When I was in Chile, most of the Chilean entrepreneurs were afraid to talk about their ideas. They would say “I’m working on a project in technology” or “I have an Internet startup that I think can change the world.” I’m seeing the same problem in Madison, especially with young or first time entrepreneurs. It’s a huge problem in places that would like to become startup hotbeds. People are afraid to talk about their startup ideas, mainly because they think people will steal their ideas.
In the Valley, NYC, Boulder, Austin and other startup hotbeds, everyone talks openly about their startups. It’s how you test your ideas and get feedback. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten great from other entrepreneurs. Or the times times someone has said “oh, that’s an awesome idea, you need to meet so and so” or “I’m a reporter for (insert publication), I’d love to cover your story.” or “I’m a programmer/biz dev/sales specialist and I’d love to work for you” or “you should partner with (insert company).”
I met the guys who acquired my first business, my first programmer, my attorney/mentor, my current business partner Jesse, got countless press interviews and tons of other connections just by talking to people. Entrustet would be nowhere near what it is today if we refused to talk about it for our first year and a half until we were fully launched.
These connections and conversations ARE the ecosystem that people talk about. If all of the startups in Silicon Valley suddenly stopped talking to each other, deal flow, partnerships and innovation would stop. You need to make ideas run into each other for innovation to happen. You need other smart people giving you feedback if you want to succeed.
So what are you scared of? Do you think some other entrepreneur is going to steal your idea? Do you think your idea is so special it can’t see the light of day? I don’t remember which startup guru said it, but if your idea is 1 in a million, 3oo other people in the us are working on it. For my Chilean readers, that means 16 other people in Chile are working on it! Entrepreneurship is all execution, not the your idea. As my friends at Planet Propaganda like to say, “I’d rather have a ham sandwich than just a good idea, you can at least eat the sandwich!”
If you think you wont be able to succeed because someone else knows a little bit about your idea, you probably shouldn’t be starting your business. You need to out execute everyone. You can’t be scared of someone copying your idea. You need to get feedback and make connections. The only way to do this is to talk to people!
Entrepreneurs who are already working on their own companies are the least likely people to steal your ideas and they are the most likely to give you actionable, valuable feedback that will help your business grow, or connect you with a partner or investor your need to grow your business. The tiny risk that someone will steal your idea pales in comparison to the huge benefits you can get in feedback, advice, press and partnerships. Entrepreneurs, for the most part, want to help other entrepreneurs. They are smart and think like you. What better way to challenge your thinking than to have another smart person think about your ideas with you?
It’s a problem in Chile, Madison, Milwaukee and other aspiring startup hubs. The other week, I talked to a 20 year old UW student who wouldn’t tell me more than he was into “green technology.” I can’t help you if you don’t tell me more! Moral of the story: it pays to talk about your ideas!