Strategic Secrecy Will Kill Your Venture

I first thought of my second venture eight years ago. This venture was based on a killer idea that answered a need in a unique way. It brewed in my mind for some time and I kept the idea strategically secret for two reasons. First, I knew it could be duplicated by a competitor fairly easily. Second, I wanted to be first to market.

Five years after this idea had been swimming around in my head I joined The Reno Collective. The Collective is a shared work space dealing primarily with techcentric consultants peppered with nonprofits and marketers. It is more than a simple work space that gives you a better place to do your thing than the local coffee house, or worse, your home. It really is a collaborative stew. I found this out when I first joined. Within a month I found myself spilling my guts about my ‘genius’ idea to Michael Henderson (who would go on to be my partner in the venture). Then a very strange thing happened – synergy. You know, the whole “There was a horse pull in…..” thing. We were feeding off of each other. By the end of the discussion we had mapped out a completely new creature that offered far more benefit than my little measly idea could have done all alone.

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What happened?

I reviewed my progress and realized that my strategic secrecy had actually held me back for years. My fear that someone would steal my idea had come at the cost of me not being able to realize any progress on the idea. A truly unacceptable trade off.

Now, I understand that there are sometimes that secrecy is needed. For example, my venture I discuss above is a program that allows employees to donate the cash value of their Pad Time Benefits (sick and vacation time) to the Nonprofit of their choice. It further enfranchises everyone involved by letting the action be shared on all social media platforms thereby linking the donor (employee), the employer, and the nonprofit. I love to talk to everyone about it. But I do not reveal our secret sauce on the actual accounting mechanics.

But just know this…..in far more cases than not, keeping your idea secret is holding back the true potential of that idea. There have been numerous personal examples where I have opened my mouth and evangelized my work only to find that people did not want to steal my idea but to help my idea. People came out of the woodwork to mentor us, coach us, offer assistance, and cheer us on. They gave us connections, introductions, and leads. In the end, you will find that you will gain FAR more by opening your mouth than by keeping it shut.

Give it a try. Spend the next week telling everyone you can about your great idea and see what happens. You may be surprised but I won’t. Your idea will make more progress in that month than any month before. Let me know your thoughts and experiences with this experiment.

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