Special to Financial Post – Oct 4, 2011 – 6:05 AM ET

There’s no easy way to know if your idea will succeed

Some of the wackiest business ideas surprisingly succeed, whilst some apparently serious, and on the surface amazing, ideas miserably fail.

The reality is that there is no real measurement for whether an idea is good enough to go to market. What succeeds or fails is quite often very much at the whim of the consumer. The deciding factors are more related to whether a product or patent already exist, and, if it does, is your idea better or does it have a wider application? Assuming the two previous measures are positive, the next one is really how much stomach the inventor has to actually market the product. The key, then, is protecting the idea; the rest is really a business decision or risk.


Financial Post article thumbnail* Be safe

The sad truth is there is no guarantee your idea won’t be stolen or copied. It happens even to the largest of companies with large legal budgets, so individuals with little or no cash to fight a legal battle are even more vulnerable. However, there are things that you can do. First of all, do not discuss your ideas with too many people, particularly casual friends and workmates. Even when brainstorming with close friends, do not disclose the full details of your idea. If you feel the need to approach a professional organization for help in developing or marketing your idea, research them very carefully first. Try to identify past clients of the firms that interest you and see if they will give you a reference on the work that was done for them.
* Keep secrets
If you have chosen the right type of organization, most firms will be happy to listen to your pitch. At the first meeting, or preferably ahead of it, you should be offered the chance to view and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or confidentiality agreement. Read it carefully and make sure that it is mutual — that is, it protects your confidential information as well as theirs. Be careful: Many NDAs are one way, and do not offer you any protection once you’ve revealed your information. A good NDA will say as clearly as possible what type of information is protected, by whom and for how long. If the NDA seems to be unusually complicated or confusing, take a step back. If the organization you are talking to is unwilling to agree to an NDA, or suggests one is not required until later in the process, rethink your position and move on to another consultant. Even with an NDA in place, proceed with relative caution. You should reveal enough information to ensure the parties are capable of making informed decisions, or provide worthy advice, but not so much that they have the complete picture of your idea.
* Take notes
Always keep careful notes of what was said in any meeting, by whom and when. This can be very helpful in the unfortunate event you need to go to court. Better safe than sorry.

Av Utukuri is the CEO/CTO at Nytric, a Canadian innovations company.

Posted in: Financial Post Magazine  Tags: consumer, idea, intellectual property, legal fees, Marketing