Share your ideas with others
The common belief for those with no start-up experience is that a good idea is the most important property of a successful start-up. The perception is that successful entrepreneurs simply woke up one day after having a 'eureka' moment, and everything else was, as they say, history.
This perception of the 'great revolutionary idea' is making people tentative about talking about their ideas. They take out esoteric patents, sign everyone and their cousins to an NDA and generally abide by the Fight Club rules (Rule #1: we don't talk about the idea. Rule #2: ...).
Sharing your idea will expose you to diverse feedback on it. Your idea will get pressure tested. You should iterate based on that feedback, staying true to the core idea but improving it using the power of logic.
This is as good advice as you can get. Ideas circulating in your head need to be tested against the real world in order to develop into something useful. You should ignore your instincts to protect it and share it with other people. The risks of someone stealing your idea and beating you to the punch are irrelevant since:
- If you believe your idea is good, you probably have passion towards it. Others are less likely to experience your enthusiasm since they do not see your vision the way you do, and therefor unlikely to try to develop it themselves.
- Suppose others do try to develop the idea themselves. It is rare that separate people have the exact same vision regarding an idea, so if you believe your vision is a winner you have nothing to worry about. If you think others have a better vision of your idea, you should try to recruit them into your start-up (!)
- Competition is good. If others are liking your idea and try to develop it themselves, they are proving to you (and potential investors) that your idea has a market.
The benefits of getting real-world feedback and allowing your idea to nurture and grow far outweigh the danger of losing creative rights over it.
Having said this, a good idea will only take you so far. The single most important asset for a start-up is the team - A strong team can take a mediocre idea into the stratosphere, while a mediocre team will fail with a great idea.
It's that simple - a strong team will win on execution, which is by far the most important factor for start-up success (not all agree on this of course).
Stash your NDA's, start sharing your ideas and recruit talented people. Success is only a few iterations (and an investment from Sequoia Capital) away.