I answer questions about invention on Quora and one of the most common questions is:

“How do I keep someone from stealing my idea?”

I'm amazed there is this continual perception that, just because you come up with an idea (which everyone does every day) that it “belongs” to you and others shouldn't “steal” it from you.

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Let me clear the air on this concept of stealing ideas. Read on…

The media is always abuzz heralding brilliant business ideas – as if success is obtained simply by having a good idea.

Airbnb now called a brilliant idea, certainly didn't look very brilliant to many investors in the beginning. Early on, in 2008, Airbnb co-founders Gebbia and Chesky kept their nascent business alive by selling $30,000 of Obama O's and Cap'n McCain's cereals. Even after obtaining investment capital, it took a lot of time for them to get traction. They got a lot of help from Craigslist listings to increase credibility of Airbnb rentals.

Similarly, Amazon was derided by Wall Street moguls for years as “Amazon.bomb” – a business that would never make money. In the beginning, Jeff Bezos sold only books, a notoriously low-margin business. Why set up a business to sell into a highly-competitive space with low margins? That concept seemed dumb, not brilliant, at a time when Barnes & Noble and Borders Books sold the lion's share of books. It took over 6 years before Amazon began reporting profits.

Today, Mr. Bezos's massive Amazon enterprise has a market cap exceeding $1 trillion, indeed looks brilliant. Amazon sells thousands of categories of items, and even rockets, via Blue Origin. But the bulk of its net income or profit does not come from retail and online sales at all.

In 2017, almost all of Amazon's profit margin came from AWS (Amazon Web Services), not retail. AWS is a service many people have never even heard of. The conglomerate that is Amazon in 2018 looks only vaguely like the original concept in 1994 that so many laughed about.

Ideas Seem Brilliant Only in Hindsight

Successful business owners have one thing in common:

  • They begin with a workable idea, then execute extremely well to make it succeed

So, the genius lies in brilliant execution, not a brilliant idea. Lots of seeming brilliant ideas never get off the drawing board.

The co-owners of Airbnb, for example, had to leave the Bay Area for quite some time and couch surf in friends' apartments in the New York area where the bulk of their original clients were. They knocked on doors to find out what hosts and clients liked and didn't like. Then they made changes to their concept, lots of them. It was boring, dreary, not glorious foot work, but it had to be done or the concept would have failed. This is what they had to do to execute on the Airbnb vision, to make it workable so it could succeed.

Likewise, Mr. Bezos took a calculated gamble, choosing to run a business that lost money for years while he poured hundreds of millions of dollars of capital into expensive infrastructure – huge warehouses – all over the country.

He knew that was the only way he could create a venture with long term healthy profitability and scalability.

Everyone at the time thought he was nuts. But, history has proven he was right and ‘everyone' else was wrong. The same initial idea that so many people in the 90's thought was nuts, now is heralded as another brilliant idea. Ideas are brilliant only in hindsight after much truly brilliant execution has taken place.

Take-Aways for Inventors

Your invention always begins with a raw idea, which has no value whatsoever in the beginning. It is just a concept and the odds are that others have had the same idea – even at the same time – as you.

The value will come in how you execute it, what you do with it. So, if someone steals your idea, who cares? There is no value there for them. Only when you develop your idea into a viable product or process, does it begin to have value. Then, you can and probably should patent it and begin the long hard work of marketing it.

Just like Mr. Chesky or Mr. Bezos, the value lies in execution of your idea.

Make sure to grab your free PDF – 4 More Golden Oldies – now. Just click on the green button below.

Want to learn how to license your invention for royalties?

Click on the orange button below to attend our next free webinar – License Your Invention for Royalties. You'll learn all about licensing options and how to license for less than $500.

Stay tuned.