Do I need an NDA for my Mobile App Idea?

"Confidential Information does not include information, technical data or know-how which is in the possession of the receiving party at the time of disclosure..."

This means that with few exceptions, not one of the NDAs we've signed actually has any effect whatsoever because we've yet to hear ‘information, technical data or know-how' that we weren't already in the possession of at the time of disclosure.

Meaning every one of those NDAs was a waste of both the entrepreneur's time, as well as our own.

I hear ya, but... How can I know for sure you won't steal my idea?

1. You're not building an app – you're building a business.

App developers like Doc4 are in the business of developing apps, not building startup businesses. When people say they have an ‘app idea', what they are really saying is that they have a ‘business idea' (that happens to involve an app).

Just because we have the tools and skills needed to build the app doesn't mean we have what it takes to build the business. Building a profitable business around an app takes (at a minimum) time, risk tolerance, and industry-specific knowledge and/or connections.

If we had spare time to work on an app idea, we would work on one of our ideas. We spend all day thinking about apps, so trust me when I say that we have thought of plenty of ideas on our own – ideas that we think are much better than your idea – but we haven't executed them yet because we don't have the time.

We also don't have the risk tolerance. Would you go two years without pay for a shot at making millions of dollars with a startup idea? If so, you are in the vast minority of people.

Making millions at some point in the future sounds nice, but having paychecks rolling in every month to keep our families fed sounds even nicer to us. We already took the risky startup plunge when we started this business – we have no interest in doing it again with your idea.

2. We have industry-specific knowledge in exactly one industry: ours.

Let's look at two examples of truly awesome app ideas we've heard in the past: one was for the pavement industry, and the other was for the luxury furniture market. If we wanted to steal those ideas and execute them ourselves, there would have been nothing from a technical standpoint preventing us from doing it.

But then, after we had built the apps, what would we do next? We have exactly zero contacts in either the pavement or furniture industries. We also have a combined total of zero years of experience in either industry.

We don't know the first thing about either market. We don't know anyone that we could use as beta testers. And we don't run a pavement or furniture business that would allow us to test it out first.

While they were both great ideas capable of making somebody a lot of money, neither idea would ever make us any money.

If you have deep experience in a given industry, a wide range of high-level contacts, or a business of your own in the industry, then you have nothing to fear from an app developer's ability to execute your idea on their own – because they simply won't be able to compete with you.

3. How long would any business last if they gave away customer secrets?

Like all reputable businesses, we keep our conversations with clients private – whether they specifically ask us to or not. If you're concerned about a developer's capacity for discretion, we don't recommend having them sign an NDA – we'd recommend you find a different developer.

Large software projects can take several months or even several years to complete. When you hire a development company, you are often entering into a long-term relationship. A foundation of trust and open communication is necessary for any relationship, and your relationship with your developer is no different.

If you have a legitimate concern about the integrity of the team you are looking to hire, then you need a different team, not a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

So you guys never sign NDAs?

We do sign NDAs under certain circumstances. We have a single-page mutual NDA we use for projects where the potential client is an established business with a reasonable budget, and they need to share customer data, sales, or other information that is commercially valuable.

While we hope this article has shown the error in seeking a Non-Disclosure Agreement before sharing an app idea, if you would like to take a look at our NDA before telling us your idea, drop us a line using our contact form or call us at 479-202-8634 and we'll send a copy your way.

Michael White
Michael White
Business Specialist at Doc4 Design

Want to Hear More?

Need a cost estimate for a new project? Or just want to know what options are available? Get the answers you need by calling us at (479) 202-8634, or drop us a line using the form.