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"No one cares about your ideas."

Posted by: Mobile Kugel

Mobile Kugel

I am part of a small online business in Grahamstown. My partner and I found a problem and created a solution. Lucky for us the site took off and has been a success.

We decided to start a second site, one which was more general and catered for a bigger audience. After hard work and perseverance, this site failed.

During the development of company A, we kept things on the down low. But soon before our big launch date, we learnt that another group of students had created a site similar to ours, with a similar name and a similar aim.

At the end of the day, our site was better and we won, and we deserved to because we offered a better service and sexier product.

During the development of company B, we made the mistake of meeting with a person whom we felt could give us positive feedback on our brand. A year later we found out they had adopted the exact model we had. We died, they are still going.

I then watched The Social Network. Far from being inspired by the story, I became utterly paranoid about everything.

I vowed never to speak about any of our companies ideas to anyone. When my partner and I met at coffee shops I kept looking over my shoulder for any suspicious looking characters and insisted on whispering even though I knew that the only people at the restaurant were a group of pubescent teenagers only interested in the opposite sex and eradicating their acne.

I thought to myself that the only way anyone can be successful at anything is to keep it a secret.

During the holidays I met with a friend. He is the kind of friend who wrote the higher grade matric maths paper twice in 3 hours just to double check that he answered all the questions properly, which he did. He now owns a successful online billing company and is in the US at the moment participating in some competition that will make him very famous one day.

We ordered a cappuccino and chatted about the past years events. I told him about business A, B and the potentials of C but not before threatening him that I will destroy him if he copies the idea.

He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and then said, “Nobody cares about your ideas, don’t be so arrogant that you think your ideas are original. There are probably hundreds of people who are trying to do the same thing as you anyway. But you must share your ideas because you will find that people are not looking to copy them but rather to give you feedback and that is how you learn to make an excellent product.”

“O emmmm geeee, how rude! Have you ev?” I thought to myself. But all that came out of my mouth was the sound of an ego burst disguised as a hideous hissing noise.

If he managed to get almost 100 percent in matric for maths, he must be right about this too.

A few months later I had a similar experience with the real maccoy. Representative from Google. Brett St Claire, the Head of Google Mobile South Africa as well as Richard Cheary and Dirk le Roux of Afrozaar, a startup company working with Google were doing an industry visit to Rhodes University’s computer science and information systems department.

What I thought would be a one hour seminar turned into a five hour, inspirational brain frying, I-should-just-drop-out-of-university experience. After the presentation, my partner and I approached Brett.

“We have a really cool idea that we think has a lot of potential,” I began.

“That sounds great, what’s it all about?” Brett replied.

“Well, I am a little skeptical to tell you all the detail bu-”, he interrupted me.

“You know there are probably lots of people who have the same idea, you need to stop talking about it and do it before they do.”

He was right. They were both right.

Intellectual property is something that is almost impossible to copyright. It is a free market out there and people borrow and copy ideas from others all the time. The only way to win is to be the best, work the hardest, learn as much as you can, understand your customers and make them king.

As exciting as this venture is into the entrepreneurial online market I think that my fear is deeply rooted in inexperience. I am ignorant about so much of what is “out there” and vulnerable in and around general business practice. My so called “arrogance” and secrecy is a defense mechanism. I know that our ideas are not unique but by keeping them secret, at least I know that nobody I know is scheming about the same thing.

Despite this lesson I am still uneasy about sharing my ideas with people in the industry. I have been stung twice and am weary to open the honey jar and tempt the other bees.

At the end of the day, do you share your ideas or don’t you? Have you had any bad or good experiences with either telling people about ideas or not?

Comments (10)Add Comment
GeraldineKent
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written by GeraldineKent, May 04, 2011
Jane,
This is a lovely piece of writing! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!
I love the Social Network but it also made me so paranoid about the working environment. "What if I'm a complete failure because everyone beats me?"
Well, I guess we should just learn hot to channel that fear into motivation and rely on that motivation to get us where we want to be in life! At least that's my plan... will have to see if it works?

