Suppose you have an idea that you know will sell well but depends on a third party, a more established organisation.
A good example is back in the days when SMS-based services were very new. Suppose you have an idea relying on SMS. Like allowing stock market quotes to be received by people via SMS on an adhoc basis. For each request, you get a fraction of the SMS cost. Suppose that market is very big and that service has never been explored....BUT you have the idea to implement it. You, the freelance designer with no dedicated staff and working from a home office, would like to approach, say, the Business Development manager of an Cellular Service provider with this idea. I assume they will demand a proposal with financial projections/ pro forma, a brief on how it will work etc.
How do you prevent yourself from being muscled out? They could easily take up the idea and implement it? At this point, do you have legal right over the idea? I understand there is no protection against ideas. (laws protect inventions with patents, creative works with copyright, and trade names with trademarks,) It would also be understandable if the company does not work with restrictive NDAs that would eliminate any future, similar ideas and also make them vulnerable to litigation.
Whats the best approach?
Why do you need to explain the idea to them in detail anyway? Do you need more from the provider than just a standard product? If they need to commit extra resources and you'll be a partner, not just a customer, I would muscle up as well if I where you.
Of course you can do some legal positioning. But combining it with muscle is better.
Muscle can be:
- Start developing your idea further, create a demo, do market research, create proof of concept etc. Turn it into more than just an idea.
- A bigger and more professional team (ie bring more people in on your side of the table)
- Assess what you have to bring to the table that will make you valuable for making the idea a success. Do you have network, unique skills, experience etc that they do not?
The more "muscle" you have, the stronger your position will be when you meet potential partners.
How do you prevent yourself from being muscled out? They could easily take up the idea and implement it?
I wouldn't worry about the idea. I'd concentrate on implementation. User centered implementation can give you your edge.
Next, if it is truly a new idea and a good idea, the market needs to be developed. That is a horrendously expensive proposition. Why wouldn't you want well financed big companies to do that work for you? They're well adapted to bulldoze the market with brute force.
Finally, don't have one big idea. Have a lot of little ideas which fit together in a coherent whole or system. You can give away the "big idea" and make your money on three dozen interrelated refinements, improvements, and customer insights. They generalize, you niche. They zig, you zag.
Most ripoff artists can't understand or replicate a constellation of good ideas.
But aside from all that -- who cares? Let's say you have nothing ...zero ...zip ..nada. And through your idea, the big guy(s) make millions ...and you only made $300,000 on your first idea.
I'd reconsider feeling bad about that and have a whole lot more ideas for the bigcos to exploit.
The Myth of the Big Idea
I think it's also worth saying that just because someone decides to do something similar to you, doesn't mean that they can replicate the unique selling point or ease of use of the product you produce. In most cases I really don't see why you need to let the other business know what you're up too (considering most major sites these days have an API for their services or the data on the site is easily available). In regards to the market I would spend time actually examining how useful or wanted your service is, it's all well and good saying that it could be the next big thing but often most people severely over-estimate the market for their service. To conclude my point, I would seriously advise you to read the following article (based on DCrux's link): http://jasonlbaptiste.com/startups/they-will-steal-your-idea-they-cannot-steal-what-really-matters/