how to present ideas to a possible future partner without getting them 'stolen'?


I am planning into getting involved in a venture in an asian country.

I have a friend from this country that has an experience in the kind of business I want to be involved in and that has “ built “ some previous work , not making profit out of it though.

I have found ways to make some profit at of what he has done.

I am then thinking of talking about it with him , and if things goes well, to be partners (we both live in the UK) .
My only issue with that , is the fact that he has the contacts ,the experience ,he is from that country; which means , if I gave him a “ sample of ideas “ to see if he is interested , I could be encountering the risk of him taking my ideas and doing all the job by himself without me getting involved in the project.

How could I then talk to him about the new ideas and work we could do together without having this risk of getting my ideas “ stolen “ ?
Is there any ways I could protect myself from that ?

For information, with the few ideas I would discuss with him , he could get started really quick with it ; that’s the risk.

Ideas Venture Partnership Intellectual Property Project

asked Jan 22 '12 at 13:37
13 points

5 Answers


without having this risk of getting my ideas “ stolen “ ?

  1. Only discuss your ideas with venture capitalists, incubators and other advisers who don't have the 'muscle' to build it themselves. In other words, only discuss ideas with people who are far removed from being able to execute on your idea.
  2. Have a high-quality mutual non disclosure & non competition agreement (NDA & NC) signed before the meeting. (Note that as a rule VCs and active business angels don't sign NDAs. But then, if they have done very many deals and kept a good reputation, then you also won't need one with them.)
ideas I would discuss with him , he could get started really quick with it

Well, that line implies that there are no easy solutions. Since he's already active in the same area of business, he won't sign an NDA -- or if he does, delimiting what is under NDA & NC will be a major mess. On the other hand, he is very well positioned to run with your ideas and call them his own.

In this case, it comes down to personal trust. Do you believe this man so honorable that he would never do something like this, not even for a large pot of gold? Or, if he implements your ideas without partnering with you, can you think of a way to turn it to your own benefit? Because it's likely to happen...

answered Jan 22 '12 at 19:47
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points
  • Thank you for the useful answer Jesper.I will consider both options. – Ongoing 12 years ago
  • Suppose the business partner doesn't think he's doing anything wrong? Suppose he was already planning to implement a majority of those ideas and you just added a little extra flavor? Suppose he's not acting with any malice? In general, I believe contracts are designed mainly to resolve disputes, not necessarily to prevent distrustful people from taking advantage of you. :) The reason my employer has a contract with our biggest client isn't so the client won't steal our ideas, it's to have a way to resolve any disputes that arise. +1 on the "have a high quality mutual non disclosure" section – James Mortensen 12 years ago


Just an idea or a line-of-thought is in my opinion worth far less than the real product. I tend to think in a way that if your friend is already in the industry and not able to think of a profitable idea like what you have, (after so much experience) then it means either of these.

  • Either he is not intelligent or hardworking enough to implement the idea
  • Or the idea itself is not great

Now despite this, if you think your idea is great and have a doubt of it getting copied what I would have done is, I would implement it first, have something ready in hand to sell, and then talk to my friend.

answered Jan 22 '12 at 16:33
159 points


Just a thought, or more of a point -- people rarely 'steal' ideas. Case in point, spend 20-mins, come up with a 'good idea' in a business domain you personally don't care about. Then, think of who's the most likely to 'steal' the idea, find a contact at that company, call them, tell them you're idea, and see if they steal it; they won't, people are too busy dealing with what they think is important to act on someone's idea; the preceding feedback based on experience.

Lastly, if you're meeting people who you believe might steal your work, that's the problem - not trying to figure out how to stop them from steal your work.

answered Jan 23 '12 at 10:45
Blunders .
899 points


If it's so easy for him to "steal" your ideas, they're probably not very unique in the first place.

Bearing in mind that:

  • If he doesn't like your ideas, he won't steal your ideas.
  • If he is a friend, he won't steal your ideas.

If he does like your ideas, ask yourself why you think that he will steal them, rather than bring you onboard to help him execute.

answered Jan 24 '12 at 02:23
Nick Stevens
4,436 points


Hire an attorney who is familiar with the local laws in the UK. Have the attorney draw up a confidentiality agreement and a non-compete agreement. Then have your colleague sign this before sharing any ideas.

UPDATE : While an attorney will help provide you with the greatest legal protection for your intellectual property, there are legal websites like and where you can purchase legal contracts for your jurisdiction. While I don't know if they cater to the UK, they may have confidentiality agreements that you can purchase for a nominal fee. Do some Google searches if lawdepot or findlaw don't offer the resources you need.

No matter which direction you go, you'd better have some formal agreement in place. Many potential business ideas have been stolen by business partners. However, the more likely scenario is that when there is no agreement in place from which to resolve disputes, misunderstandings may arise. Even parties with the best of intentions may end up losing out because one party misunderstood the intentions of another.

Contracts are designed to defend you from these sorts of legal questions. The answer to how to avoid someone stealing your ideas is to have an agreement in writing. Otherwise, there is no agreement and there is nothing you can legally do to prevent someone from stealing your ideas.

Disclaimer Of course, I'm not an attorney. You shouldn't rely on my advice in this matter and should talk to an attorney who specializes in matters such as this.

answered Jan 22 '12 at 14:41
James Mortensen
363 points
  • Hiring an attorney for this seems to be overkill. – Natwar Lath 12 years ago
  • If the idea is worth pursuing and is valuable, then it's worth getting some legal protection in the form of a confidentiality agreement. If a confidentiality agreement is an overkill, then one must ask if the idea is really all that valuable. I will update my answer with a few other options that might be more cost effective. – James Mortensen 12 years ago
  • Thank you jmort253 , I will check those sites . – Ongoing 12 years ago

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