Dilip was very kind in his response. My answer might be a bit on the "tough love" side. But that's for you to decide. My intention, just for the record, is to help you (and those like you) on your path to success. And that starts with having a viable philosophy about entrepreneurial-ism and business.
And I'm going to answer this because I get asked some form / version of this question very frequently from newcomers to entrepreneurial-ism.
The scenario goes something like this:
"I have a great idea. It's amazing, I love it, and I just KNOW it's gonna make me a ton of money. But I have no money right now so I can't afford to (fill in the blank with things like "to build it / create it / market it / etc" or "to hire the required staff needed to work in my business to sell it / develop it / etc"). And I don't want to tell anyone about my great idea because I'm worried someone will steal it and make MY million / billion dollars. But I can't afford to legally protect it either... So how do I launch without the skills to personally create the product AND no money to hire anyone else to do that either??"
The answer is ... You don't.
Look - let's be honest. All you have is an idea.
Big deal. Really.
I'm not saying it's not a good idea.
I'm not saying that if properly executed it couldn't make you a million / billion dollars...
But an idea is NOT a business. Nor is it an asset.
Until you do some (very important) initial work - like creating a business model, doing customer development, creating a MVP, etc - all you really have is a dream.
Right now your choices are:
1. Find someone with the skills or the money to develop your idea and sell them on WHY they should invest in you. And yes, this will mean giving up either a portion of the "ownership" or of future income or equity. And the more risk they have to take - the more equity they will want (and quite frankly be entitled to).
2. Learn how to code and build it yourself. MANY entrepreneurs without financial resources are still resourceful. They develop the skills needed to create what they don't have the money to pay someone else to do.
3. Get some cash so you can pay someone to do the coding. You'll probably have to have some knowledge of coding to direct the architecture of your idea. So you will likely still have to become knowledgeable even if its not you personally doing the coding.
(This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of options... And I'm sure some of the other experts here on Clarity have others to add - and I hope they do)
To wrap up - Here's my final tip to you that I hope you "get"...
It's FAR more valuable to have an idea that a very specific hungry crowd is clamoring for right now -
One that THEY would love and pay you for right now -
Maybe even one they'd pre-order because they just have to have it -
Versus YOU being in love with your own idea.
[Notice I didn't say "an idea that some as-of-yet-undetermined market would probably love"]
I wish you the best of luck moving forward.
I own a software services company and I frequently get inquiries from clients who have a great startup idea but are concerned about disclosing the idea to software developers, and subsequently having it stolen. In many cases, these clients ask me to sign an NDA before I can even see the idea and give them some feedback about what it would take to get it done.
Here is what that looks like from my perspective:
1) I don't sign NDA's just to see an 'idea' from a prospective client. This is a hassle and the more experienced, sophisticated clients who actually have money and are serious about their projects rarely ask me to sign an NDA (actually never).
2) An idea, no matter how good, is rarely worth much. It's the execution that is much, much harder. So, protecting your idea should't be a priority - someone else is probably thinking about the same idea right now. Start executing and do it better, faster, and more profitably.
3) Asking for an NDA makes you look like an amateur. Here is why: while you are worried about protecting your great idea, there are other entrepreneurs who have great ideas and they are doing the exact opposite of what you are doing. Instead of hiding the idea, they are pitching it to anyone and everyone they who will listen, hoping to get feedback and improve the idea. Who do you think will succeed first?
4) Finally, it's just not possible to keep your idea secret and have other people collaborate on it. Why fight this battle?
As for getting someone to do the coding without any payment, your only real option is to give someone equity or just have them partner with you for some other reason. In today's market, that is very difficult and even a very good idea with a good team behind it will have trouble doing it.
Listen, I get phone calls and e-mails like this at least once or twice per day. I want to embrace the caller, but honestly, these types of calls and questions, while well intentioned I'm sure, can take up huge amounts of time and effort (and as you indicate) pay nothing and statistically most startups and new businesses flop within their first five years.
You need to complete a business plan. If you can't complete a business plan because you don't know what to add or put into the spaces, you need to read (at least) several books on how businesses start and function. I would read at least two or three business books by people who have started businesses.
Businesses need to have multiple ways to generate revenue or they fail and take homes and cars and families with them. Having an "idea" is not a business. You need to have multiple ways to promote your "idea" into a business and find ways to find out if it's even realistic.
