Monday, March 26, 2012

NDA or Trust?

NDA's - I am sure everyone knows what they are but just in case, it stands for Non Disclosure Agreement - an agreement signed between 2 parties to protect information passed remaining confidential to third parties.

I will happily sign them with regards to deals being done or other such confidential legal matters regarding established businesses. However,  when people come to me with ideas sometimes I get asked to sign one before they will even tell me their idea or pitch. In this case I will never sign and if it is a problem I will walk away.

I have been badly caught out - early in the history of FriendsReunited I met with someone who wanted to pitch some ideas he thought would catapult FR's popularity and functionality. He was also interested in getting a job as commercial manager as we started to grow. So I met with him as part pitch/part interview. I was asked to sign an NDA and in my naivety I signed it. We had a good chat but unfortunately it became clear he wasn't either the sort of person we were looking for, and once hearing both his ideas, that his vision for FR was miles off ours and the ideas were of no interest to us.

We left on good terms. By the time I got home I had an email waiting that shocked me. He accused us of just meeting up to nick his ideas and that he would continue to monitor us to make sure we did not use them.  And over the next couple of years we continued to be reminded by this bitter person of our NDA with very unpleasant threatening emails. 

Well we never even considered his ideas and just for the record - its because they were fucking shit. There, Ive always wanted to get that out of my system (this blogging thing is good for empowerment)

No problem really. However, what if one of his ideas had been on our list of things for future development. Would that mean we could never do it.

Ideas are impossible to protect. The next big thing is currently being thought of by probably hundreds of people at the same time. Its who does it first quickest and best. I currently am involved in about 10 projects - all internet and nearly all in the social/app scene. It's highly likely there will be crossover some times. In fact one idea I am working on I have had for the past 5 years, and had it sort of pitched at me twice over the years. Both times I explained my spin on the idea and because the people were cool it never created a problem.

NDA's on idea pitches are crap. A meeting like that should be done on trust and if someone pitching an idea at me thinks there is a chance I will go off and nick his idea and do it myself then he obviously doesn't trust me and shouldn't be doing business with me.

One extreme case of this, was one of Julie's friends kept phoning her up ages ago wanting loads of advice on how to setup an internet site as she had an idea. When Julie asked what it was she said - "I can't tell you as you might go off and do it" - Nice. Needless to say she is no longer a friend.

I like to do things on trust and so far I don't think I've done too bad - the only occasions where things have got nasty and legal are where documentation was involved and things turned very ugly.

Therefore if you want to pitch an idea at me, don't expect me to sign anything.

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