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I have a few interesting ideas (business ideas) that can be implemented as add-on features of existing business products (web-based products, mostly startups). Based on experience, can anyone let me know if telling them would be a good idea or not? I'm hoping to get some feedback from both sides (company insiders and outsiders).

The upside: They could like it and think about bringing me on board to help build.

The downside: They take the idea and implement it.

Company size for one is less than 50. Another is less than 25.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 4 '11 at 12:34

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Don't forget that there's also the possibility of "yeah, we were already discussing / working on that". They may not want you to pitch to them, for the same reasons (apparently) a lot of 'movie companies' won't accept random pitches / screenplays. –  Narcissus Mar 4 '11 at 12:33
    
How big is the company? –  Steven Jeuris Mar 4 '11 at 12:37
    
@Steven See edit above. –  Ryan Mar 4 '11 at 12:48
    
You're talking about ideas for companies that you don't work for? Can you implement the idea without being in the company? –  mbillard Mar 4 '11 at 13:30
    
I could, but it is an extension of a product. So, I'd have to build product from ground up. Nothing is stopping me from doing that, just didn't know which approach was more valuable... –  Ryan Mar 5 '11 at 14:49
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4 Answers

Ideas are plentiful (high supply). They really aren't worth as much as we're made to believe. Only an implemented idea has value.

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Get a lawyer if you think it's that good an idea. Spell out your understanding and make it clear up front what your expectations are.

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This was a much discussed question on the "Joel On Software" forums. The consensus was that you are better off creating the products alone. I recommend searching through the archives.

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I believe this mainly depends on the relationship you have with your employer. Where I work (programmer in a small company < 20 employees), everybody knows each other. We can easily pitch ideas which are forwarded to our client when they find it interesting. I just have to mention it at some point, or send an informal mail. I don't have any experience how this would work in a big(ger) company, but perhaps you wouldn't be asking this question if you feel 'safe' suggesting this idea to your boss/supervisor.

You mention it are add-on features to existing business products. The natural questions is, are you working on this product? When you are, I don't see the harm in suggesting this, as chances are big you end up implementing it, or working together with people who are. The cost for the company is also smaller because you don't have to start working on a new product. If it's not a product you are working on, the company will likely feel hesitant to switch you to another product, as this causes a certain overhead, even in a small company.

Don't just expect your employer to hand the project to you, also convince him why you are up for the task, and at least ask for it while mentioning it.

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