October 22, 2014

Please quit asking me to sign your NDA!

ndaEveryone in Dallas seems to be doing a startup and lots of these people call or email me to share their ideas with me. More than a few of these entrepreneurs ask me to sign an NDA before they are willing to ask for my feedback and/or advice. The quick answer is that I don’t want to sign your NDA. Feel free to solicit free advice from me, but please quit asking me to sign a contract.

Anil Dash wrote a pretty good post titled, “One more time: No NDAs“. Anil points out that a lot of people feel the same way. His reasons were pretty good and worth repeating:

  • When you ask me to sign your NDA, you’re basically saying, in writing, that you don’t trust me. It’s your prerogative to say that, but it’s a pretty lousy context in which to ask for a favor.
  • I have to pay a lawyer to review a document without having any idea why I’m making that investment. No, I won’t “just sign it” without having a lawyer look it over, because it’s a legally binding document whether a lawyer reads it or not.
  • If your idea’s that good, it’s probably not that rare. I hate to be the one to point it out, but protecting your idea in general is a fool’s errand — good execution is hard to find, but good ideas are cheap.
  • I could get screwed through no fault of my own if some other random person walks up to me and blurts out the same idea that you’ve had. Being exposed to the risk of a lawsuit even if I haven’t done anything wrong sucks.
  • If I couldn’t be trusted with your idea, you’d already know about it. There are folks who don’t like me, or who are annoyed by me, but if I’d broken somebody’s trust in regard to their work, I guarantee it’d be just about the first thing you’d find when you Google my name.
  • The biggest value I can probably offer you is that I would talk about what you’re working on. If I honor your NDA, and I meet a great investor or potential employee or valuable partner for your new venture, I wouldn’t be able to tell them about it.
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