Straight talk > Your business idea - to tell or not to tell?

Your business idea - to tell or not to tell?
Sometimes entrepreneurs, especially in India, are reluctant to discuss their ideas. Is that a valid fear?
Sridar Iyengar, Bessemer Venture Partners
Sridar IyengarSome entrepreneurs come to me and say, sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). And I say, go and see somebody else. Because I think ideas are cheap.

In all my years, I don't think I have ever seen a single idea some variation of which I have not seen before. So if entrepreneurs think that their idea can be stolen and executed by somebody else better than they can - well, I actually tell them I think the other person should execute it!

So you recommend putting all your ideas on the table?

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Sridar Iyengar, Bessemer Venture Partners
Sridar IyengarNo, no, I am not saying just go out there and tell everything to everybody, but entrepreneurs must share enough to validate their ideas with people who are not friends or family.
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R. Ramaraj, The Chennai Fund
R. RamarajWell, I think there is a real concern to an extent. Sometimes the idea is good enough for somebody else to be able to execute a lot quicker than an entrepreneur. So I think whoever is meeting the entrepreneur needs to give comfort that there is a code of conduct that would be followed.

For example, at The Chennai Fund we do have the document that all the chartered members or whoever is screening the deals has to sign. It is not just an NDA but one line, it's one level more than that.

But the entrepreneur needs to be educated as well. As part of the process at The Chennai Fund, they sign a document saying that when they share their ideas, they should understand that this idea may already be out there in the market.

So entrepreneurs in India need to find that middle ground - is that right?

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N S Raghavan, Nadathur Holdings
N S RaghavanPeople who are used to this concept know where to draw a line. When an entrepreneur makes a presentation in Silicon Valley, he knows what to tell and what not to tell. Since here nobody has any clue on that, it is becoming an issue.

So people get educated: you don't have to tell your secret source, but on all other things, please be open to discuss.

What are some key things entrepreneurs should understand about sharing ideas?

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Sridar Iyengar, Bessemer Venture Partners
Sridar IyengarI think entrepreneurs think that there are Angels of VCs who are just waiting to steal their ideas. Entrepreneurs need to know that these people rely on getting access to deals.

If it becomes known that every time an entrepreneur brings something to them, they are copying it and getting somebody else to do it, their careers will be very short lived: you can steal a few ideas but then you are not going to remain in business for too long you know.

So I think socializing - which is the buzz word now - socializing your idea on some broad basis is a pre condition before you actually firm up your own thoughts on a business.

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