Do NDA’s protect you or slow you down?

Carl Niklaus Wallace
3 min readMay 8, 2021


So you have a great idea which you have created or need to create. Now you need outside input from investors, potential new team members, consultants, advisors, or perhaps you just need someone’s opinion.

How do you protect your idea from being stolen or copied? Is a Non Disclosure Agreement worth the paper it is written on?

There is no concrete way to protect an idea. Almost every idea in the world either existed previously elsewhere in a different form or has been copied.

Copying an idea is no secret recipe for success. The WHAT of an idea can be copied, but the HOW is what matters.

Certain scenarios where confidential information is disclosed justifies an NDA. Innovation or transformation requires agility and access to the right people with no space or time for NDA’s.

Paperwork doesn’t protect ideas.

Trust, the right team, advice, knowledge, and execution protects ideas. Irrespective of how good the idea might be, an idea without a winning team executing it is worth nothing.

If you require access to the right people in early-stage to help fast track your movement through the clutter, trust is your best tool. Work with people you trust. If you don’t know them, research their information and determine their trustworthiness. Look at their track record, online complaints, and capability of executing your idea better than your team. You will soon find enough information that will validate their trust or not.

Reliable, experienced, and trustworthy people are often reluctant to sign NDA’s as it is a sign of distrust. If I work with a corporate where confidential client information is disclosed, I am happy to sign an NDA. In general, when someone approaches me with an idea asking my advice or opinion with an NDA in hand, I hesitate immediately and will most likely not sign it. The opportunity for sound advice is lost. Even worse is when I am asked as a prospective client to sign an NDA so that something can be sold to me. I will most likely walk away. That is a clear indication of a lack of confidence and trust.

NDA’s are very difficult to enforce.

There are many loopholes in court and it costs a lot of time and money to enforce an NDA. Time will be the most expensive by far. If someone violates an NDA, you have to prove they did, show that the information wasn’t available in another way, sue them, and still win.

There’s no real guarantee.

You could find yourself more focused on protecting your idea than executing it. It will slow you down and prevent you from capitalizing on the opportunities of timing.

Make sure your agreements with everyone working on the idea ensure the IP remains yours. Document every step, create authentic paper trails. When information is disclosed, follow up with an email and keep everything in writing. Make sure you speak about the WHAT and not the HOW.

Build a healthy network of trusted individuals that can give it to you straight without the need for an NDA. Insisting on NDA’s can cost you large portions of your potential audience and you might miss critical advice and knowledge-sharing opportunities.

Trust me, moving slowly is far worse than copying.

Being fast and open to rapid feedback and iterations is critical for delivering an accurate solution. Ideas almost always change from the initial concept into a solution that meets its full potential. Your adaptability and rapid movement in this phase can make or break your idea.

Stay clear from promoting your idea before it has been tried and tested amongst people or businesses you are acquainted with. Once ready, test again with unacquainted stakeholders and then pass your solution for market readiness.

The risk areas worthy of your focus are your market, a disconnect with your audience, inefficient execution, and delivering a solution that people don’t really need.

Knowing the difference between WANTS and NEEDS could determine whether people buy your idea or park it for a later opportunity that will never come.

Taking someone’s idea and executing it differently, is not the same as copying. That is why Microsoft will never be the company Apple is today.



Carl Niklaus Wallace

A forward thinker that solves today's problems with solutions of tomorrow. [ founder of dewly ] -