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Job Secrecy: Startup in the Closet

Shhhhh…Keep it under wraps!

A friend of mine left his corporate job a couple of years ago to pursue “a revolutionary idea”, as he called it.

“What is it that you are are working on,” I inquired, never once assuming this benign question would cause him to get fidgety.  

He responded with a vague topic.  Many months later he told me, “I didn’t want to tell anyone about my idea for fear that someone would steal it – too bad this made me sound really cryptic and weird at cocktail parties.”

Entrepreneurs too often hold their ideas much too close to their bullet-proof vests. Considering themselves more entitled than a secret service agent, these entrepreneurs live in the fear of idea theft and take it upon themselves to protect their idea at all costs!

So what are these “secret service entrepreneurs” missing out on?

  • Feedback
  • Growth
  • Potential Investors
  • Time
  • Future partners 
  • Looming competitors

In a corporate job, you’re generally open and pretty pumped up to share the details of your work: the kind of work you do, the people you work with, the amazing Casual Friday policy! 

In a startup however, a veil of secrecy takes precedence, with your lips zipped so tight you make the CIA jealous.  People who are seasoned veterans or who just have some great ideas for you can really help your business. In fact, promoting your idea will more than likely help improve it, giving you an even better shot at success than your hush hush mode. As soon as you realize that feedback and promotion of your idea will actually improve it, you’ll have a better shot at success.

Let us know in the comments below if you decided to keep you startup in stealth mode until you launched? Why or why not?

If you missed my interview on the “Keeping it Human” podcast earlier this week, you can check it out here.

Less than a week until we launch our book and course “Cheating on your Corporate Job: A Comic Look at the Startup Dream”. Stay tuned to


Check out our other comics on trhs here.



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  1. kriti….!!!

    been meaning to comment on your comic since morning!

    I LOVED THE ILLUSTRATIONS – this is so true!!!

    so many times people write to me saying, “i’ve got an idea but if i share it, will it get stolen??!!”

    i think all of us also need to realise that IDEAS ARE RARELY UNIQUE – someone else may have the same idea with a minor twist! 

    i truly believe bouncing an idea with others can only enhance the original idea. when rodinhooders ask for feedback on ideas/new ventures here – they get so many great insights. 

    very very relevant post kriti. this is an evergreen issue looming on everyone’s mind!

  2. Hi Kriti

    It was a nice read.. What I feel is.. It actually depends on the idea and its uniqueness / value. Suppose you have a gold brick and you tell everyone that I have a gold brick and I keep it safe inside my garage. Now believing that someone won’t steal your gold brick just because they don’t have time to do so will be a silly mistake. So if you feel like your idea is unique and can create a buzz if it lands into the market then I would always suggest to get things patented or legally documented first before revealing things to the public.


  3. Thank you Asha! I think most first-time entrepreneurs fear this! But you are right – ideas don’t matter as much as execution.

  4. Good point Anoop – it makes sense to get legal advice for sure.

    However, despite legal protections and a lawyers assurance, we got sued out of business by a multinational a couple of years ago because their pockets were much larger than ours…so legal protections like patents/trademarkss/NDAs don’t necessarily help unless you have the money to protect and defend them…

  5. Nice one Kriti!

    I can see why why some founders want to keep it all a secret. While it’s easy to say that founders need to be open, get feedback etc., there are some (very public — no one knows the truth!) examples of people stealing ideas, backstabbing etc. that makes many first-timers worry.

    Having said that, I’ve seen two types of stealth — one that works and one that is unnecessary. While a significant majority “stealth” start-ups fall into the latter, I think there are cases where it’s the best way to build/protect competitive advantage. In those cases, stealth just means operating with very *limited* (doesn’t mean isolation) exposure. You still talk to a trusted set of customers, potential/current investors/advisors, and core-team; you continue building product and getting feedback from that limited audience; and do most of the things that any other start-up is supposed to do. They just don’t do things like media and press releases, or don’t make team and product details public till it’s ready; in fact in case of venture backed stealth start-ups, media is sometimes advised to keep their mouths shut because it’s not tough to find out fund-raising details from regulatory filings (e.g., SEC in US) etc.

    All said, I feel there is *always* some information that founders can reveal without giving away the farm.

  6. Hi Kriti,

    Thanks for this nice read. One of my friend said this yesterday when we were discussing a business idea : “Unless you are a true genius, by the time we think of something it has almost been beaten to death”. What matter most is your passion and the execution 🙂 🙂 Best regards, @mar

  7. Ideas won’t Work unless ‘You’ DO !!

    Sometimes they fail to notice that there is already something, around the same they are Ideating now in an advanced stage, with someone already working on it. And they get to, Reinvent the Wheel!

    I do get into a lot such discussions, almost every alternate day with some Entrepreneurs, who had almost Shouted Eureka!! It always helps to Share and Collaborate, makes things better definitely for all involved.

    Giving the Comic Look to the Startup Dream (Most expensive Commodity probably, on Planet Earth yet) Good Job!! makes it easier to get the summary too! Cheers, Kriti!

  8. So true Rishi!

  9. Glad you enjoyed in Amar…yes 100% agree ideas are quite universal!

  10. Thanks Darshan! Ah, I have shouted Eureka a few times too many:)

  11. Nice take on a confusing riddle – To say or not to say!

    Actually, most ideas are better revealed as long as there is a barrier to entry. If the barrier to entry does not exist then it is better to wrap up the idea, if the barrier to entry is weak then closed group revelations are preferred. However if Tata is launching a CHEAP car then the idea can be big news even before production begins! 😉

  12. Makes sense Pawan! Barrier to entry is a very fine line!

  13. is that so ?

    legal protections and a lawyers assurance is heavy money matter . and after that if noting help , it must be so frustrating 

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