Nearly every Product Owner is different, for better or for worse. But there’s one type that tends to be a bigger pain in the ass than others. This is the paranoid PO. The one that is convinced that everyone is out to get them; the one that thinks every wants to steal their idea. These are the ones that carry around non-disclosure agreements like a proud father carrying pictures of his kids. But as product strategists we’re here to say that NDAs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Why?

Even Exceptional Ideas Aren’t As Exceptional As You Think

Investors, VCs, and developers see countless ideas across several different industries. The chances that they’ve run across something similar, even in the most exceptional cases, is nearly 100%. Products are brought to Rootstrap because they fill an existing need; they address a problem that needs to be solved. Most times there are several people who have recognized that problem and are offering a solution. The real trick is to be the first or to be the best at solving it, but there’s very little chance that you’re the only one trying. Keep in mind great ideas are abundant; it’s exceptional execution that is rare.

So just hearing about an idea, being pitched the problem and a fix, isn’t reason enough to sign an NDA. You’re not producing algorithms or source code; you’re simply laying out an idea. An NDA could stop this conversation before it starts.

The Process Grinds To A Halt

In our world of mobile app development and creating internal solutions, speed is a major factor. As we said before, it’s often the first to the market that carves out the biggest share. An NDA is immediately presenting a roadblock.

Your NDA has been scoured over by lawyers; it’s full of legal language, buried clauses, etc. There’s no such thing as a simple NDA. That means our own lawyers have to scour the doc, make potential adjustments for our own sake, and back and forth it goes. All the while, your idea is sitting there, stagnant, not moving forward. What happens when you only have a short 5 minute window to pitch your idea to a major investor? Are you going to whip out an NDA and a pen? If so, you’re going to miss an opportunity.

You’re asking for help, but you’re already putting legal roadblocks in the way. That’s not a great start and a bad sign for us.

It Can Squash A Developer’s Own Innovation

One of the major reasons that we don’t sign NDAs is because by and large we have nothing to gain and everything to lose. Again, ideas are plentiful. We speak with entrepreneurs about them all the time, without paper between us, and we often ultimately help them make that product a reality.

If we signed an NDA every time we looked over a project, we would have to reference those agreements every single time we started a new project. What if Project A has overlap with Project B? Even if it’s miniscule, it can become a legal headache.

Now our own creativity is bound because a Product Owner was worried that theirs would be outright stolen. As developers the risks are too great. We have a slate of clients, all with amazing ideas, and we can’t compromise those builds just to take a peek at someone else’s idea.

Now all this isn’t to say NDAs don’t have their place. They do. But it’s certainly not at the starting line.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/danmoyle/

Author

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.