If I sell an MVP then someone could steal my idea!
When I suggest my client at LeanStart to build an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and start selling it to early adopters one of the most common reaction is:
“but a competitor may steal my idea and develop it faster and better.”
This would happen especially if it’s a new product in an existing market. What would prevent competitors in copying good ideas and develop them when they have the necessary resources?
Is that worry justified?
Let me ask you a question instead: if you are big company, would you really mind to copycat a product, even if extraordinary, from a small startup which haven’t been validated by the market? I don’t think so.
Besides, if this would happen you would be protected in two ways:
1. The stealing company cannot patent the intellectual property of the product (if any) because you already made it public domain.
2. If the company copycats your product, this would give you a big visibility if you can demonstrate that you were first. Maybe this would be useful for another iteration of your product or for another one.
In my honest opinion, such a copycats were so rare that I think that this worry comes more from the hyperoptimism of entrepreneurs than from reality. Entrepreneurs believe that their product is so good and unique that everybody would copy it if they just knew about it.
My reply to this is:
if your product is so good and unique, I bet you that you can sell it very easily. So DO IT. And if you start selling it, nobody will stop you.
In order to exemplfiy this, consider the Pebble Watch that launched on Kickstarter. If the copycat hypothesis were true, anybody could copycat the project as it “only” required $100.000 do be completed. Any big company could steal the idea and build it. But this didn’t and won’t happen. The reason is that when a product is successful on the market, it protects itself from copycat.