It's unfair for you (and some would even say unethical) to expect a developer/programmer/coder to work for you for free, spend who knows how many hours picking your brain trying to understand your concept, figure out how it would make money, who other competitors are (because I can assure you this "idea" already exists and is being executed as I type this sipping my morning Earl Grey) and then how to responsibly execute the idea as an app or site, while getting nothing but a smile or handshake in return. And even if you can get someone to do this for free - the results will be in question, because who's going to do their best work for you for free?
You have a responsibility as a thinking, feeling, cognizant biped to bust open a few business books, finish a business plan if you have not already done so, meet with a few local business owners who are doing similar work, and figure out how this idea would generate real profit you can pay bills with before speaking with a developer. Don't worry about someone taking your idea; because it's a) unstructured, b) not making any money, c) is already being done. You may have a unique spin on some kind of idea or practice but you should go to www.score.org, read a few sample business plans, read some related articles and do alot more studying and preparation before engaging a professional to help you build a castle in the air.
Sorry if I'm a bit brusque-sounding in this response, but from the business owner's perspective, your question puts the workload on someone else where it's clear so much more discovery needs to be done on your part, and I personally don't encourage people who aren't developers contacting web developers/programmers/coders asking for free help defining a concept.
You'd never call a local dentist and ask him or her to look at a tooth for free. You wouldn't expect a chef to prepare a meal for you for free. You wouldn't ask a mechanic to repair a car for free because you have a dream of driving cross-country. So, it's unfair (and unrealistic) to expect a coder/programmer/developer to spend untold hours on an idea for free.
I recently asked an IP attorney how people get startups off the ground when the idea can't possibly pay for itself in the idea phase.
Her answer? Go get a job at McDonald's. She didn't actually mean to get a job at McDonalds - what she meant is, find other income that won't cut into your personal expenses to fund the idea to execute it properly.
If there isn't money to pay a coder, there's probably also not money to pay your IP lawyer - and how will you get a patent without an IP lawyer? Even LegalZoom charges you to do an application.
The main reason startups fail is that they burn through all their cash faster than they thought they would, or are undercapitalized in the first place.
It's very enticing (and quite maddening) to have an idea that you just "know" is going to be a success but not have the money to pay professionals to do it for you. But, that's exactly what must be done - pay professionals.
Or, take a free course online from Stanford or MIT on how to use Swift (the iPhone coding language) - or take the gaming classes on Udemy and hope for the best.
Because, in the final analysis, you're not just coding an app, you're starting a business. A business that will need marketing and copywriting and social media support - and if you come back asking for someone to do that for free, there are plenty of answered questions here from marketing professionals telling you that you can't ask that, either.
Failure to launch isn't just a movie about a guy who won't leave home. It's also an unfortunate scenario for a lot of would-be business owners - one that I hope for your sake that you can avoid.
Definitely get an NDA signed. I doesn't make you look like an amateur even though you probably are. We use NDA's in the New York City market frequently.
However, don't be greedy or your idea will never succeed. Nobody is going to work for free.
Always specialize and find a niche. But do not find a ditch instead of a niche. Let me explain.
You can actually find several or even 100's of niches and specialize in each. Note that this very different from trying to appeal to everybody with the same product. However, nobody on here will be able to tell you the gaps in the software development market. But, I can tell you how to find the answer to your question. You can do this through testing, pre-launching, and launching. Your potential customers will give you the answers if you follow the techniques below.
Test, test, test. You should run several split tests using different videos within the campaign and drive customers to take some concrete, measurable actions. This action can be signing up for a newsletter, buying a product, signing up for a White Paper, signing up for a free bonus, etc. But you have to key each of these along with the video to make sure that the actual video is driving the actual action.
I am sharing other information from my other posts below in hopes that this also helps you.
Boot Strapping or Million Dollar Marketing. Here is the formula.
I am adding information below that I have shared with others.
If you were looking for a doctor, you would go to a hospital. If you were fishing you might use worms even if worms disgusted you. You would not use ice cream to catch a fish even if you yourself love ice cream for obvious reasons. The fish nor the customers don’t care what you like or what you want. They only care about what they want. Customers instinctively think “What’s in it for me?” Understanding this is the key to marketing. And understanding marketing is the key to get whatever you want in life or business.
