“I have a great idea! Someone should create something that <insert idea here>. It would be huge.”

Do you know anyone that hasn’t at some point said that? Inside of everyone is an entrepreneur fighting to get out but 99% of people will never put in the effort to make it anything more than an idea. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything. You’ve heard that a thousand times because its true. Everyone has ideas. You, your family, your friends, and the taxi driver. Would you sign a legal document every time someone said “listen to my idea”?

Here are five reasons why I won’t sign your NDA

1) It’s a legal document you had a lawyer create and that I will be bound to. I’d have to pay a lawyer to look it over and I won’t because I don’t even know what we’re talking about.

2) I can almost guarantee that you are not the only one with your idea. If you need to protect it before we even talk about it then you either (a) know that anyone can do it so it’s not that great  or (b) don’t trust me. Either one means we shouldn’t talk and stay friends.

3) How can I agree to be bound to not speak about something when I don’t know what that something is? We live in a digital world

4) I tell my ideas to anyone I feel might give me valuable feedback. The idea always changes. Again, its execution that counts, so tell as many people as you can before you chase something without context.

5) No, you can’t patent and idea or take someone to court over an idea. You need to show material research and/or development before you can protect something as an invention. Research and development = Execution. Once you’re there we can talk about an NDA.

When will I sign an NDA?

1. Never at our first meeting.

2. After our first meeting if I’m convinced that you’ve done research and/or development to prove out the value proposition, it’s not ambiguous, something I’ve already seen, or know of another company doing the exact same thing. Basically you’re in execution and it would be blatantly obvious and unfair for me to share any of your special sauce.

3. If I’m working at a company and you’re a potential partner or competitor then it’s usually common courtesy for the companies to sign a Mutual NDA after there has been an initial meeting and both companies agree it makes sense (example: You’re IBM and I’m Google, we both have proprietary and competitive offerings and we should protect them). Well, you’re not IBM and I’m not Google so this doesn’t apply until maybe one day your idea grows to be a success.

 I’m honored every time someone trusts and values my opinion enough to share their idea. It would be great to learn about yours and offer any piece of advice I can, or connect you with someone who might have better advice to offer.  You might succeed or you might learn valuable lessons along the way that make you better (and therefore you’ve still succeeded, you just won’t buy yourself a jet) and can say you took a shot, which is more than what most can say. As Bryce Roberts (@bryce) put it in his phenomenal post

“Every once in a while someone puts themselves out there. Makes the leap. Faces rejection or failure or worse. And comes out the other side. Better. Changed. Bolder.

Most people won’t. Which means those that do change everything.”