Black and White Debate: “Should Startup Entrepreneurs Keep their Ideas a Secret or Not?”
The Hub East Africa yesterday held its Inspirational Tuesday’s Black and White Debate. The motion for the debate was, “Keeping Ideas a Secret or Not”. The moderator for the debate was none other than the Founder of the Hub East Africa Liesbeth Bakker, and the panelists that graced the occasion were:
Brian Sing’ora was of the idea that startup entrepreneurs ought to keep their ideas a secret. He backed his view by citing various occasions when an upcoming entrepreneur shared his idea with big corporate organization.
Misiani Mwencha was in support for an entrepreneur being careful about sharing his/her idea. He gave an example of an entrepreneur who has come up with a really innovative idea/product, and he gets so excited and in his/her naivety shares his/her idea with the wrong people. Mwencha stressed that sharing ought to be very strategic, since as a startup entrepreneur chances are you don’t have the necessary capital and network to deploy your idea. You, therefore, would need people more experienced and with more capital than you to give you support.
In order to reach such people, you first must share with them your idea. Mwencha is of the idea that startup entrepreneurs should share their ideas, but do it in a strategic manner that won’t end up with their ideas being stolen from them.
The third speaker, June Gachuhi who is a lawyer by profession and running an Intellectual Property Consultancy firm said it depends with the kind of idea and the position of the entrepreneur. If you are a startup entrepreneur without access to funds then, you will have to partner with various investors in order for you to take your idea to the next level.
June further said that it would be a wise move that you get legal advice to ensure that your idea is not stolen, or you end up getting a raw partnership deal. If you partner with an investor, then the investor must get returns on his/her investments at the same time you need to ensure that your idea gets executed and you also get to enjoy the fruits of your idea.
Working as an Intellectual Property lawyer. June elaborated, that if startup entrepreneurs are seeking to copyright their idea, then they must at the very least execute the idea; an idea in itself cannot be copyrighted. Ideas can be developed by virtually anyone, but copyright can only be given to the first person who graduates from just having an idea to having a product or demonstration of execution for that idea.
The fourth speaker, Ngethe Njoroge, who works as a consultant for Airtel Kenya, sat on the fence, saying it depends with the type of idea you have. Ngethe gave an example of two local entrepreneurs who built a successful e-commerce company, but soon as the company starting making profit. The two co-founder had internal wrangles among themselves, and one decided to partner with another investor and walked out with a considerable number of the company’s employees including key ideas that were the foundation of the company.
He also warned startup entrepreneurs to be weary when people approach them with goodies. Citing an example of how established entrepreneurs and organization invite startup entrepreneurs to events, and during the event the startup entrepreneur having the zeal to impress talk about his own ideas. Only to later discover that the big and well-established entrepreneur/organization stole his/her idea that they discussed during the event.
Attendants to the debate also chipped-in the debate with a majority supporting the idea that as a startup entrepreneur, you should share your idea. But one ought to be careful in terms of how much of that idea they share, and with whom they share with. Thanks to the free legal advice from the lawyer present in the panelist, attendants also reckon that an entrepreneur should first seek legal advice from an Intellectual Property lawyer first before going forward to seek the opportunity to pitch their ideas before potential investors and business partners.