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I have this idea that will change education and hopefully generate a lot of money, but there is absolutely no way I can develop it without the help of a certain company. Is there a way to bring it to them, and protect my IP at the same time? I don't want them to steal it. I suppose I could apply for a patent...

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"Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats." ~Howard Aiken –  jmq Mar 2 '12 at 2:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have this idea that will change education and hopefully generate a lot of money

I am sure someone has given the same idea to Bill Gates, but bill gates didn't do anything about that idea, because he figured out that there is no money in it!

Sorry for the sarcasm. But i just saw myself in the mirror 10 years back when you said this.

Great ideas take a lot to cultivate. And even more to get user adoption. Till such time people shouldn't even think about How much money can be made on that - because you never really know.

However, this is not to put cold water it is most essential that you first flourish that idea rather than worrying about getting it stolen. Talk to effectively people who are end users rather people who can also develop it themselves. Once you have feed back from end users and if some of them vouch for working with you - talk to some investors. Investors' or end users don't steal idea.

You really need to read this:

  1. Top ten geek business myths

  2. So... can I send you my business plan? Advice for the cash-strapped entrepreneur

I am not trying to be cynical - and only trying to put this so that you remove this fear of "someone will steal my idea". Go out and make relentless execution! That's about it.

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Really interesting articles, thank you. I think I'll concentrate on finding a way to develop it myself, even if it won't be as good as it would be with the company's help. –  Cory Walker Mar 2 '12 at 3:04
    
+1 for ".. i just saw myself in the mirror 10 years back when you said this." - not sure if I'm older and wiser or older and more cynical, I hope it's the former....... –  mattnz Mar 2 '12 at 3:09
  1. patent it first
  2. document everything and let them read it
  3. do a simple demo

another road to take:

  1. build a team (this will take time)
  2. create the product you're trying to sell (it doesn't have to be perfect)
  3. use the product for presentation (leave a good impression), include forecasts of your business model

chances are, you will no longer be bringing your idea to another corporation since you've realized that it's better to run your own.

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The problem with filing a patent: I'll be spending a big proportion of my savings (I'm only 18), just on the patent. If they turn down the idea I'm screwed. –  Cory Walker Mar 2 '12 at 2:48
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@CoryWalker Then your idea most not be that valuable to you. If it is, then your savings are worth losing. Go on to the next company and pitch them the idea. –  Austin Henley Mar 2 '12 at 5:55

The way you think is not actually how it works. An idea is worthless unless shown to be of value; people will not invest into your idea unless you can show them that it actually works, or you provide some evidence of serious commitment on your part.

Two roads to success:

Path A

  1. Sell everything you own, take up a maximal loan, second-mortgage the house.
  2. Find a venture capitalist to match the money thus raised.
  3. Use the money to set up a company and hire people to build the product.

This approach has two consequences:

  • you will have to give half your profit to your silent partner
  • if the project fails, you have lost everything you own, the house, and you will have a massive debt

Path B

  1. Learn everything required to build at least a working prototype
  2. Find time
  3. Build a working prototype
  4. Demonstrate the prototype to investors, or try to get a loan (which is basically the same thing)
  5. Hire people to turn the protype into a marketable product

The consequences:

  • You will have to pull >80-hour work weeks unless you have money to live off of while you build the thing, or a partner to support you
  • If it works out, you'll still depend on investors, and you will have to give away a large part of the profit; or, if you take the loan route, you will have quite some debt to pay off. Maybe your idea is suitable for a garage-startup approach; in that case, the risk is smaller, but it's still there.
  • If the prototype doesn't work out, or you can't find any investors, you will not have lost anything except some sweat and time.
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