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[Discuss] Startup?

Edward Ned Harvey (blu) wrote:
> My advice would be first of all, be careful what you say to anybody...

I've been involved with or on the distant periphery of the startup
community for several decades, and one of the fastest ways of spotting a
novice is the degree to which they are protective of their idea. Some
people even expect VCs to sign an NDA.

The first thing is to get over the concept that your idea is novel.
Chances are excellent that others have already considered and rejected
the same idea, or simply didn't have the resources or motivation to
pursue it.

After a while even you won't see much value in your original idea.
Chances are very good that if you pursue it, you'll end up changing it
several times before it becomes successful.

Get over the idea that people are out to steal it. The hard part is
*not* the idea. It's executing the task of bringing it to market. Being
willing to invest years of your time; being able to convince multiple
investors and initial hires that it is worth pursing. Almost no one you
will encounter can be bothered to do that.

The danger is not that someone will steal it. The vastly more likely
scenario is that you won't find anyone who believes enough in its
validity to put money onto it.

John Hall wrote:
> I struggle to understand the balance between openness and guarding
> intellectual property. If you are too concerned about NDA and
> non-disclosure then you are going to limit your exposure.


Edward Ned Harvey (blu) wrote:
> The biggest surprise that hit me out of *everything* was the patent
> process.  At some point, you're going to need to patent stuff...

In my opinion a waste of time. Patents work out well for small startups
about as well as people winning the lottery. Sure there are success
stories, but for every one there are thousands (or hundreds of
thousands) or organizations that invest the time and legal fees in
patent filings that either end up being for products that fail, have no
licensing market, or never benefit from the legal protection.

We're in a fast moving industry. Your cool idea today will be irrelevant
in 5 years. Having a 20-year patent is pointless.

John Hall wrote:
> ...if what you are doing is new and potentially risky there may be a 
> rich set of patents surrounding an initial idea. If the initial concept 
> itself could lead to a patent garden rather than a single patent on "the 
> big concept".


If your product is successful, and you have money to burn on lawyers,
you can always start building an IP "moat" around your product. Patent
things like swipe-to-scroll and one-click ordering. :-) Or whatever
novel enhancements you come up with for the 2nd generation product,
while your competitors are still trying to make knock-offs of your first
generation product.

John Hall wrote:
> By keeping something under wraps aren't you limiting the "prior art"
> protection that would prevent someone else from patenting the idea?

Yes, exactly.

The bigger concern is patent trolls. One way to combat them is to file
your patents first. But the other way is to establish prior art in the
public record. Publish the core principles of your idea.

Edward Ned Harvey (blu) wrote:
> ...investors... They are thick with each other...  Ultimately, you'll
> *need* one or more of them to personally advocate you within the
> group.  Your chances are *much* better if you can get personal
> introductions rather than cold approaching them.

True. I've seen the approach of using a well connected business coach to
get introductions to investors work well in the past.

But the investment environment has changed in recent years. An angle
investor could also get you that foot in the door, and they might be a
"softer target" than a VC. And now we have incubator and crowdfunding as
ways to get seed cash and gain visibility to 2nd round investors.

> Attend groups like Venture Cafe, and Ycombinator, and MassChallenge,
> Boston New Tech...  And a bunch of others...  Go attend those groups
> before you're ready, just so you can see what other people say and
> see what they present, and see what peoples' reactions are to them.
> You'll be improving your own personal skills just by interacting with
> the community.


Also think a long time about whether your idea really fits the model of
a fast-growth VC investment. Novices tend to see that as the only
approach to getting a business funded, but VC funding actually
represents a very tiny minority of startups. Very few actually fit the
high-growth model. Far more business are bootstrapped or funded through
other means.

John Hall wrote:
> There are accelerators like mass challenge <> 
> incubators and sandboxes.

Yes, and local ones specifically aimed at hardware startups, like:

The local Artisan's Asylum makerspace ( also
has a number of hardware startups affiliated with it. Its mailing lists
could prove to be a useful resource.

Edward Ned Harvey (blu) wrote:
> Do everything you can to generate buzz. Present at meetups and conventions, etc

Yes. Your first task is idea validation. Determine if the idea shows
potential and that there is a market, otherwise you are wasting your time.

Post abut the idea to the BLU Hardware Hacking group[1]. Give a talk to
BLU. Give a talk for the Boston Hardware Startup Meetup[2].


These presentations will get you feedback on the idea and attract
interested parties (technical co-founders), and potential investors. The
process will also put you into a way stronger position when you area
ready to start presenting to investors.

Good luck!


Tom Metro
The Perl Shop, Newton, MA, USA
"Predictable On-demand Perl Consulting."

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