I get people and companies reaching out to me all the time asking for inputs, feedback on their products, strategies. I am really appreciative of them considering me worthy of approaching and valuing my inputs. I always make time to help in whatever way I can. I consider it paying it forward. That is the basis on which the Silicon Valley is built. Lot of people have helped me, it only makes sense for me to do the same.
But there is one thing that bothers me no end. It is when those very people who seek my help, in the same breath turning around and asking me to sign an NDA. I read that as – “We value your inputs and help to make us successful but we don’t trust you so please sign an NDA”. There is no other way to look at it. Think about, given that I am providing value to your company, I could ask the same of you i.e, not to use the ideas/thoughts/inputs I gave you. I don’t. If I did, it sort of makes the whole reason you want to talk to me moot, doesn’t it?
With that out of the way here are the reasons I don’t sign NDA
- I work with many startups, companies in the valley, invest in some of them. Signing an NDA creates all sorts of unnecessary constraints in my work.
- I don’t have a retained legal team to review every NDA I sign and review it against all those I might have signed before that to see if there is conflict. It will take a lot of time each time I have to sign an NDA.
- In the 16 yrs I have been working in various companies in the valley I have heard/seen many ideas. Chances are your idea has already been explored by someone that I have talked to. Say if I had signed their NDA, I would not be able to talk to you. See how it works.
- If during our discussion if I feel that any part of the discussion enters a conflict zone, I immediately recuse myself from that discussion.There will be no malicious intent on my part.
- If your company really needs my help and wants to bind me in a non-disclosure agreement then I consider it a consulting engagement and not free advice. But then again, I don’t take up a lot of consulting engagements.
- NDAs, in most cases, are non-enforceable unless you have some type of solution for cancer cure. Most software ideas, designs are not so proprietary that someone else would not have thought about it independently.
Sorry if this comes across as arrogance, in any form. It is not, I am just being practical and upfront. If you stood in my shoes, you will see it the same way as I do.