11. 8. 2023
6 min read
How to Protect Your Startup Idea: Our Best Practices Guide
Are you a startup founder worried someone will steal your idea? Identify what to look out for when protecting your startup idea - all from doing research, running background checks, signing NDA & MSA, trademarks and copyrights.
At Sudolabs, we've had the chance to work with 50+ awesome founders, and guess what? Many of them had one thing in common—they were worried about protecting their ideas. We have put together a short guide to follow once you make the decision to outsource your digital product development.
Do your research
Choosing an app development company is the first thing you need to do. What’s the best way to approach it?
Tap into the power of recommendations: Your network might be more powerful than you think. Ask around and see whether anyone else has worked with an agency before. Word-of-mouth might be the most valuable source of insight, offering you firsthand experience.
Use online resources: If your network is not sufficient platforms like Clutch.co could be useful. On their webpage, you can explore experiences shared by other startups and get an overview of agencies’ performance. Don't forget to be careful, always cross-reference information & follow up with background checks.
Engage with startup communities: Reddit is a great option. Check out r/Saas or r/Startups subreddits, surely there was already someone who posed the same question. Generally, these two groups have super active members so you can find your answer there. Once again, remain vigilant and verify the authenticity before making any decisions.
Background check is a must
After you've pinpointed a company that appears to be a good match, it's important to do your due diligence and gather as much information as you can to validate your choice. These steps should be taken once you’re in touch with the agency as some of the information needs to be provided.
Check previous projects: Dive deeper into the agency's past projects and collaborations. Are they specializing in the specific area you need help with? Check out case studies, and the actual products & look for success stories. At Sudolabs, we always make sure to have the latest projects and case studies listed on our website.
Contact past clients: Most of the time, you would need to ask the agency to provide you with the contact info, a good agency won't have a problem with that so in case they do you might consider it as a red flag. Our usual deal is to connect potential clients with our long-time clients. That way, you can really dig deep and get the inside scoop on the whole collaboration thing. You'll find out about the ups and downs, how we do things, our approach to confidentiality, and much more. Use it to ask anything that comes to your mind, because this is the best option you might get.
Look for online presence: Are there any awards that the agency got? Can you find any articles on trustful sources where you can find mention of them? We pride ourselves on being ranked in 37th place on the Clutch100 list and also being awarded by Deloitte as one of the fastest-growing companies in CEE. Awards like these, boost the credibility of the agency so it’s always a good idea for you to check it out.
NDA & MSA to safeguard your idea and set the ground rules
You've finally found "the one" among agencies, and now it's time to make things official. But before you jump into working together, let’s explore some standard agreements that will safeguard your interests and lay the foundation for a smooth agency partnership.
NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)
We try to make feel our clients as comfortable as possible, therefore we suggest signing NDAs to protect our clients in the early discussions. This way we can ensure full transparency when creating proposals and defining cooperation. If you still feel a bit unsure about the partnership you should definitely ask an agency to do it from the very beginning.
For what reason you should sign an NDA? An NDA protects startup founders by safeguarding the confidentiality of any and all confidential information. This information includes trade secrets, know-how, and information relating to technology, business plans and promotional and marketing ideas and activities, finances, pricing, costs, and other business affairs. The confidential information may be contained also in tangible materials such as drawings, models, data, specifications, software documentation, reports, compilations, correspondence, writings, etc.
At Sudolabs, we work closely with a legal company Sparring focused on startups that helps us with all our legal documents. It’s understandable that as founders, you might want a customized NDA that suits your specific needs. That’s why we offer a chance to talk directly to our lawyers and suggest any changes you’d like to make. This is a great opportunity to spell out what's considered confidential and lays out the responsibilities of both parties in safeguarding information. We want to make sure the NDA works for you and reflects your unique requirements.
MSA (Master Services Agreement)
Obviously, besides NDA, you would also need an MSA. It’s the rulebook that covers everything from the project scope to intellectual property rights. At our agency, this document mainly:
defines services provided by Sudolabs
protects clients from not receiving the agreed scope
protects clients from any mistakes done by our employees
obligates us to provide the client with any work related to activities with their product - drawings to source code
showcases transparent payment terms
One thing that is very important to tackle at the beginning of cooperation is IP rights over the product and its respective parts. At Sudolabs, we address it right from the start, and our best practice is to include it within the MSA. Once you pay the respective fee, you get the right to all the IP and physical products and rights to anything we create (including any patents, trademarks, designs, processes, inventions, improvement, utility models, code, database rights, and so much more).
Copyright & Trademark Protection
Based on our experience, it seems that only a small fraction of early-stage startups opt for copyright and trademark registrations to protect their ideas, mainly due to the time-consuming nature of the process. Nevertheless, we've been working with an awesome trademark partner Trama that is automating the whole trademark registration thing and offers top-notch protection in lots of different markets.
You set it up and now it’s all safe. Well yes, it should be but it’s always a good practice to remain proactive. Here's what you can do to stay on top of things:
Stay informed: Communicate with the agency regularly, even if you’re not directly working with them. Stay engaged, stay in the know, and promptly address any concerns that arise.
Keep an eye on their actions: Observe how the agency handles and utilizes your sensitive information. Ensure that their actions align with your agreed-upon terms.
We work closely with our startup-founder clients and believe they should be fully involved in everything we do. We keep them in the loop by regularly updating them during our weekly meetings and reviews of the work we've delivered. And of course, we love hearing their ideas on a regular basis. If they need to discuss any product ideas, our product managers are just a call away for daily contact.
If you've made it this far, kudos to you for checking out all the tips and genuinely caring about keeping your startup idea safe. We hope this guide has helped you confidently navigate your startup journey. Just remember to do your research, run background checks, sign legal agreements like NDA & MSA, and protect your materials with trademarks and copyrights. And keep your eyes open during the collaboration.
And if you haven't found the right software development agency yet, drop us a message at [email protected]. We'll have a ready-to-go & dedicated team of product managers, designers, and engineers in just 2 weeks.