Offense, Defense, and NDAs

A surprising number of entrepreneurs contacting me for investment (or advice) want an NDA before sharing any details.  I politely tell them that I don’t do NDAs, and refer them to Brad Feld’s write ups, which explain why most investors take this position.

But I’m finding there’s something deeper going on.  Entrepreneurs that insist on non-disclosures from prospective investors usually have the wrong mindset for building a successful software/Internet company.

It’s the difference between playing entrepreneurial offense and defense.  The “defense” mindset is focused on secrecy, protecting access to information, and limiting things.  The “offense” mindset is focused on speed, execution, and iteration.

There are times when patent filings and NDAs are appropriate, but I’ve seen far more ideas fail from under-sharing and for over-sharing.  By the time you launch, everyone can see what you’re doing anyway.  If the idea is good, they’ll quickly copy it.

The only defense is a good offense:  share widely, get feedback, attract a great team, and go fast.

  • Chip Correra

    The last sentence is the real deal in general, is there not an increased level of sharing if the goal is investment?

  • Steven Kane

    This is such good advice I’m not sure you should talk about it publicly.