Idea for a New Business

Well, it had to happen eventually.

I’ve finally had an “idea” for a new business, and of course I’m all excited about it, reading up on business models/plans/cases, how to be entrepreneurial, etc…

But I wonder, is there some safe way that I can bounce the idea of some smart people (like the people here… well, certainly some of them) outside of my immediate social circle without having the idea stolen?

The reason I ask is that in my immediate social circle, I’ve heard a lot of “What a great idea!” but it worries me that I’ve surrounded myself with:

  1. People like me, and I’m not necessarily a perfect example of the customers I’d be focused on.
  2. People who like me, and I’m not totally convinced that they’re not humouring me.

What do you folks do in this scenario? I guess an investment banker or venture capitalist (or someone like that) would be the best way to go, but I really don’t want to go there until my idea is firmed up and I’m totally comfortable presenting it. Plus I don’t want to waste my time if it’s been “done before”.

Of course I’ve already spent some quality time with my pal Google, and though there have been a couple of startup attempts to do variations or permutations of “my idea”, I don’t think they put together an offering like I’m imagining. Plus I have certain contacts with companies/people who would make valuable partners that these other startups didn’t have.

I guess I’m asking people here if they’ve had any experience starting a new (ideally successful) business, and what they did to make it happen, especially in terms of getting good advice and input early on.

The odds of any one (or small group) of individuals ripping off your idea are much less than you think. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and everybody thinks their own is the greatest thing.

That said, your idea MAY be good, but it is safe to bounce the idea off people, if you do it intelligently.

Of course, friends and family are unlikely to rip you off, but they may lack the expertise to give you accurate assessment, and besides, they may be reluctant to criticize, or just overly caught up by your enthusiasm.

VCs and the like, unless you already know them, are unlikely to give you a meaningful response, and if they do actually pay attention and DO really like your idea, they’re the one group with a somewhat higher risk of ripping off your idea (because they’re in the business of building ideas into businesses).

Posting on a big public forum like this is likewise probably foolish. But sending the idea to a few people who you’ve met on this forum or elsewhere who seem competent and probably have some familiarity with the area you’re talking about is ok.

In general, my advice would be to find 2-4 successful business people who at least have some knowledge of the area that you’re interested in, but aren’t likely to be able to steal your business (i.e. if it’s a physical location, pick someone in a different city. if it’s a web/software thing, pick somebody technical, but who’s already busy with their own project).

A kickass idea for a business is no different from a kickass idea for a game – everybody has one. Or three. Most people never actually DO anything with them.

Investors invest in businesses, not in ideas – until you have a business for them to invest in, you won’t get anywhere. If you’re waiting to start your business until you get your truckful of money from the VC’s, just give up now.

So, get started – pay for the early stages yourself. Why would anyone want to invest if you aren’t willing to? The more progress you make, the better your chance of finding outside investment.

As for VC’s, investment bankers, etc, don’t even dream about getting anything from them until you think you’re 80% ready for market.

Also: see if there’s a local SCORE chapter, and go talk to them.

Maybe you should just wrap it in ‘SPOILER ALERT.’

I’m definitely going to be turning the idea into a business, that’s the intention. As you say, ideas are a dime a dozen. I think I’ve landed on a good idea that I have the experience and resources to turn into a succesful business.

I’m not really in need of big funding, and wasn’t planning on going to a VC for money but rather as an objective assessor. The business I envision can easily scale, and could start quite small and locally and expand quickly if need be.

I’ve already started figuring out what the startup costs are going to be, and I’ve already spoken with people (friends/family) who seem ready to invest some money or time, enough to give this thing a fair shot at success. I just don’t want to be the one to screw them out of their cash without any hope of success, which is why I’m eager to find some external validation / sober second thought before I get the ball rolling.

Some really good advice here so far, thanks! It is a tech idea, in that it starts with a Web site, but it has a strong physical-world tie in, and I really do want to share it with a few folks here (but not the public at large, of course). Don’t be surprised if a few of you get a PM from me in the near future asking permission to run it by you. I’m lookin for brutal honesty, and that means Bill D. is definitely on my list of people to consult! I’ve already seen him offer unsolicited “hard reality” advice to people, so I can only imagine what an open invitation would bring.

If you think you could provide an objective opinion, have the time to read a couple of paragraphs in the next week or so, and provide some feedback, drop me a PM.