I had a conversation with one of my younger cousins last week, and the talk eventually led to the topic of building an iPhone app. He did not share the idea at first, but he wondered what it would it take to get an app built and published onto the Apple App Store.
My cousin is not technical, so it would take an act from above in order for him to build a minimum viable product (MVP) and test it in front of customers. He eventually steered our conversation into the possibility of me coding the app for him and in turn he would market/sell/hustle it.
Of course, out of curiosity, I asked him what was his idea was. He hesitated and asked if I was on board before he divulged his secret. I laid out all of the facts and said that my plate was full at the moment, but given the idea I could steer him towards building his MVP.
He eventually shared the idea with me (the idea doesn't really matter in the context of this post), but I was somebody that he could trust. The idea was simple and solved an immediate need. It probably won't be earth shattering, but it's a good start for my younger cousin to enter the world of entrepreneurship.
My suggestion to him was to network at founder events in San Francisco (that's where he lives), and see if he could find a technical co-founder. Then I wondered if he goes to such an event, would he be willing to share his secret idea? The obvious thought in his head is that if he shares it, then somebody could easily copy the idea and execute on it and then reap all of the rewards of App Store fame. So now he goes down this entrepreneurship paradox - damn if he shares it and damn if he doesn't share it.
My philosophy is to share your ideas. I truly believe that execution is 9/10 of the law. If he doesn't find a solid technical co-founder and keeps his idea inside of head then the idea could easily wither and die - serving nobody. If he shares the idea at networking events, he could find his soul mate of a co-founder and two heads could easily build and sell such a product. My cousin will also have the flexibility to pivot when necessary as soon as his MVP hits the ground.
I don't want to isolate the paradox to the non-technical founders out there. Technical co-founders easily have the same problem. They can build Rome in a day, but they need somebody to help sell it.
I'd like to know your thoughts especially from those that are still in the idea stage. Are you openly sharing your world-changing idea? Are you selectively dropping hints as to what you're doing? Or are you keeping everything a secret hoping that your wit and charm will attract the right co-founder to conquer the world?