For the record, I think you are a smart and savvy businesswoman! Just trust your instincts and ideas, never turn away from inspiration and seize every opportunity without ever looking back, even if you fail, at least you'll have tried!

Wishing you all the best for "plan C"!
Charmed
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written by Charmed, May 04, 2011
I'm not really a business minded person, i.e I have no aspirations to one day own my own company. But if I do have an idea on how to improve something, be it with My Digital Life, I don't tell anyone. I just put it into motion and wait for results.
Mobile Kugel
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written by Mobile Kugel, May 04, 2011
@GeraldineKent, thank you so much for your encouraging comment! I agree with you and @Charmed, the only way to go about these things is to go forth and be the best.
dirk.leroux
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written by Dirk le Roux, May 06, 2011
Sooooo many people ask us to sign this BIG FAT NDA before they tell us about their idea. Most of the time we end up telling them that there is already someone out there doing it or that we've heard the idea before. But not to worry, just think about this:

Google was not the first search engine, they did not do anything new, they just did it a lot better and focused on the customer.

Facebook was not the first social networking site out there, they just did it better.

It is also important to remember that the idea is not the only powerful thing you have. All the steps that lead you to the idea and the way the idea changed over time is of great value. You are the only person that have that and that will help you implement better. Passion is very important, and you should have that, the idea thief most likely will not.

The bottom line is: Just get out there and get the first basic version in your user's hands and listen to their feedback (remember to make "giving feedback" very easy) and use analytics. You will be given lots of free ideas the moment the users start asking for new features. Use these to be the best.

Good luck
Mobile Kugel
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written by Mobile Kugel, May 08, 2011
@Dirk le Roux,

"Passion is very important, and you should have that, the idea thief most likely will not."

Your words are realistic, the advice valuable.Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope we meet again. All the best.
Mobile Kugel
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written by Mobile Kugel, May 08, 2011
@Dirk le Roux,

"Passion is very important, and you should have that, the idea thief most likely will not."

Your words are realistic, the advice valuable.Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope we meet again. All the best.
iExperience
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written by iExperience, May 10, 2011
@Mobile Kugel, A great piece. I like your honesty and appreciate the business tip.
Mobile Kugel
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written by Mobile Kugel, May 10, 2011
@iExperience, thank you for your comment smilies/smiley.gif I think business is all about learning as you grow. The journey is never smooth and I like to share my bad experiences with others so that they would be aware of such things.
As Dirk said, passion is everything and if you have that you will be able to overcome anything.
flytrap
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written by flytrap, May 11, 2011
Great article, a good piece of advice that I have failed to take myself in the past. Can't tell you how many times I have had the big original idea just to find a line forming at the entry gate.Damn discouraging but no reason to bail out. To be in business is to have the arrogance to believe that YOUR version of things is better than everyone else. This can be counterproductive if you don't face reality. I live in a small town with 100 restaurants. Turnover of owners is high. Every few months another GP person buys a shop excitedly telling everyone how theirs is the beat only to leave dejected a bit later. Not because their idea was bad or their food was rubbish, but because they didn't understand their market.
Mobile Kugel
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written by Mobile Kugel, May 15, 2011
Flytrap, my dad is a marketing man and he always tells me that the most important thing in business is to know your brand, understand the market 100% and make sure that your customer is king.

As easy as it sounds, I find it difficult to keep on top of whatever market one is in, be it internet or restaurants.

It requires a lot of reading, being able to LISTEN to clients feedback and being open minded enough to make it better.

I think we become apathetic post the initial success and think the business can run on its own. There are an array of excuses available for us to support our apathy; family, studies, children, commitments etc

Arrogance can be dangerous if it is a quality that stands on its own, and this could bis why maybe so many of the people in your town think they can beat all the other restaurants but end up dejected.

If passion, hard work, respect for the customer and knowledge can stand together with arrogance; then there is a good chance of success.

Get on that big idea when you think of it and good luck smilies/smiley.gif

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