Getting your startup off the ground is easier if you have the backing of investors, although to secure their interest you will need to pitch your ideas to prospects and attempt to dazzle them with your ingenuity.
Of course as soon as you share your innovative concepts with third parties, you put them at risk of being emulated, adapted or outright copied. To prevent this and protect your most valuable assets in the early stages of entrepreneurship, here are the best ways to pitch while shielding your startup from exploitation.
Keep records, apply for patents & know your rights.
Before you even get into the process of pitching a startup to investors, it is important to always document your ideas and plans thoroughly. By creating a paper trail you will have evidence to fall back on to show that you were the first to come up with an innovation in the event that it is purloined and copied.
You might also go so far as to apply for patents to cover any inventions that you have created so far, although it is worth noting that you cannot patent ideas or business plans in isolation. The team at Heer Law suggest that this is where getting legal advice from experts is sensible, since they will be able to let you know whether filing a patent application makes sense prior to pitching, or whether you should hold off until further down the line.
Use an NDA.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a standard document that you can use to commit prospective investors to secrecy over the ideas you reveal in your pitch, whether or not they actually choose to put money in after the event.
Be aware that not every investor will be comfortable with signing an NDA, so you may need to decide not to use one if you think that this is a risk worth taking, which is something you will need to weigh up on a case by case basis.
Consider reputations & backgrounds.
You will be more confident pitching your startup to investors that have a proven track record of dealing fairly with their partners, so do as much research as possible and use this to inform your choice of pitching prospects.
Also remember that it might not make sense to pitch to investors who already have a vested interest in businesses and brands that will be competitors to your startup, since this could put you in a more precarious position.
Keep your cards close to your chest.
To give your ideas the best chance to remain protected, you should aim to only showcase them during the pitch itself, and reveal as little as possible in the run-up.
Ultimately there is no guarantee that your ideas will be safe in any pitching context, but if you prepare thoroughly, make yourself aware of the risks and weigh them against the potential rewards, you will be in the best position to pitch to the right investors.