For investors, try contacting owners of existing similar companies. They have more money and experience than you. Have them sign an NDA when possible before discussing your business proposition.
So, here are several of my marketing solutions:
Here is $10,000 worth of information for free and in a nutshell. (each of these proven concepts could actually be worth millions of dollars in the right hands).
I like your idea. As a matter of fact, I will go so far as say, it is a great idea. So...don't give up. But don't keep beating your head against the wall either. You have to get over the wall.
You have to quit focusing on marketing and sales tactics and focus on a strategy. How do you to this? You have to come up with a really solid USP. Why would a customer choose you over others similar companies? Find the answer to this before you continue with your marketing strategy.
Secondly, you need an irresistible offer.
Thirdly, you need to offer an unbelievable guarantee. By doing this and following the directions below on pre-launch and launch you should be a lot closer to getting real solid customers.
I didn't actually invent the pre-launch or the launch. Concert goers are very familiar with winning concert tickets by calling into radio stations or winning VIP treatment, or back stage passes, lunch with a star, the list goes on.
Likewise, if you look at "professional wrestling" or boxing, or MMA, the whole fighting before the fight is just a pre-launch. Unfortunately, even heroin dealers use a pre-launch technique better than most business people. PT Barnum was doing this for circus goers over 100 years earlier. And I can only imagine the pre-launch of the Romans for the Gladiator Fights.
In more recent history, every type of business from Retail Stores to Real Estate companies have used multiple pre-launch techniques. Believe me; tourists are bombarded with Condo deals when they visit Disney Land.
This is similar, but different from lead generation, another power marketing concept along with backend sales techniques (I don't have the enough space to discuss these and other powerful techniques here). But I use these techniques in my own businesses including offering free information packed newsletters and encouraging my clients to move up my sales ladder because it is best for them. Most do move up the sales ladder as their ambition and drive increases. Some move all the way up from the very beginning. Both benefit from this, one just takes longer to receive the benefits. Others will never take a chance on becoming successful.
Okay, to pre-launch campaigns for SaaS platforms, a startup, or any product or service. Simply, come up with a taste of what you have, ask a serious question and answer it. At the end of the end of the first "answer and solution" set the potential client up with another problem that is very familiar to them. Convince them that you have the answer. Follow this technique several times. Most do this repetition 2 or 3 times, but a famous golfer has sent me literally dozens of how to videos in order for me to take the bait.
You might think that giving the answer to a solution makes your product less valuable and your opinion less valuable. If you think that…then you would be wrong. Heck, look at what I have given out in this answer alone. But, this is just the microscopic tip of my business and marketing knowledge. My experience is if you give you will receive. That is…if you know what to give, how much to give, and how to receive.
I am not trying to convince you to call me. Frankly, most people cannot afford to call me and I am very selective about who I accept as my clients. Besides, I am pretty busy with my own businesses and consulting with some very high paying customers. However, I would need more info from you before I could have a greater impact in helping you.
Most solutions involved this: Ask, Ask, Ask, then Ask again.
Concentrate on the 3 M's of Marketing. I have come up with 7 M’s of Marketing, but 3 will do for now. These are Market, Message, and Media. They come in that order.
Who is your target market (customer, clients, buyers, users, etc.)?
Tailor your laser focused message for this target market.
What is the best media mix to get your message to that market?
Here's what you do...first, take steps to make sure that you are actually selling something that a hungry crowd wants like a baby wants milk, then…make an offer that is so incredible that they cannot resist. Secondly, do all the work for them. Make it so easy to make the purchase now that they can do it virtually without effort. Thirdly, give them an incentive to act right now. Fourthly, offer an almost unbelievable guarantee. Fifth, offer a bonus for acting now. There are many other incredible steps in my playbook, but these steps should help the novice to the professional sell anything.
Whether you are selling B2B or B2C, you have to focus on selling to only one person. You can actually sell to one person at a time while selling to millions at a time. These are one and the same. Don't get off track. What we call digital marketing selling is just selling in print. And that has not changed since in the last couple of thousand years.
The secret to success: I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with some of the biggest names in business, celebrities, actors, entrepreneurs, business people, and companies from startup to billion dollar operations. The number one reason for their success is doing what they know and love while doing it in new, creative, and innovative ways.
Ask, Ask, Ask. Have thick skin and learn from each "mistake." In a short while, the market will tell you what you need to do and who and what you need to ask. But get started now, even if that just means asking a contact on LinkedIn.
