Why I don’t sign NDAs

I get people and companies reaching out to me all the time asking for inputs, feedback on their products, investment, 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 works. 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. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. In all the years 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 in some form. Say if I had signed their NDA, I would not have been able to talk to you. See how that works.
  4. If during our discussion if I feel that any part of the discussion enters a conflict zone based on what I am already involved in, I immediately recuse myself from that discussion. There will be no malicious intent on my part.
  5. 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 am not looking to take up a lot of consulting engagements.
  6. 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.

So if an NDA is non-negotiable to you, I wish you the best in whatever you are doing. You are better off working with someone else.

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