“My new product idea will be stolen” – and a cure

This fear is unjustified

image “If I come out with this product, some all powerful software house will steal my idea in no time.” Anyone familiar with Seth Godin’s set of ideas concerning shipping, will recognize here a pattern – a typical expression of your “lizard brain” that makes it impossible to ship. What your “lizard brain” gets wrong is that ideas by themselves, without execution are worth little or nothing: read this Coding Horror article Cultivate Teams, Not Ideas:

image How much is a good idea worth? According to Derek Sivers, not much:

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an NDA to tell me the simplest idea.) To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions. 

Also the linked article is quite interesting:

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

Conceptual modeling software (like Prezi or Balsamiq Mockups) is appreciated because on release there is the need for such tool, in a vague, undefined form, and this need is modeled correctly by the application released; the creators gave a great execution to the pending need. The need got articulated in a coherent story, which the application implemented. And this way you may also get some interest from the press.

This fear is justified?

But I would like to point out also that some fears about your idea being stolen are actually justified. If your idea is based on some anthropological insight, relative to the moment, the needs, a certain kind of user, it may occur to many. I have experienced this in that last few months.

Licorize development started in June 2010, and a public alpha was out in July . I then found (pointed out by some Licorize users) that in August 18, 2010 this post came out:

The solution: Something that, so far as I can tell, does not yet exist: A cloud-based, task-management bucket where you can throw links, tips, bookmarks, and the like — all of which are actionable. It would be able to receive these tasks via in-app services, email, or a browser bookmarklet. And I vote we call it ttttask.

This is actually a good description of what we had done – but this post was not copied from what we had done: simply the need was around. Several people tweeted about Licorize since its release saying “this is exactly what I was going to build”, and even more “this fits exactly the need I had”. A couple wrote me “I was just going to build something like it, but you did it before”. The idea of Licorize came to me because Delicious was not answering a need for my marketing activity, and made searches online, found nothing was – and then I thought: I can’t be the only one with this need now, given how much of our working life is exploring web sites. But I was also aware that we had some advanced and ready web technology to apply, and a lot of experience in work management.

So if you have some anthropological insight that fits a new need of many – you may not be the only one who has it.

The cure

For justified, unjustified fears – there is only one remedy: shipping. Because it is really hard to copy from anyone that is determined in executing and shipping.

image Licorize was developed in only two months and a half, by two people full time and six others half time (I’m not counting the conception period). I’m not trying to fool you and myself in saying that that is all it took, of course in it we’ve put years of previous study in design, development and marketing (see this interesting discussion on the real costs of applications:
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/209170/how-much-does-it-cost-to-develop-an-iphone-application). Still, from when we decided to ship to shipping it it did take only two months and a half.

Shipping is a rich concept: focusing on shipping means discarding every day many, many unnecessarily complex technical and communication solutions, finding smarter, simpler ways to do things – without betraying the original idea.

image For example Licorize first video was done in two days. It is not great, but it tells enough, and it is not simply a webcast: it is designed, built, animated. And video usually take a long, long time to be put together. But keeping in mind the ship it idea, with my colleague Pino (who is a talented designer but also a perfectionist…) we managed to do it really quick.

So… ship.

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