While you are thinking, you might as well think really big and think of something at least 1% better, newer, or different. And being cheaper is not a winning strategy.
Make decisions quickly and change decisions slowly…unless you are actually going off a cliff.
Remember these two 11 letter words...persistence and consistency. They are two of the most important tools ever invented.
Even better yet, remember my 411 Rule of Achievement – It consists of (4) eleven letter words for super achievement (also an 11 letter word). Here it is, my 411 Rule of Super Achievement:
Consistency can change even the smallest
Possibility into a big time
Persistence + Consistency =
By the way, I get a lot of people asking me if I can take phone calls for free (a free sample). Sorry, I can’t. I respect Clarity.fm and what they are trying to accomplish. And I wouldn’t if I could. The information that I offer is just too valuable to give away for free. I used to give information away for free and nobody used it. I found that when I charge $3,000/hour people paid attention and actually used my unique techniques, strategies, and tactics. Without taking action on this incredible information or paying someone to take action, you will not succeed no matter how “lucky” you may be.
Treat everybody you talk to and everybody you meet (including yourself) like each is your number one million dollar customer.
Remember this for most people who really want to achieve a dream:
First: Your dreams are important and those who don’t support and believe in your dreams either don’t understand your desire and ambition or they have some other reason (many times reasons they themselves don’t understand) for not wanting you to spend the time and effort necessary to achieve your dreams.
Secondly: If you haven’t achieved your dreams and goals so far, it is not your fault. I know that this goes against what you usually hear, but it is true. Stop blaming yourself. You have a whole world of obstacles that are truly to blame. You only need to figure out how to go over, go under, go through, go around, or go with these obstacles in the direction of your dreams.
Thirdly: Fear is normal, but don’t give into it. Use it to motivate you and guide you.
Fourth: You are right; there are probably some people who don’t want you to succeed.
Fifth: Keep this in mind, there are people competing to get there first, do more, have more, invent what you are considering inventing, or simply trying to win. Believing in yourself and what you are doing is part of a powerfull strategy for winning over your competition.
I also always suggest that everybody at every stage work with a coach, mentor, or consultant. Heck, it works for Tiger Woods, every team in the NFL, the NBA, and etc. We all need guidance and support.
Best of luck,
Take massive action and never give up.
Michael Irvin, MBA, RN
PS – Many people have “Upvoted” my answers. Thanks to those who do this. I really appreciated.
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While I appreciate your reasoning about not giving away your idea, you have to look at it from the developer point of view too. If a developer works for you, he has to do it for free with a future uncertain payoff, especially as the idea is unproven and has no guarantee of success. The only way someone would work in this situation is if s/he has some assurance of a decent return on the risk s/he is taking on your idea. That would mean some part of ownership in the business. Also, you will find it hard for someone to do this full time without any additional income to support him/her. Which means you are looking at someone doing this in their spare time.
Also, remember, there are tons of ideas out there, what is important is how well you execute on them.
Actually, you don't really have the choice unless you start to learn coding.
You have to understand that alone you won't be able to do much to succeed in your business. Therefore you have to give away some share of your idea. An idea is worth nothing until it becomes reality.
Don't forget that in this world, you are not the only having this idea. The difference comes from what you make out of it.
Smartphones and Tablets existed before the iPhone and iPad came in. There were many social networks already in place when Facebook took off.
I hope this small advice will help you somehow...
1. Sell all your shit to get enough money to pay someone.
2. Invest in yourself to code as mentioned above and do it yourself.
3. These guys above are seasoned entrepreneurs and the can attest it will take everything you got to execute an idea. If you can't sell out, keep doing what you're doing.
I'm not going to slam your idea because I don't know what it is. I can tell you that a lot of entrepreneurs have to do a LOT of work on great ideas to make them viable. Even if it's a great idea, it really has little to do with the idea and everything to do with execution. I like this model from Derek Sivers: http://sivers.org/multiply This would say that your idea is currently worth $20.
It's also very common for people to want to protect their ideas. I like this quote from Howard Aiken:
"Don’t worry about people stealing yours ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats."
I'd suggest getting into a good startup mentoring program. I work with Founder Institute and like that. There are many out there. Bring your idea to the table. Let everyone shoot holes in it. Use their network to find tech talent and maybe money.
