Would u be offended if ur friend didn't tell what their business idea is
December 6, 2013 6:01 PM   Subscribe

If your good friend told you they are trying to start a new business, but they don't want to tell you what kind of business, would you be offended?

I already told my friend I was planning on starting a new business (stupid me), but then of course they ask me what business, and I haven't answered, because I don't want to tell them or anyone to avoid word getting out, but I know they will ask me again, and I'd have to answer, but I don't want to make them even slightly mad, distrust me or anything because they are a good friend to me... :/
It being secretive like this is offensive, is there a way to minimize the offense?
posted by MiuMiu to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just be more straightforward about being secretive instead of avoiding them. For example, "I can't really talk about it until I get some paperwork filed."
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:02 PM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

In reality, ideas for most things are not worth very much: the execution of them is. I was told about what Snapchat was very soon after they launched it in CS193P at Stanford, and I basically said to myself it was a pretty stupid idea. It may prove to be a stupid idea yet, but they executed it very well, didn't they?
posted by curuinor at 6:07 PM on December 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

Keeping a business idea secret is often pointless and may keep you from getting valuable assistance and insight from people who could and would help you, but presuming you're really determined to take that approach:

It's not offensive, per se, but that's not to say that some people will not be offended. People are offended by a wide variety of things, many of which are ridiculous.

If you have partners in the business, you might share the blame. "We've all agreed to not disclose the idea until we get it up and running."

If you don't have partners, you could still blame someone else. "I've been advised to keep the details secret until the business is ready to launch."
posted by jacquilynne at 6:28 PM on December 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Ideas are worthless, tell whoever and focus on doing it.
posted by bradbane at 6:32 PM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I find that if I talk too much about projects I'm planning, the wind can go out of my sails. So I find it better not to discuss ideas in depth until they've matured a bit. Perhaps your friend would understand that? I wouldn't be offended if a friend of mine didn't want to discuss details of their ideas, not because of "Ah, secrets" but just to keep me internal energy spinning up.
posted by anadem at 6:43 PM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

i would not be offended. interesting people have interesting secrets. would you ask a writer friend who was mid-way through writing a novel, what it was all about? the answer would probably be "no, i won't tell you anything, but i'll see that you get an autographed first edition."
posted by bruce at 6:46 PM on December 6, 2013

An artist friend says, "I'm not ready to talk about it. If I talk too much too early I won't do it. I want to do it. Sorry."

People understand.
posted by alms at 6:55 PM on December 6, 2013 [13 favorites]

I would probably be slightly offended, but it would not be a big deal and I would get over it quickly! I wouldn't worry about it - just be honest.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:14 PM on December 6, 2013

I would think you were a little weird and silly but I would not be offended.
posted by elizardbits at 7:39 PM on December 6, 2013

I knew a guy at a place I worked who made A REALLY BIG deal about his new business plan and how it was going to make him rich and free him from ever having to work with any of us losers ever again. He refused to tell a soul what the idea was but that didn't stop him from talking about it constantly. None of us took offense. Really, as far as I tell no one ever listened to the guy anyway cause he was kind of a douche.

When he finally got the product produced it turned out to be a tab you put on the side of a toilet seat so you didn't have to touch the seat when you put it up or down. Of course if he'd have told us a what the idea was before he spent his savings mass producing them we might have told him that someone had already made something exactly the same, or we could have pointed out that since the tab was designed to remain stuck on the toilet seat it was liable to get just as gross or grosser then the seat itself. We might have saved him from riding around for a year in a car that said "Ask Me About Toilet Tab!"(not impressive on dates I assure you) on the side. But he didn't so we didn't and the last I heard he wound up throwing all the tabs out and he's still working 9 to 5 like everyone else.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:59 PM on December 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

I would not be offended, but I would think that you needed to develop a more professional way of presenting your business activities.
posted by Miko at 8:10 PM on December 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Here's the offensive part: to avoid word getting out. If you tell your friend you think they're the blabbermouth who's going to ruin your chance of success, then yes, that's offensive. But there are any number of perfectly reasonable, non-accusatory reasons to keep your projects private, including the "if I talk about it I won't do it" suggested above.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:15 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can just say "I don't want to jinx it".
posted by Dansaman at 8:36 PM on December 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

Um, I wouldn't be offended at all. Given that I a lot of my friends are programmers, it's pretty common to hear something like "Oh, I'm working on a startup, but we're in stealth mode, so can't share details." And no offense is taken, because that's just the way it is. Maybe you can borrow that terminology?
posted by Metasyntactic at 9:05 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be offended,I would just think you are really naive about running a business.
posted by smoke at 9:56 PM on December 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

I wouldn't be offended.

