Opinion: Protecting Your Ideas Is Important. Here are 4 Ways Founders Can Do That
This story originally published on June 5, 2019
We all dream of creating something like Facebook and blowing up in record speed, but the reality is that it’s just that, a dream. Not to say it’s impossible, but creators of color tend to have our intellectual property used without consent when we make our ideas public and are not granted access to resources to get to the finish line quicker than our white counterparts. Think about it, have you ever had an idea and seen someone else take credit for it or present it as their own? Creators should make silent moves when working through an idea, even though popular culture tells us differently. With the spotlight on social media and consumers feeling like its natural to put their entire life on their IG story, many creators are taken advantage of for their ideas.
Here are four steps creators can use to protect ourselves and our ideas:
1. Lawyer Up
I believe that some aspects of the law are a world of side eyes and reputation management with a little bit of justice, so determining ownership of IP is a long road. In some cases, it’s so long that financially folks can’t even afford the interaction, or even think about fighting when someone has done them wrong. My advice is to find a lawyer that can serve as a coach first if you are doing any business at all. This person should feel like a friend that you can be honest with and tell you when you screw up. This person will tell you the truth, no matter what. Now I’m not saying go and get on a retainer, but build a relationship with someone who understands how your business works and has or had clients in your industry, so they can protect you from the start.
2. That Mutual NDA Will Save You
You should get a mutual non-disclosure agreement drafted for you to use in every meeting related to your idea. This might seem a bit scary, but it adds the perfect tone to any conversation and allows you to show folks you mean business. In the beginning, don’t be surprised if folks are nervous about signing it. Tell them it’s mutual; meaning anything you ask them to commit to, you are willing to do the same. This document will protect anything you share that is private and not public knowledge, including your companies’ financials, client information, best practices, and plans for growth. It also can have a time limit on how long the information is to stay confidential, which is why the person with the JD — that lawyer I just mentioned, should help you draft it.
3. Stop Letting People “Pick Your Brain”
We need to kill this practice. This is mainly for my fellow consultants in the world. Folks who want to pick your brain recognize that you are a genius and want your mind, ideas, and opinion for free. In some cases, they honestly just need a little bit of help, but remember you are a business and time is money. This is the hardest lesson in understanding how to protect your brainchild and make power moves. However, we all want to see our people succeed, so my golden rule is one freebie and after that — like my lawyer — the billable clock starts. The more upfront you are with folks about this, the less you will see people try you this way or the more influx you’ll receive which equates into money/revenue for your company.
4. Move in Silence
As much as we like to scream and praise God for the blessings and great accomplishments we make, it’s even better to keep them to yourself. Now, this doesn’t include your momma and your tribe, but IG, Black Twitter, and your neighbors in your co-working space don’t need to know your business. A mentor of mine told me something once that stuck with me: Money moves are silent.
This short but powerful saying is true in every situation as it limits the risk of someone messing up your deal, client relationship, or vibe when you are seeing the fruits of your labor. While social media can make entrepreneurship look sexy, when you are out here working and busting your butt, the last thing you want is someone ruining your moment. Protect your bag by securing it and only telling information to who needs to know it. I promise you’ll come out better this way and continuously be able to make moves like a ninja…quiet and quick before the competition knows you’re coming.
Roy Broderick, Jr. is the CEO of Intuition, an Atlanta based multicultural marketing firm specializing in brand development.