Stealth Mode

Received an email today asking me to evaluate the feasibility of an idea, this was my response to it:

Subject: Re: Question


| In a nutshell, I would like to create something – like [XXX] – that is geared more towards the [XXX] community.

| Is that enough information?

Obviously not.

| I don’t want to go to in depth because it may be a “very” good idea and I would like to know I could trust the person – hearing the whole presentation – to not disqualify it to me and then go on to develop it for their own personal gain.

That is in almost all cases a very flawed path to follow. Ideas aren’t worth much of anything, I assure you somebody else has had your idea and most likely many other people, the fewer people you tell your idea to the more likely it is that you will build yourself into a hole without input, fail to see things from other perspectives, fail to find out that your idea has already been done before you waste the time trying to build it, and in almost all cases simply fail. “Stealth Mode” is a worn out and useless concept perpetuated by people who expect to get something for nothing, what makes things happen is (1) actually fleshing out the idea through constant interaction with other people more knowledgeable than yourself, giving you additional reasons and urgency to actually build it, and (2) actually building it. The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful entrepreneur often has much more to do with how well that person can actually organize the people around her into making their dreams a reality than about an idea.

Good luck.


5 thoughts on “Stealth Mode

  1. I agree with you, yet in some cases putting the idea out in the open, e.g., in research, will only get you that somebody takes your ideas and tries to get it published before you can. I’m not going to give names, but we have been there. We discuss an idea with somebody, put in some work to get the thing going. Next thing, you don;t hear from these people for a few months, and if you enquire what’s going on, there’s no reply. Yet suddenly, they have submitter a paper, using your idea, or at least your contributions, your work, etc. and your name somehow failed to make it to the author list. I think such events are rare, but they do happen.

    Other reasons for staying under the radar may be that you get the idea while employed somewhere and if you bring it out into the open, your employer might try to get rights to it, even after you’ve quit them before you really start working on it. I know some people who maintained a very low profile for exactly that reason. After all, getting an idea outside work time should not allow a past employer to be able to profit from the (unpaid) work you put into it.

  2. This is so true.

    @itkovian, one of the good reasons to tell as many people as possible, apart from the good ones iterated by Andy, is that you are essentially buying yourself some insurance.

    The more people you tell about your idea the more people you will have who says “Hey, I know a guy who talked about that 6 months ago…”.

    Another good reason is that although the person you are talking to may have no interest they may know someone who does and then point you in the right direction.

    As for your comment about IP I had that very concern myself and recently asked the corporate legal speaking head directly about it. [My contract says some scary stuff that ‘could’ be interpreted that even my vacation photos are IP that belongs to the company]

    Turns out, and I made sure I sent the reply to my home email address, that they have no problem with me developing an idea that is not directly competing or related to my work for them. As long as I do it in my free time, of course. They were just using legal boilerplate in my contract to cover themselves with their clients.

    Your mileage may vary.


    This is also closely related to the idea that you can do it all one your own in your bedroom/apartment and become a success.

    It is true that there are some companies/ideas that have started out like that, for example was a private link app that the developer decided to make into a service, but this is an exception.

    Most successful companies come from a handful of dedicated individuals who are all enthusiastically committed to the same idea and goal.

    This feeds back into your original post. If you don’t openly evangelize your idea how can you build this dedicated core team?

  3. Word. This should probable be put up on a web-page with big juicy fonts and SEO’d to hell and back. It would serve the overall advancement of the species. The intellectual ego around these “very” good ideas — and the commercial culture which spawns and surrounds this sort of behavior — are like quicksand for some of the best and brightest minds among us. Nothing to lose but our chains, etc etc etc.

    Anyway, well said.

  4. how do people do that… i talk about my ideas endlessly to any one who would or wouldn’t listen and annoy living hell out of people.

    just never come round to doing them.

    oh well.

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