One word comes between an idea and a great idea: Scrutiny. Every idea is worthless until it can withstand the test of critics, advisers or investors, and ultimately the market. At Numbers, we have encountered several budding entrepreneurs with unarticulated ideas who are just unwilling to share because they are afraid that someone will steal them. We have encountered this and its consequences enough to say, affirmatively, that nobody will.
Look around you. Point to any new or successful start-up in Nigeria, and you will find that it is likely a replica or tweak of a pre-existing product or solution. If your product is truly proprietary and ground-breaking, its complex engineering and eventual success likely rests only with you—the progenitor—and you run little risk of having an eavesdropper or a confidant recreate it. If you are convinced that your idea is not out there, you have even more reason to wonder why and talk to people who can tell you.
The best entrepreneurs have a recycle bin full of business plans, sketches and receipts. They have tried, conceptualized, tested and thrashed, only to emerge with better-informed and rugged ideas. In sharing their ideas with the right people, they have discovered co-founders and indispensable partners, and also created a network of facilitators who somehow become part of the ecosystem within which their ideas develop. By the time these ideas are matured enough to be presented to the ruthless, unforgiving audience of the market, they may fail then, but not because they were ill-thought; it will be likely because they were ill-executed. Bounce your ideas off the right people before you invest too much time and other resources in them. If you are afraid of the outcome now, then you are not ready to face the market, including instant competition, the government and other real saboteurs.
TED is great. It brings together the best minds, most with raw ideas and undeveloped products, to share their thoughts and experiences. As brilliant as these ideas are, they do nothing but inspire and trigger deeper scrutiny and conversations. TED talks are full of ideas so valuable, they are worth sharing, not stealing.