If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that entrepreneurs LOVE ideas – especially Appreneurs! I know I constantly think of ideas for new apps all the time and if you’re looking to get into app development (or you already are), chances are you’re in the same boat as me!
However, another thing that most entrepreneurs have in common is that they’re afraid of people STEALING their ideas. What could be worse than coming up with a genius app idea, only to have someone you hired to develop the app for you steal it for themself?!
So naturally, because of this fear, many prospective and beginning app developers are wondering what they should do to protect their app ideas!
So today I decided to answer this question once and for all. I am about to share with you exactly what you should do to protect your app ideas from being stolen when outsourcing…
>>> NOTHING <<<
Yes, you read that correctly! I personally think that taking lots of extra precautions to protect your app ideas from being stolen is a waste of time, for the following reasons:
1) First of app, it would be insanely stupid on the developer’s part to steal your app idea! Why would any reputable developer (you are using a reputable developer, right?) risk his or her reputation and put their future income at jeopardy just to steal one app idea which may or may not be successful?
2) Secondly, your app idea probably sucks anyway! I’m not trying to be mean here, but the reality is that most “genius” app ideas that people have end up failing miserably once released. Take my own app SharePrayer for example. I thought that was a pretty good app idea and so far this “pretty good” app idea has lost me more than $800.
3) It’s not necessarily a bad thing if a developer steals your idea! Sure, there’s always a chance that the next Mark Zuckerberg is the one who steals your idea and you end up missing out on billions of dollars. However, the much more likely scenario is that the person who stole your idea ends up failing miserably and you can thank him for spending his money to test your idea for you! He just saved you the time and money developing an app that was going to lose your money! Or, the other option is that the person who stole your idea is having success with it, in which case – what’s to stop you from moving forward with your app anyways? In order for an app to be successful it doesn’t have to be completely unique! If you’re creative and determined, you have a good shot at making just as much money as they person who stole the idea from you, if not more!
Those 3 reasons should be more than enough to make you understand that it’s not worth stressing about whether your developer will steal your app ideas. I’m sure you have more important things in your life to worry about than that!
However, I know there are people out there who don’t believe me or simply want that “extra protection” for their ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t use it as an excuse not to take action. Many people with legitimately great app ideas never end up getting them developed because they’re so scared someone will steal it from them. And to that I say:
An idea is just that – an idea. Ideas are absolutely WORTHLESS unless accompanied by action! (Click to Tweet)
With that being said, here are a few methods you can use to protect your app ideas from developers.
Use an Nondisclosure Agreement
This is probably the most common method of protecting your ideas from developers. I’ve used this method before when hiring through Elance and what I did was when I posted the job description, I essentially told them very vaguely what the app would do and what general features it would have. In SharePrayer‘s case, I essentially said it was a notepad and alarm cock combined into one app with the feature of being able to share notes with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email. They had no idea how this app was going to be used or marketed and I didn’t provide mockups or more details until they signed and returned an NDA to me.
Now there are a few things to bear in mind when using NDAs.
1) Although I don’t have personal experience here, I have heard that they are extremely hard to enforce legally. As a matter of fact, being that I’m under 18 years old, signing an NDA with a developer holds absolutely NO legal weight whatsoever for me! Why did I do it then? Simple – the developers had no idea that I was under 18 and I essentially just used the NDA to to scare any thoughts of stealing my idea out of them.
2) If you aren’t disclosing much information about your app up-front, the bids developers give you are not going to be very accurate at first. All this means is that you won’t be able to filter our developers by price until later in the process.
3) It’s a pain to keep track of what developers have signed and returned your NDA, which ones haven’t, etc. especially when you’re using a site like Elance where it’s not uncommon to get a few dozen proposals within a couple days.
Use a Noncompete Agreement
Essentially what a Noncompete Agreement does is it prevents developers from working on any projects that will directly compete with yours for a given amount of time after finishing your app. While this sounds great for you, think about it from the developers point of view. If I would’ve made my developer for SharePrayer sign a Noncompete Agreement, he wouldn’t be able to work on any apps having to do with religion. While that is a smaller niche in my case, in many other cases this could limit the number of future clients he can work with, which he will not want to do.
So while I don’t have any experience using a Noncompete Agreement, I can tell you with confidence that it will be almost impossible for you to find a reputable developer that is willing to sign one.
Limit Who You Tell
This is the easiest and the most effective method of preventing developers from stealing your app ideas! Logically, the less developers you tell about the details of your idea, the less chance you have of it being stolen. As I mentioned before, any reputable app developer in his right mind will not steal your app ideas. It’s the developers who aren’t reputable that are more likely to do something like that. So if you are using a site like Elance, make sure to screen the dozens of proposals you get and only give the details of your app to the ones who are reputable.
There are various ways of judging who is reputable and who isn’t on Elance, but one simple method is to simply look at what their feedback rating, how many jobs they’ve completed, and how much money they’ve made on Elance. For example, you could filter out anyone who doesn’t have any feedback or has less than 3 stars average feedback rating. That will decrease the number of developers who know the details of your app.
Take Your Chances
This is the method I use most of the time because as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing…your app ideas will most likely NOT be stolen! And even if one of my app ideas WERE to be stolen, I have hundreds more app ideas stored on my computer that I’d love to pursue so it’s not a big deal.
What About You?
I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this, and that’s alright! I love hearing your opinions whether you agree with me or not!
With that being said, let me know in the comments section what you think about this! What strategies to you use (if any) to protect your app ideas? Do you feel it’s worth it?
Looking forward to hearing from you!