Entrepreneurship: What if someone steals your big idea?

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If someone steals your business idea and can make a success before you do, you deserve to lose it.

These were the harsh words from Vinny Lingham, the South African internet entrepreneur who now lives in Silicon Valley. He is the co-founder and CEO of Civic, an identity protection and management startup. He was also previously the founder and CEO of Gyft and Yola.

Furthermore, Lingham is one of the ‘dragons’ on the South African version of the television programme Dragons’ Den, in which start-ups can pitch their ideas to the group of successful entrepreneurs in the hope of triggering their interest to invest.

“Vision without execution is hallucination. That is the Silicon Valley approach. It is harsh, but more than likely true,” Lingham said on Wednesday, at the annual congress of the SA Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) taking place in Durban.

He and his fellow ‘dragons’ took part in a panel discussion at the congress.

“You have to take a portfolio approach with investing. Failure is part of the game, but the question is whether you can find the few investments where the returns are so big that the failures do not matter,” said Lingham.

“People in SA need to get their heads around the idea of failure and not just be attached to making money at every single turn.”

He said if an entrepreneur keeps getting it wrong, he or she must ask themselves at some point: Why?

“The point is that, if you find yourself in a situation where you are consistently wrong about something, you must ask yourself why, and what is wrong with your thinking,” said Lingham.

“The toughest thing is to recognise your faults. If you can do this, you will make better investments and decisions in your life. It is all about data. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

For Lingham’s fellow ‘dragon’ Lebo Gunguluza, of Gunguluza Enterprises & Media, said execution and speed is important in getting an idea to market.

“Google your idea. You are probably not the first one to have that idea,” said Gunguluza.

“You have to know you are in a competitive environment. Thousands of people are willing to compete with you on your own idea.”

For him the dynamics of the people in a business you consider investing in are very important, especially the leadership.

“Looking at the jockey is almost more important than the company,” he said.