy Magazine. Other designs were featured on the cover of Impressions Magazine and used on at least one tv show as I remember. We were very cautious of showing them to anyone prior to unveiling them at the boutique show in Los Angeles. We did not show these designs to anyone outside our immediate family so the truth is we really had no idea if they were any good. We were largely investing in and trusting our own opinion.
Now in the case of t-shirt designs the R&D was relatively low so the strategy worked for us. However that is not always practical. Often you will need to trust others. Today’s business climate is fast moving so the need to protect yourself is greater particularly if the cost of entry is relatively low such as a new website idea or decorative design idea. If you have a technology to turn excess heat from a manufacturing process into electricity as is the case with a fellow I met yesterday. Probably a lot of people are not going to rush out and jump on your idea unless they happen to have the million bucks or so needed to make it happen. By the way if you do have a million bucks to invest, call me and I’ll put you in touch.
In short take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Consult an attorney about possible appropriate patents, trademarks and copyrights. However for most ventures I believe speed is your greatest asset. Devise a plan to get your idea to market in a way that will enable you to capture the most attention. Being the first and being the best at what you do will go a long way toward establishing your leadership position.
You can see my “Talking Points” in the June 2009 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine or click through and read it online here.