Singapore startups should forget about NDAs

The Singapore startup's favorite tactic when talking to venture capitalists is to ask for a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This is a huge turnoff for VCs that get thousands of business plans a year.


Given the news yesterday that Singapore startup, Viki, has been sold for US$200 million, I'm sure other local entrepreneurs are harboring such dreams of grandeur. However, that journey to US$200 million begins with a few small steps where one of the first depends on securing enough VC cash to move up the next rung. 

I attended a meeting last week where one of the VCs in the room remarked that only in Singapore had he encountered startups that would present him with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before pitching their ideas to him. He rightly pointed out that very few startups had entirely unique ideas and any VC worth its salt would not sign a NDA for a startup among the thousands of business plans he would see in a year.

I know some lawyers would no doubt recommend using a NDA. In my younger days, I might even have insisted on it. Today, though, I would opt for a more considered approach of choosing what to reveal: afterall, it would be foolish to go all the way on the first date. Provide just enough to whet the appetite.

Furthermore, if you think about it, a VC with a reputation of stealing ideas would run dry of business plans as word gets around. A startup that has done its homework should keep away from such infamous VCs.

So, the rules of the dating game can apply to fund-raising. Stay safe.


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