What should I do before sharing my startup idea with someone?

This is a great question. Your idea falls under a concept known as “intellectual property.” While there are some legal things you could do (depending on the idea), you might think about a trademark, patent, or copyright. However, those items are often financially prohibitive and also require that you meet other criteria in order to get them. So, my answer is going to revolve around “anyone can do it” solutions:

  • Don’t give away all of your details. This is one of the best ways to protect your idea. You might discuss the general idea with someone, but you don’t want to give them your step-by-step guide. If you were pitching to investors or a lender, they would want the details and that would be alright. However, you stated that you’re just in the idea stage. So, you need to protect the way that you plan to execute your idea.
  • Consider using a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). A non-disclosure agreement helps protect your idea by prohibiting others from sharing your idea for a certain amount of time. NDAs must comply with state law. If you go this route, make sure that you have an attorney review it to ensure that it is enforceable.
  • Follow your gut. Seriously. Trust your intuition. If you have plans to tell someone about your idea but you get a feeling something bad could happen, just don’t tell them. You are your own best friend when it comes to protecting your startup idea.
  • Be selective. Your startup idea should be on a “need to know basis.” I know you’re excited. It could the only thing you really want to talk about, but you must be selective. Don’t tell just anyone. This is your first lesson in strategic partnership.

If you’re considering an NDA or if you’d like to talk with an attorney who can walk you through options that more closely fit your needs, check out LawTrades. We’re a marketplace that offers entrepreneurial-minded lawyers and we’re here to help. We’ve helped thousands of startups protect themselves when it comes to legal and hope to support you soon.