Should I give away my idea to an incubator program?


I'm considering applying my site, currently early in development, to YCombinator. Do I risk having my idea stolen by going through with the application process? They're asking very specific questions and requesting more than enough information to take the idea themselves and run with it. I need the help but I do not want my idea floating out there in the event that I get rejected. What do you all think?

Ideas Incubators Application Intellectual Property

asked Mar 31 '11 at 03:40
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88 points

5 Answers


Ideas are highly overrated. And it's going to come out anyway when you launch. All your competitors will be doing it.
Even more so, why would YCombinator run with your idea? They have their hands pretty full already.

Go for it.

answered Mar 31 '11 at 03:47
Mircea Grelus
782 points
  • If your idea is so unique that no-one is doing it and you have no competition it probably means the idea needs further work. You and your competitors will define the market, it's your implementation that should make you stand out. So go for it, the value's not the idea bu execution – Mr Telly 13 years ago


The thing you have to remember is, while important, they are not just funding your idea. They are funding you, your team, and your plan to execute.

answered Mar 31 '11 at 03:47
91 points
  • Fantastic point Josh -- we often forget how important the consideration of our team is to the funding process. – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago


Your idea could have a lot of competition, or it might be in a niche domain. From the fact you are asking this, it seems, you are playing with a more or less common idea/product with slight modifications/value additions like a lot of other ideas in the market. And in such cases, time to market for your product can become crucial to its success.

If doing MVP is an option, it can be a great instrument to assess the market and product simultaneously. This would be beneficial in multiple ways:

  • Better chances for your team at yCombi
  • Better assessment of features, timelines involved
  • Better "Time to Market" / Social traction and more

On the lines of @Joshucar: Ycombi would give your product experience, knowledge, a little money, and a bunch of social traction. You would be the best judge of how you prioritize and value these for the kind of product you are launching.

It is always great to work based on others experience, but if yCombi is not a necessity (Bootstrapping is a possibility, you have decent networks), then you should focus on the real thing, and get assessments from slightly safer and trusted Angels etc.

answered Mar 31 '11 at 10:29
141 points


in 95% of cases when people are accepted in startup incubator programs such as Y-combinator and TechStars, you get in because of the team, not the idea. They are there to help you evolve or change the idea and by the time most companies get out of the program, they are working on something completely different than what you submitted as the initial idea.

Ideas are dime a dozen and incubators are too busy to be stealing them for you. They gain more value from good founders than trying to do their ideas themselves.

answered Mar 31 '11 at 20:20
394 points


Although you can't guarantee it I seriously doubt an incubator is going to steal your idea. They are there with the purpose of investing in people, products, and markets that have growth potential, in an investment / mentorship capacity.

Besides, it's bad karma and there's a lot of Karma components to the entrepeneurial community.

answered Mar 31 '11 at 22:30
1,171 points

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