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I have an app idea I want to put on kickstarter but I'm not sure if it's safe. If I post a campaign is it likely that my idea could be taken? Also would it be best to apply for a patent beforehand?

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You need to think about your competitive advantage. If you have a strong one (e.g. one of the top researchers in the area is working with you) then you still have that advantage after sharing a sketch/concept of your product. If you don't have competitive advantage, you could be buried even if the first your competitor hears of your idea is when you start shipping product. –  Ben Voigt Aug 29 at 22:55

5 Answers 5

Safe? It's a very rare word in the startup industry.

You need to understand - primarily - everyone has ideas.

The engineers and managers at Facebook, Google, Yelp, and every other person on the planet have ideas.

That being said, chances are nobody will steal your idea entirely. The most likely people to take it are those already in your competitive industry - they will treat your idea like a junk yard and pick and pull as they choose. Even if you have a patent, they will still be pulling pretty freely.

Execution is everything. Along with time to market. Only you and your team can determine that.

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How much money are you thinking of raising from Kickstarter?

Following up on @jdero's answer, I wouldn't go there until I'd executed something. Otherwise you're just inviting people to steal your idea.

The time to use Kickstarter (if ever) is the point where money becomes the limiting factor - and then you have to think what you'd do with the money. Sure, $10K might be nice, but it's not enough to hire a regular employee. It might be enough for some kinds of contract work, so if that contract is the missing factor and you can't do equivalent work yourself, then maybe you could use it.

At the time that you're ready, using kickstarter might introduce you to potential users and customers. That could really help you drive development and stop you from solving the wrong problem. I wouldn't go there until I was ready to move quickly, though.

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I might add that **in some cases it is not safe to publicly disclose your business idea**s to the public in the form of Crowd Funding.

Unsafe: Disclosing unprotected research results.

Disclosing publicly a substantitative amount of highly innovative and completed research without having filed for patent rights is not safe. It not only creates a risk of imitation, but also poses a risk to the chances of the patent being accepted.

Unsafe: Disclosing matters of national security.

Finally, there is also some technology that you can not even patent, because it is of such criticality to national security that the government will claim all rights to the patent once you file for a patent, you will certainly do harm to yourself if you disclose it on Kickstarter. Just think of you having a developed a new bacteria that spreads faster than light, has no known cure and is fatal on specific genetic markers only. This would be unsafe in many ways.

Unrecommended: Designing the campaign wrong. (Subtle issue)

Some Kickstarter projects do get funding, even if their promise can never be delivered. Assuming some rationality of the crowd, noone will fund you if you promise that you will end all hunger and war in the world for 100.000 EUR no matter what video will produce to prove that your product works. It is just not feasible.

But there are more subtle things. Ignoring that you not only disclose to private investors and happy evangelists willing to invest a few coins into your business idea, you might underestimate how your campaign burns bridges to potential future stakeholders in your company. You might think: "Hey, if my idea is bad and I get no money from it, that's ok." But if you really have a shot at making a business work and you ruin every good impression you can make by a very bad campaign, it might hinder your future success.

Unrecommended: Showing the world that you have lost your mind.

Think of a guy that has no background in Engineering and who starts a Kickstarter campaign on his own. His business model is that of Google. His vision is to capture 90% of the search market in two years. And he is also looking for a technical co-founder to make the idea become a reality. And he is dead serious in his campaign. If anyone really thinks the person is out of his mind, it will have a very bad impact on your personal carreer, too.

The same holds if you obviously have no idea about businesses and only have a one-off idea and you just want money for it - in this case you might plead for naive - or if you are giving the impression of running a scam - if you are apparently mischiveous in intent, but also not smart enough to conceal it - or even worse, you might get some serious trouble if you get the investment and burn all the money raised on Champaign and boat races. ( I have heard of a company with no validated business model that rented a very expensive business space and a private star chef until they ran out of money 9 months after the initial VC investment .... )

Please note that NONE of the above mentions idea theft in any way. On the contrary, it is even recommended to disclose business ideas.

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Ideas worth stealing are hard to steal. If you're that concerned, try emailing your idea to a competitor, and you'll quickly realize that no one is interested in stealing your idea.

Truth is that you want people to "steal your idea" and share it.

Simply put, no, it's not dangerous to share ideas; in fact, the opposite is true, it's dangerous not to share ideas, since your more apt to distort reality based on a lack of meaningful interaction with the real world.

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While it is true that an idea is worth more when it is exposed to the light of day, it is also true that the value of its originator (its creator) diminishes exponentially as the idea is diffused amongst more parties. Also, once it is shown it cannot be unshown. Hence the importance of a watertight plan for disclosure control as well as agility (time to market), not to mention potential competitor awareness. –  Avestron Aug 29 at 18:57
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@Avestron: Clearly I disagree, and in my opinion, your opinions sound like enterprise business speak; startups are not enterprises, and enterprises are not startups - and to think they are is dangerous in my opinion. –  blunders Aug 30 at 16:06
    
My opinions on the matter of idea disclosure are based on fundamental fear. An idea is a very fickle possession. Once you show a colleague a physical possession (such as a brand new watch) you remain the owner of the possession in question. An idea is easily claimed and stolen. That idea can then be developed and thrive in its being shared and being profited upon while its originator's fate is less than irrelevant. Admittedly a pessimistic viewpoint but the world we live in isn't exactly one of rainbows and sunshine either. –  Avestron Aug 30 at 20:59

If your idea is simple to copy and can make money, it WILL be copied the moment you start selling to your niche. So, the real question to ask is - what is your competitive advantage over the rest?

So, let 's start with my favorite (but half baked) definition of the entrepreneur (hey, it was given by a mainstream economist, so you can't really expect much - but it 's a neat one for conversation and it points one part of the truth).

An entrepreneur is someone with a temporary monopoly of knowledge

The obvious missing part is that the entrepreneur needs to have an implementation, production logistics, ability to reach the market etc etc. But let 's leave all that aside for now.

So, you hit the market. That moment, your temporary monopoly of knowledge ends UNLESS

a) it 's a hard thing to copy because you are a domain expert or the market is young and competition is not developed yet or it costs a lot and has a low profit margin so it 's not really that attractive

b) The government grants you a monopoly by means of a patent.

Assuming b) is not the case and neither is a) we are looking at a simple idea, with a good profit margin, that 's easy to copy and doesn't cost a ton to do so. Thus, it will be copied.

What can you do to prolong your head start?

Nothing fantastic. Your head start is an advantage to use in

  • building a brand
  • building a customer base
  • getting connections in the niche

Those 3 things will help you get into synergies, make improvements to your product that the competition doesn't have.

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