How do you protect a brilliant idea when founding a startup? Are there any measures you can take to ensure no one steals your idea? Should some things be kept under the radar?

Great question and no you’re not paranoid! It’s great to get feedback on your idea from your target customers to see if you’re actually solving their pain point (and save $$ + time on something nobody wants), but don’t over do it.

Instead focus on these four things when building out your business: research, recruit, build, and (sometimes) patent.

1. Research The Market

Is your idea really that brilliant after all? Conducting ample research is often the first and only step for entrepreneurs. Although an idea may seem novel at first, researching your competition may reveal the limitations of your concept. There are some important things to analyze as you research:

  • Is something similar out there insomuch as that your idea would infringe on their IP?
  • If not, why has no one created this yet? (will determine feasibility)
  • Is my idea profitable? (connected with the question above)
  • How large is your market? (this will determine many of your later decisions – ex. number of employees to hire, distribution etc.)

2. Recruit Your Team

Face it – you can’t do it alone. You need to spend some time thinking about the skills that you lack. Are you one of those people that can create but not articulate? Then hiring someone who can sell would be a smart idea. If your startup is tech-based then you will need to hire your fair share of techies. A big topic that comes up in this realm is compensation because it’s often difficult for startups to pay employees. You can consider college interns but make sure you check your labor laws specific to your state because interns are now required to be paid in some places. Importantly, remember that individuals will often take a pay cut for a chance to make it big with a successful startup so use that for your advantage.

If you’re thinking of recruiting some international talent then I invite you to read a past post of mine about a startup’s ability to sponsor an H-1B visa.

3. Execute a Prototype

It is important to release some form of your product in the beginning. By creating a cheap version of your idea, your customers will have a chance to test it out. The feedback you receiving following the demo of your product will be priceless. Be sure to take your time building your prototype because a solid initial version of your product may serve as the foundation for future, improved-upon versions.

4. File a Provisional Patent (if applicable)

Depending on your idea, it may be smart for you to file for a provisional patent application. A provisional patent application serves as a placeholder when you are still trying to finalize your product. Assuming you file one correctly, the application will protect you from others imitating your product. However, be mindful of the fact that a provisional patent application is only effective for 12 months. For more information, check out a past post of mine on how to write a good provisional patent application, but note that doing it yourself can cost you valuable time.

When you have enough validation and ready to incorporate your business / file a patent, feel free to check out LawTrades. It’s a platform for startups to find and hire vetted freelance attorneys at affordable fixed-fee price points. We’re entrepreneurs as well, so would be happy to get your feedback as well 🙂

Hope this helps. Good luck!