I’ve been to a few meetings recently where I had to sign an NDA before the client could reveal the details of an idea-slash-project they have been pondering.
In each, the idea turned out to be so spectacularly awful that I’d have a hard time convincing anyone else to listen as I relay it to even my most Samwar-ish, vicious copy-cat unicorn development-cum-design friends who have the free time and will to copy ideas as they please.
The wasted time and pained nods and smiles have frustrated me so much that I will not sign any NDA in the future, apart from in the following circumstances:
- I know before-hand that your idea employs technology, science and magic so astounding that you genuinely have a competitive advantage of unbelievable scale or could impact share prices. (In this case, I don’t expect to be signing any NDAs in bad coffee shops in WC1.)
- You are Apple.
On the other hand, the best ideas have been those I’ve heard about where a meeting has ended with a simple, “so, I’d really appreciate it if you kept this under your hat?”
And of course I will, and have.
I’ve a hat-full of decent ideas that I think are decent and which I won’t be trying to execute any time soon because I believe in the people behind them and want to see them execute.
If you feel the need to shroud your idea in an NDA, you’re speaking to the wrong people and it hasn’t felt the breeze of open discussion that certainly turn it into something much better than it is.
(And if you’re someone who I met recently who NDA’d me and are reading this: I’m really sorry, but this is indeed a cowardly way to tell you that your idea sucked.)