Even with a great idea, the exciting part is making things happen, learning things, beating the odds. Definitely go for it... but don't think you've yet begun the journey. Good luck!
I'm happy to chat with you if you'd like.
I was in your exact same position a while back, so I went and got a Computer Science degree. Now I can program anything that I want. This took about 3 years so I doubt that this is a viable option for you. I will say though you either need to get some money from somewhere, learn to program or find a co-founder and give up half your equity. Otherwise just give up
First, consider that your idea might have already been executed and you just haven't heard of it. I've been to startup events where almost half of the ideas presented were already executed years ago--the founders are always shocked and their faces fall in disappointment. This is so common because very few people have a photographic memory bank of all the obscure startups that ever existed! This is probably not the answer you wanted ;-)
Even if the idea hasn't been executed yet, don't kid yourself--there's 100s of other developers out there w/ your same idea somewhere in their todo list. Lots of us were building social networks at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Hopefully you realize most developers have pet projects of their own that they would rather work on. Developers throw great software ideas in the trash all the time because they work with software every day. Developers are short on time and money, not ideas.
In short, I think you're overestimating the appeal of your idea. Maybe a good business idea would be to ask developers to unload their stash of "pretty good" ideas they don't have time for, then charge a monthly subscription and pay developers a percentage of the revenue based on how well their ideas are rated/ranked. I used to offer a "free idea of the day" on my blog but nobody seemed to care--go figure! One of my free ideas (years before it was announced) became the Kindle and Amazon still hasn't added all the features I came up with in 2004.
I 've worked with multiple startups before and they all have the same issue..
Your idea, no matter what it is , is still useful so long as you have the passion and insight to make it true. You just need to put it in the right business frame.
If you can show your idea is worthful , with solid some financial forecast and cash flows, you can go and have the right funding from venture capital. Besides, there are other incubators that can help you , give some funding , and even legal assistance , workplace ....etc.
Still, you can go for a small loan , and have some outsource work to make your beta version / proof of concept for a cheap price that can help you raise funds for your next level..
Simple answer is you will never find someone who will work for free. The old saying, "Money for nothing and your social media idea for free".
Either get good at coding, or partner, I use that term loosely, with someone who can. A partner does not have to own 50% of something, they can own 1-99% of it and still be a contributor. There are freelance sites out there where you can post your project up and potential candidates will bid on the project. Who knows, maybe you can find someone who can code your idea for a few hundred dollars. If you believe that it will be successful then that should not be a problem.
Search for venture capitalists, only problem will be the ownership requirements for some may make you the minority owner. Best of luck.
I might end up joining with some others here in giving an answer that you might not like.
Here it is:
Take the long view.
Don't assume that this is going to be your only business idea. If you have good ideas, then you will have lots of them. The one that you develop (first), should be either the best of them or even better, the easiest one to get to market (because it's closest to your own current skillset).
Don't go for the dream, and don't waste too much of your time on it. But keep it to come back to if and when you have succeeded at something easier and proven yourself (to yourself) as a business person.
The most important thing for you to do in my opinion, is to develop your business skills.
And then use those chops on your next and more ambitious idea.
I wasted a lot of time on 'ideas'. Then I decided to set up a business. That's when it becomes clear to you what you need to do. There is a world of difference between the two things.
Be careful in the land of ideas.
I have been involved in 10 different startups and advised a dozen or so more in the past twenty years. I recommend that you not start coding anything yet without first finding out if your idea is solving a problem worth solving to make a real business. If this is a consumer oriented solution, then you can start to code once you get some of the basics down and then go through rapid prototyping to build what is useful to your target customer and can drive revenue and profit for you. Once you have done this significant work, it will show your value and will make it easier to negotiate with a prospective partner. I do strongly recommend that you consider bringing on a co-founder or two as it will help in many ways including fundraising and having another who is in the boat with you as well as someone to call "bulls#%t" on your ideas when appropriate.
What you're asking is tough.
Remember, "you get what you pay for."
If you hire someone really good, this means they must stop working on their own projects, which net them 100% of profits to work on your project.
The harsh reality - The coder you're best served to have, will likely require a >50% share.
Anyone working for little or no share, will likely be a hack.
You might get lucky + find a good coder.
Likely you'll require giving away far more than half your idea to acquire good coder(s).