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We have recently a series of inquiries for market research assignments in Belgium where prospects asked for DNA to be signed before the first meeting. Here is why it makes no sense and why we’ll always refuse to do it.

Not sure the info you’re about to reveal is worth an NDA

The most common situation is that of would-be entrepreneurs who are sure they have found a 1-billion $ gap in the market. They are so sure of it that they want to prevent anyone from stealing their idea.

Well, first of all, the odds are VERY low that a person alone will find the next breakthrough innovation that the entire world will want. This is even more unlikely because the idea is still “raw”, not discussed with anyone. Just to be clear, I don’t think anyone can find on his own an idea worth millions of Euros. Great ideas are the product of deep market expertise, research on the market and consumers’ needs and, most important, of continuous discussions with others to mature the idea and adapt it.

The best a would-be entrepreneur can come up with for a first meeting is a rough idea (that someone else has already had) which will need deep reshaping.

Are you sure the information you are about to reveal is not known to someone else already?

The best example I can give you is that of a recent market research inquiry we received. The entrepreneur wanted to launch an already-existing innovation on the Belgian market … and he wanted a NDA to be signed.

My dear entrepreneur … there are a few exception rules in a NDA. Among others the information shared must be private. If you want to replicate something that already exists, it means it’s already public and can’t be covered by a NDA. Period.

Needless to say that you won’t be taken seriously by anyone if such claims are made already in your first contact with someone else.

Why the hell would I lock myself in an NDA?

As I explained above, the question of the NDA comes often too early (before the first meeting actually). I’m not even sure that a contract will be signed. Why would I then accept to lock myself with an NDA? No way. Just forget it

Advices for your market research

If you

    • think you can develop a great idea on your own
    • believe you know the market and the consumers’ needs better than others
    • fear to discuss your idea with strangers
    • believe someone else may “steal” your idea

it means you are ready to fail. You’d better stop immediately and don’t invest anymore time and money into your venture.

Keep it for granted: I’ve never (ever) met an entrepreneur who had launched a company based on his/her initial idea. It always had to be deeply reshaped and changed in function of the market traction.

If you read French a good read is the Slideshare presentation by a fellow customer, Bruno Wattenbergh, the director of Impulse Brussels (previously known as Brussels Enterprise Agency). This presentation compiles all the mistakes that entrepreneurs make when preparing the launch of a venture.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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