Donovan Nagel Donovan Nagel

What To Do When People Steal Your Ideas (Online Business)

  • Written by Donovan

A while back I wrote an article titled Competition Is For Losers.

In that piece, I talked about rising competition as an online entrepreneur and blogger, and the numerous challenges I’ve faced having to respond to it.

I also shared a revelation I had about the futility of having a competition mindset.

You must maintain a desire to genuinely serve at all times, and you must focus on being a creative monopoly. As soon as you get stuck in the mindset of competing for the same prize or beating the steps of your competition, you’re destined to end badly.

Instead of pioneering and trailblazing, you spend your days putting out small fires.

Well, today I want to go a bit further and talk about idea/concept theft.

What do you do when people steal your creative or intellectual property?

Uncreative opportunists are analyzing your success meticulously

When you’re an influencer with a large audience as I am, you have no idea just how vulnerable your ideas are.

Most people follow you because they like what you have to say.

They view you as an authority and expert on your subject matter, and they want to learn from you.

But there are other people who follow you solely because they envy your success.

They envy what you do, they envy what you make, and they envy who you reach.

This has become a cutthroat “industry” (if you can call it that), and if uncreatives see an easy opportunity to hijack ideas and call them their own, they’ll jump on it.

When uncreatives plagiarize your brilliance

I’ve been plagiarized by uncreative idea thieves several times over the past few years.

And it seems to be getting worse lately.

A few of them in no particular order:

  • One of the first ‘customers’ I ever had, signed up to my flagship product, cancelled immediately, and then released a similar product line about 6 months later which has been enormously successful
  • A startup took the unique ideas implemented in my flagship product, created a similar product, and now markets itself as ‘unique’ and the ‘first company to come up with this idea’
  • A wannabe blogger/entrepreneur followed my blog, took the ideas and strategies I implemented (even stole some of my copy), created an appallingly low-quality imitation blog, yet despite its low quality, the site now contends with mine for Google search traffic on various high volume queries
  • Another startup, this time for biblical languages, took the concepts and methods I shared, and have now released a product line claiming to be “unique” and innovative
  • A popular language learning methodology that I coined and popularized is now used by many online language entrepreneurs, some of whom claim it be their own “unique method”, while never once giving credit where credit is due
  • A Silicon Valley startup who publicly wrote about how they ripped off my content and were hijacking my search traffic on purpose (while simultaneously reaching out to me to “work together”) achieved great success for a short while
  • Various YouTubers in the tech space who took ideas directly from my BSD YouTube channel and have profited from them

The list goes on.

I could list example after example of blatant idea theft by uncreatives - some that have been successful, others that haven’t.

And these are just ones I know about.

Shouldn’t you be flattered when people take your ideas and expand on them?

There is an argument for that, sure.

If someone sees you doing something and decides to do it better, or implement their own take on it, there’s no crime there. The world is full of recycled and rehashed ideas.

But when you see something that you’ve poured your creative heart and genius into get appropriated by an individual or company that could never have come up with that idea on their own, it burns.

Especially when they turn around and weaponize that stolen idea against you.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to patent creativity or ideas.

Remember: they steal your ideas because they have none of their own

This is key to remember.

You’re a trailblazer. You’re creative and brilliant. You invent things.

A person or startup who comes along and takes that idea to profit on and harm you can only go so far with their lack of creativity. They’ll fizzle out eventually (in fact, one of the examples I listed above who gained initial success by robbing from me has already disappeared).

Your brilliance as a visionary and creative will propel you to keep inventing long after they’re gone.

Stop competing with idea thieves and focus on creating

This goes back to what I said in my Competition Is For Losers post.

If you keep putting out small fires (trying to compete with thieves), you’ll never move forward.

They’ll actually destroy your business by distracting you.

When uncreatives steal and use your concept, then it’s a signal to you that you need to move forward with fresh creativity.

If you continually create and pioneer, you’ll be impossible to keep up with.

He who hesitates...

If you have a brilliant idea, waste no time.

Get it out there in some form or another.

This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way - the longer you wait, the more chance someone else will come along and put your idea into action.

And take my advice (lesson hard learned): NEVER ANNOUNCE AN IDEA BEFORE YOU’VE ACTED ON IT.

Don’t publicly share on your blog, social media channels or YouTube that you’re “working on” an idea or “thinking about starting” something.

Because while you’re tinkering with that idea, someone else is jumping on it.

I only discovered this last week that a startup released a product for an idea I publicly announced 2 years ago (and they were following at the time).

My opportunity to release that is now gone because I didn’t keep my mouth shut.

Keep it hush until it’s ready to launch.

In a world of imitators and idea thieves, unique content is more valuable than ever

Read my post on how SEO is killing blogging.

I basically conclude that SEO requirements have completely ruined authentic blogging.

People write for search engines instead of people.

And the same thing applies to YouTube and every other platform where algorithms exist to promote a certain kind of content - it’s forcing everyone to sound the same.

This is an opportunity for you to stay unique.

You focus on your creativity and being yourself while the uncreatives produce algorithm-tailored bland content.

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Donovan Nagel
Christian, husband, dad, entrepreneur, linguist, theologian and clown world survivalist.
"Put not your trust in princes, in mortal man, who cannot save."
- Psalm 146:3