5 ways to protect your idea during a business pitch
How to protect your business or product idea when pitching it to prospective investors, clients and contractors
If you're in the business of developing original ideas for new products or services, you're probably facing a dilemma. How do you pitch an idea to potential investors and clients without giving away too much information, risking it being stolen?
Here are some practical steps to help you deal with this issue:
1. Keep your idea secret before the pitch. Don't show, brainstorm or disclose information to anyone prior to the pitch just because you think your idea is great. Only disclose information when there is a clear need to do so, and the benefits of disclosure clearly outweigh any of the risks.
2. Be careful selecting companies to pitch to. Do a background search on potential clients, contractors or investors. What does their work portfolio look like? Why would they want to get into business with you? Are they a competitor? Check their reputation before you give away any vital information and get recommendations from others in the industry if possible.
3. Reveal only what you must and nothing more. If you're pitching an idea to a potential client, give them only the information necessary to convey what your product or service delivers. Don't bare it all if it's not required to seal the deal. If you're pitching to investors or lenders, they may ask you to disclose more information, as they will likely want to know more about your idea before committing financially to it.
4. Create and document an extensive paper trail. Record your idea or concepts in writing as much as possible, and keep detailed notes of discussions and conversations where you're disclosing information to other parties. The more details you keep in these records, the more useful they can be if someone challenges your ownership in court.
5. Think about confidentiality. If you have to disclose your business secrets to other parties, it may be worth entering into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with potential investors, contractors, clients or other associates. Keep in mind that some investors may not agree to sign NDAs. If this is the case, you may have to assess the risk of losing your secrets against the business opportunity. If the opportunity outweighs the risk, you may want to pursue it without an NDA.
If you're pitching an invention rather than an idea, it would be wise to check if it qualifies for patent protection before disclosing anything to anyone. This is because your invention will no longer be patentable if you've disclosed information about it to the public before filing for a patent. Read about the advantages and disadvantages of getting a patent and protecting intellectual property.
Finally, if you're worried about disclosing information about your idea or invention during a pitch, seek professional or legal advice in advance.
If you're looking for advice on how to pitch an idea, take a look at Invest Northern Ireland's video tutorials on:
- pitch optimisation: develop and deliver a sales pitch
- how to pitch to different personality types
- COVID-19 recovery - practical export skills: pitching to win
- COVID-19 recovery - practical export skills: how to craft a perfect elevator pitch
See also a short video on how to pitch to potential investors.