What Annoys Me … #10 An NDA Before the First Meeting

I always try to find allies. For me personally, for my friends, and, of course, for the InterFace AG. Because I believe it is better both for humans and medium-sized enterprises to fight systemic structures together.

For InterFace, I am looking for people (young and old) who have an expendable business idea. Or who just want to do their thing. I am keen on supporting these kinds of ideas, both inside and outside the IF group. It is our goal to share knowledge, get additional awareness and thus increase the success of all parties concerned.

A short time ago, I was given some data for a new contact. My information about the person was rather limited. Apparently, this was about an experienced and relatively famous man working in the IT sector who had an actual idea. He had tried to realize his project with a partner, but had failed. Allegedly, however, the failure was not due to the idea, but to an unfortunate combination of circumstances.

I was a little sceptical. Since, however, the recommendation came from a source I hold in very high esteem, I considered the contact a worthwhile suggestion and tried to reach him. Our first phone conversation was ok. Well, perhaps the potential partner was a little too euphoric and the idea a little too creative. So – regardless of a certain amount of doubt – I made an appointment in the very near future.

In the evening, I was surprised to find a (nice) email in my inbox asking me to sign the NDA (non disclosure agreement) before we were to meet on the next day ”just to be on the safe side“. In this NDA, I would have had to pay a six-digit sum in EUROS if I were to hand on confidential information shared in our conversation.

I was both surprised and annoyed with this demand.


Firstly, I do not believe in a business idea that is so brilliant you can ”print money“ with it. I understand that you would not wish to disclose your central business idea. Except: ideas that have a huge value “per se” are probably more scarce than winning in the lottery. More often than not, some enthusiasts will work themselves into a frenzy about something, then despair when confronted with the lack of enthusiasm in their environment. Then they just continue to get obsessed with their “apparently unrecognized“ idea, ascribing a disproportionally high value to their own idea. This is a dangerous development, especially for those directly concerned.

Secondly, I hate NDA’s. Especially if they come with an idea someone thinks is worth 1,000,000 €. If someone asks me to sign this kind of NDA, I take that as presupposed mistrust. And I do not know that I will wish to or be able to co-operate openly and in a trusting long-term relationship with people who think and act in this way.

Moreoever, whenever I started a project for which I had to sign an advance NDA, they turned out a terrible flop. I could almost publish the sentence:

Never sign an NDA!
Never stand surety!

What do I do!

I cancelled the appointment in a polite but unmistakeable way. Because I feel that this is not a good basis for a cooperation based on trust. And I do not fancy wasting my time with conversations that you already know will end without a positive result to show for your pains.

And I find it quite acceptable that I might have missed the chance for a million-dollar business.

(Translated by EG)

I wrote this short story because I think it will be very important in our future that we co-operate. And that will have to happen on a broad basis of mutual trust. It can only happen if  we do not permanently fear for some precious knowledge. Yet the story is not fiction. I experienced several comparable or similar situations

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