What I would be is hella confused as to why someone was playing silly games about the information they wanted to share with me. Showing an interest in a person's life is what friends do. If a friend told me that they were engaging on a new Thing in their life, be it relationship, job, house move, diet, hobby, etc, I'd be inclined to ask questions because I would be curious. If someone didn't want me to know about their new Thing, I'd A] wonder why they bought it up in the first place and then straight away B] think they were playing coy, childish games and think less of them for it.

If you don't want people to ask you about stuff, then don't mention stuff. Even if people are just being polite, they're going to ask questions although they might not care about the answer. If this person does bring it up again, talk about some really boring aspect of planning that will hopefully make their eyes glaze over.

Is this the roommate from your previous two questions?
posted by Solomon at 3:23 AM on December 7, 2013 [12 favorites]

By own brother made me sign a non-disclosure agreement. I laughed and signed.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:49 AM on December 7, 2013

I wouldn't be offended, but I'd be highly skeptical; coyness is not a sign of a confident entrepreneur. It'd depend on the follow-up explanation, though: something like "It's still early in the planning stages but I'd love to tell you about it closer to launch" sounds like you're legitimately working on it. "I don't want anyone to steal my idea" sounds naive and amateur.

You mentioned this business in a question a few months ago; have you made any progress since then? If you haven't done any work on this project, it's still just an idea, not a plan. It may make you more comfortable to avoid bringing it up until it's actually in motion.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:30 AM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

It is the 'good friend' part which gives me pause. Of what purpose is having a 'good friend' if one is still in favour of (pointlessly, it seems?) keeping secrets from them?

'They are a good friend to you,' you acknowledge, so presumably they can be counted upon to keep it to themselves?
posted by kmennie at 7:48 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am offended when people tell me that they have a secrett but can't tell me, yes.

A fellow at work does this, and it used to throw me. Now I know that he just likes having secrets, but it's no fun if no one knows that he has a secret. Now I know the dynamic and can play the game openly and in fun, instead of feeling manipulated or excluded.

Tell your friend why you are not disclosing and she should be fine.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't be offended, I would be annoyed, because it might seem like you are just trying to be cute and sly and get attention by mentioning this business for months, but always saying that you can't talk about it.

Are you trying to impress someone by having a secret plan?

Does it give you a thrill to have this secret, and to let people know that you have a secret?

On second thought, yeah, I might be offended.

Not to be harsh, but if you have a secret idea, then KEEP IT A SECRET and DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT. That will reduce the level of offense to zero.
posted by General Tonic at 8:25 AM on December 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

There's a couple things possibly going on here. One is that you're still in the forming/dreaming stage and you don't want the wind to go out of your sails as others have mentioned. Sometimes the idea is hard to explain and often people won't *get it* which can be frustrating and make you feel like the idea is stupid.

I recently shared a (pretty good) business idea with someone and they weren't getting it. It was disappointing. However, I continued to think about it and it's still a pretty good idea. It won't even take much effort on my part though the returns are on the small side. I just gotta do the work!

Which brings me to a point that others have made. Ever heard the saying "ideas are cheap"? That's true. Everyone has ideas. All the time! An idea isn't worth much until it becomes a real thing. I had an idea a couple years ago, everyone loved it. I did the hard work and made it actually happen. I broke even then started making a (very modest) profit within a month. But, ultimately, it didn't really go anywhere. When I talk to people about the relative lack of success of this endeavor they are often mystified and have all sorts of ideas about how it could be successful. But, I tried all those things and, well, there are larger forces at work which can make or break an idea that has come to fruition. However, I wouldn't know any of that if I hadn't done the hard work to make the idea a reality.

Sharing your idea helps you to develop your "pitch" which is pretty valuable. Look up "elevator pitch" and then about how you would share your idea in succinct way to get people on board and interested in your idea. That was one great thing about my project -- it had a great elevator pitch.

Sadly, most ideas are bad ideas. And even good ideas often need large efforts to make them happen, efforts which are often not nearly as fun or thrilling as just having the ideas. I share my ideas pretty freely now.

Share or don't share. But do not tell someone: "I have an idea! But I can't tell you!" That's just rude. If you want to get out of this with your friend say, "I'm sorry I brought that up, I feel silly but I'm just not ready to share it yet. I need to do more thinking." Then, for pete's sake, change the subject. :)
posted by amanda at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2013

I've worked at a startup for three years now. I've found it to be very true that having ideas (really good ideas, even!) is easy, executing them is hard. Are you trying to avoid having word get out because you're afraid that someone else will copy it? Or are you trying to avoid having word get out because it isn't fully formed or you're afraid you may not follow through with it?

If you feel uncomfortable, just make up a white lie like "I don't want to jinx it, I'm super excited, not telling anyone, can't wait to show you in X months". Don't make them feel like they're the reason you can't say anything.
posted by amicamentis at 6:17 PM on December 8, 2013

I see you asked this same question 6 months ago. Has anything changed from your situation in august that would give us more information on how to help you solve this problem?
posted by elizardbits at 7:38 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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