I have an online idea that requires a lot of IT. I am the marketer and can implement on that front but do not have the IT experience or know-how. I would like to find a venture capital company that may want to be involved. It is also an idea that would work well with some other companies if I collaborated. However, if I pitch the idea to another company what will keep them from doing it themselves? Is there any way to protect my idea? Would an investor invest in the idea if it was good enough or should I just find an IT partner and then go to the investor?
Don't worry about it. Get them to sign a non-disclosure, and that's it. Your idea is not the valuable part of your venture. It's the execution of your idea that matters. Ideas are cheap. People who can take a good idea and make it a successful venture are what matter. Convince the venture capitalist you're one of these.
Jodi, protecting your idea while pitching is a tricky one, but basically it comes down to reputation ... many won't sign NDA (confidentiatlity agreements) because they hear 10 pitches that all come "close" every month. It would be a legal nightmare to try and work out what you could and couldn't say, what advice you could and couldn't give.
The key saving grace you have is, they hear 10 pitches which are "close enough" to your pitch every month ... if it stands out to them, they are likely to invest in it. If it doesn't it will be merged in with the others who are competing in the same arena.
Have a listen to the very early "This week in startups" and "This week in venture captial" these topics get discussed on both programs and you get both sides of the picture. What I took away from them in summary is
That said, yes there are always risks, yes it probably has happened in the past but it would have required more than just hearing the idea for it to have mattered.
There isn't a whole lot you can do. Very few VCs will sign NDAs and I've heard of several instances of VCs sitting down for a pitch and then funding a similar/competing startup, which means that startup's investment team now has full details on a competitor's business plan, technical implementation, etc.
VCs are not in the business of stealing ideas and most of them will not sign NDAs in the first place. Everyone needs to remembers that these people are sent dozens of ideas every week (if not every day). For the vast majority of them, these business plans are not well thought out or researched. If they signed NDAs before reading all of these "game changing" ideas, they would be dragged into court every other month by a jaded business owner with a bad idea.
As xpda said, ideas are easy, execution is hard. VCs invest in people and patents, not ideas.
Mail a copy of your idea to yourself stating that you going to discuss this idea with XYZ. Sign an NDA, if they are fine. In case, they try to hack your idea later, just go to the court and file a case of intellectual property theft. BTW mail the copy using a gmail, hotmail etc. Don't use your own mail service provider.