Not long ago I had a conversation with a woman who had an idea for a start-up company, in the area of sustainable energy. What was interesting about this conversation was that she wouldn’t reveal to me – or anyone – what the idea was.

As I see it – in a start-up context – it doesn’t make sense to ‘hide’ your story. Why? Because when you’re starting a business that’s going to require a lot of people-power, you’re going to have to trust the collaborative process, the networks, the people in your tribe to support you and invest their time, energy and skills to help you build your business. You simply can’t do it alone. I know this from my own experiences with Nuance, Scope, The Powerhouse, and The Woolf.

I wanted to share some contacts I had with Sustainable Energy Start-up Woman. I wanted to put her in touch with people I knew. I was open to the discussion.

Sustainable Energy Start-up Woman’s response?

“But I’m worried someone’s going to steal my idea.”

Here’s my take: People don’t tend to steal an idea unless they are perfectly, financially, technologically and networkingly poised to realise it. They might do something similar, but it won’t be the way you envisaged it. It will be different, because they have different resources. Besides which, while you’re sitting around fretting about intellectual copyright, you’re wasting time and energy. (Obviously, you need to be smart about who you share with, but you get the point.)

Writers often think that talking about the writing process, or giving away the general overview of a book, will mean someone will steal their idea.

As I’ve said before (in a previous post), nobody in their right mind would try to take someone else’s idea and write about it.

Do you know how much energy and time and creative juice it takes to write a novel?!

You can say exactly the same for a business idea: it takes quite some time to get businesses off the ground successfully. Actually, it’s almost safer these days to ‘put it out there’ than to ‘keep it in’. At least there’s an electronic paper trail, and you can claim some kind of ownership over ideas with Creative Commons licensing.

[I am still learning about this, but as I understand it, Trademarking e.g. technology, is a different story. Feel free to comment if you have intel on this.]