This is the era of money. Everything from products to services has a market, and with the inclusion of digital media and the internet, sometimes the products don’t even need to be concrete or something that can be touched. The same principle that we applied on advertising years ago applies itself here; you pay money for a service that doesn’t get you anything concrete, rather an abstract sort of investment that you do to get greater returns. And as eBay and Craigslist go, you can sell anything out there. So, how to sell a business idea?
Sounds crazy, right? You can sell software, advertising space and whatnot, but an idea? Sounds like a plan that’s doomed to fail, since we all know the greed companies are capable of. You pitch them an idea, they say it’s ridiculous and leave you flabbergasted as to what went wrong and how it went wrong.
Next thing you know, the company’s started acting on that idea and credits its brilliant board of investors as the visionaries behind the idea. You can’t go to court because why would you? They’re a company with a panel of lawyers and you’re just an individual seeking right for the wrong that’s been done to you, for which you don’t have any proof at all that will be admissible in court.
But you need not be discouraged. Selling your business idea to any company or any individual for that matter requires some legal know-how and a sharp understanding of how this market and industry works. Once you have all that, you can easily pitch an idea to a company without any concern that it might be used without giving you the due credit or remuneration.
Why Sell Your Business Ideas?
The simple matter of fact is this: if you have a business idea that is a potential money-maker, why not go for it and do it yourselves? Well, for the lack of a better word, let’s just say you’re not that financially well-endowed to dive into a business just yet. Or maybe it’s because you can’t be bothered with the extremely time-consuming process that is starting a business. Or maybe, let’s all be real here, nobody wants to work for money.
If you can get the money for just telling someone how to do stuff, who in their right mind would let go of such an opportunity, let alone start working on it themselves? Humans might work hard, but nobody ever says no to easy money. And selling a business idea to a company is essentially easy money.
But working the legal aspects in such a way that your idea and anything that it generates is protected and is legally yours can be a bit tricky. Sure, everybody knows about patents, but ideas per se cannot be patented. For instance, you cannot patent an idea for a Cheetos-crusted hotdog or anything, for that matter. This is where intellectual property rights come in and save the day. You even have the right to license ideas as intellectual property, so that no company or individual infringes on it.
How Much Can You Sell Your Business Idea?
Since there isn’t an actual marketplace that lets you buy and sell ideas and neither is an idea anything concrete that can guarantee a sense of success, therefore, there is no fixed price for an idea. We all hear the term ‘million-dollar idea’ quite frequently, especially in today’s world, where mobile applications that are useful do actually earn the owner millions upon millions, and other small startup ideas that grow into becoming billion-dollar industries.
So, to summarize, there are a number of factors that will determine the price of your idea, including the industry involved, executability, profitability and the amount of work that will be required to be put in before the idea starts to generate sales. All of this, with the right configuration and the right industry, can lead to ideas trading minds for exchanging stock worth millions and whatnot. We’ve even heard of instances where the right idea can land a person a high-level job in the same company where they pitched the idea. So, believe in your idea that it will land you somewhere. It is the era of good ideas but zero implementation.
Things to Do Before Selling Your Business Idea
There are a host of things that need to be done before you can go for the ‘pitching to the companies and investors’ part. Remember, without your due diligence and your homework, your idea, no matter how lucrative it is and how little work it requires till fruition, will not be entertained by any company or investor. So, take it on good faith that even if your idea is lucrative enough, you will need to work on it and polish it, making it presentable enough that whoever you pitch it to, does not have a reason to strike it down as ‘not presented well enough’. Due diligence is important, even if the business idea itself does not warrant interested looks from investors and other companies alike.
- Getting to know the market: The first step to make your idea marketable is to know what market and what segment your product falls in. Because if you don’t know that, then you’re way off base and don’t properly understand how your idea will correlate to any company that will eventually launch it into the market. Understand what your idea will produce, which market it’s supposed to compete in.
- Research the stats: Simply knowing where your product falls isn’t enough to make a company executive give you bucks in exchange for a couple of words. You will need to prove that the idea or product you have in mind has a market, one which is profitable enough and holds lucrative prospects in the future. Always know that companies tend to look for more long-term products, one that can outlive their projected feasibility and profitability. If your idea has a market that is flimsy and is a fun but short ride, change and alter it in such a way that it fits into a more sustainable and profitable market.
- Legal requisites: This is the most important part, one which will ensure that your idea stays your property and does not allow for anybody else to steal it and use it as their property. There are basically two ways as to how you can protect your idea and register it as your own: one is intellectual property rights and the second one is licensing your idea as an intellectual property. These will be explained below,
Protecting Your Business Idea
The most important part of this whole deal is that you protect your idea from unlawful possession. For example, your idea, if you share it with a friend of yours, can be used by him or her to start a business. In that case, you will have no legal right to claim ownership over the idea and any property it may have generated; that is because you did not legally protect it from being used for business purposes by anyone other than you, and in a court of law, it will be taken as just banter which was inspiring enough for an intelligent person to craft a business out of.
However, if you choose to protect your idea, as you will have to before selling your business idea to a company, you will need to make the idea official, flesh it out and apply for an intellectual property protection or licensing that will grant you sole ownership over that idea. But how? Ideas cannot be patented because for them to be granted a patent, it needs to be fleshed out and be in a concrete form that prevents anyone from copying aspects of it.
This is where intellectual property rights and licensing come in. See, in a capitalist world, everything can be marketed and sold, and an idea is just as potent as a technological innovation (the latter of which is actually patentable). So, to save the original thinker of the idea a lot of money and headache, intellectual property rights were established. These are explained below,
Intellectual Property Rights
As the name implies, intellectual property rights are unlike normal property rights. Because they do not protect anything concrete and are only a safeguard for an abstract property, therefore, they grant the right to employ said idea in any way or manner as to which functionality and economic beneficiality can be derived. Any idea, similar to this in design or execution, will be copyright-struck if the original idea has been protected by intellectual property rights.
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However, this being a right over an abstract construct, there are limits as to what is and can be protected for you, the original idea-owner. Any idea that seems identical and might even be identical, but is executed differently cannot be prosecuted. Understand that ideas are malleable; they can be altered to fit anyway a person wants. Therefore, tread with care and as soon as your idea gets a footing, get it licensed.
The final step in sealing the idea as yours is the licensing part, wherein you license the idea and its particular aspects in front of a state authority. This process will ensure that your idea, for all intents and purposes, will be yours as an intellectual property and any derivatives from it will be credited to you. Copying or engaging in any activity to reproduce the idea or parts of it without your consent/ permission will result in litigation.
Selling Your Business Idea to a Company
Start by pitching the idea and elaborate on the various facets of the idea. How it will turn out, the projections and how the market will respond to any product derived from your idea. Really put your heart and soul into the presentation in front of the company’s bean counters. Remember, all the corporation cares about is their business taking off because of your idea. If your business idea has that particular something, they will be willing to pay any price for it.
As for the remuneration, you do not need to worry about the ‘fairness’ of the deal. There are many who are satisfied by a position that said company affords them after they pitch the idea, some are okay with monetary remuneration. Whatever the payback, try to get an estimate of your idea’s valuation by a friend who’s an entrepreneur or has a business of some sort.
They will give you a good idea of how much you can and should get for that idea of yours. Once that is done, go into the meeting confidently and know that your idea is protected and the company will not try to alter it and employ it in any other capacity. That has been taken care of.