A Lesson Learned for Nontrepreneurs: Ideas are Worthless

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Guest post by Mary Juetten, Founder & CEO Traklight

(Image Courtesy of Gratisography)

Ideas that are left undeveloped and kept secret are completely devoid of value. In fact, ideas themselves are not even intellectual property (IP). There is a reason that investors look for team, team, team (no, that’s not a typo), and lastly ideas. When they invest with your company, they know that their best chance at winning is to bet on the jockey (the inventor), not the horse (the idea) because it’s all in the execution. But what if you do not have the time, knowledge, or drive to execute your ideas?


When I was in my early twenties—this was sadly almost thirty years ago—I was driving late at night on a country road in Ontario, Canada. Oncoming traffic was sparse but suddenly someone came around the corner with their blinding high beams on, causing me to nearly drive off the road.

Later, I described to my friend a device I thought should be on a car’s rear view mirror that, when detecting oncoming traffic, would turn your high beams off until opposing traffic passed. Neither an engineer nor an inventor at the time, I had no clue what to do with my idea. I also was majoring in accounting and had no time to start a business.

Today, my idea exists on cars, along with many other safety features. Of course, someone else thought of the idea and had the time to do something about it.

The idea of a nontrepreneur did not exist thirty years ago and is a relatively new concept that I think is brilliant. Nontrepreneurs are entrepreneurs that have great ideas, but no time to execute them. Starting and running a company is an incredibly challenging job and not for everyone.

My current company helps inventors and business owners discover and manage their intellectual property as well as ensure they have all the proper contracts and agreements in place to grow without any business or IP issues. As a result, I have spoken to over a thousand entrepreneurs (and likely many nontrepreneurs) over the last four years.

Below are my tips for nontrepreneurs applying to the WayFounder contest:


Shhh! Don’t tell anyone

There is this misplaced notion that you must toil away on your idea on your own and in private, for if you tell anyone your idea they will steal it. Secrets are very important but you will never get anywhere without the advice and support of others. Be smart and do not reveal anything that will be a trade secret, and simply tell people enough to get the help you need. Of course, when in doubt, always consult a professional first.

5% of zero is zero

If you are a nontrepreneur and you are applying to the contest, then I am talking to the converted; you understand that you are never going to develop this idea on your own. If you are still thinking that “only” being left with 5% of your idea is not worth sharing it, just remember my high beams story: if you keep it to yourself and do nothing, you will end up with nothing.

To patent, or not to patent

Whether or not to patent before applying for a contest or funding is a common question. While I cannot give legal advice, I can say that if you have an invention, it is prudent to patent before pitching or fundraising. Check out this recent article where a crowdfunding campaign was taken down because of concerns that the intellectual property was disclosed.

Have an answer

“How have you protected your IP?” and “What are the barriers to entry?” are common questions when pitching investors or applying to contests. While the fallback answer may be, “I don’t know but I will find out,” it’s much better to be prepared. If it is a public pitch, make sure you have protected your IP before you put it out there.

Best of luck Nontrepreneurs!

From the Corporate World to the Entrepreneurial World

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From the Corporate World to the Entrepreneurial World
By Jeffrey Hayzlett
Since I was a kid, I’ve had an entrepreneurial streak. From the time I was young and throughout college I’ve started and owned many companies. I’ve also worked in Fortune 500 companies. While the rewards and challenges of operating a business are often similar, the demands of the start-up can be more daunting and isn’t for everyone. Many times it’s not pretty – and it’s hard work. Read More

Connecting the Dots: Identifying those skills and assets in your corporate job that translate into real value as an entrepreneur.

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This post was originally published on
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”― Steve Jobs
Entrepreneurship and the pursuit of success in one’s own business require a number of unique personal traits and skills that many corporate executives consider to be “outside of the box.” My experience over the past two decades on both sides of the table, as an executive at top firms in multiple categories and as an entrepreneur and startup founder, has been that all corporate jobs contain lessons and skill sets that are either transferable or add real value to a founder regardless of industry.  By viewing a resume from new perspectives one can create a compelling and logical narrative of how their experience has prepared them for the challenges of entrepreneurship.

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Executive Entrepreneurship and the New Breed of Founding CEOs

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exec entrep blog post photo
(this blog post was originally published on
You always do want a Founder-CEO. But that person doesn’t always have to be the Founding CEO.” – Reid Hoffman
Ideas have limited value without outstanding execution. Everyone has ideas; some are good and some are not, but a select few people are capable of executing on an idea and creating real value by growing business from a single product or service with traction through the long and winding road to a scalable, sustainable and successful business. It is these people who make startups successful but by definition, and for one reason or another, startups don’t last forever and their proven executors move on. WayFounder bridges this gap and provides an alternative path to startup success.

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The Nontrepreneur Solution

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“Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try — if only once — to start a business. There is something uniquely educational about sitting at the desk where the buck stops, in a dreary office you’ve just rented, working day and night with a handful of employees just to break even.” – Niall Ferguson
Good ideas come from everywhere. However for most people, without a full-time commitment there are few great options for turning their ideas into a successful product or business. At WayFounder we refer to these people as the Idea Generators of our society – everyday people who conceive solutions to pain points in their lives as consumers but don’t possess the skills, resources or desire to build them into a business. In the investor community we refer to these folks as “Nontrepreneurs.”

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Welcome to WayFounder !

By | Entrepreneurship, Lean / Agile Development, StartUps | No Comments
The dawn of a new startup era
Welcome to the WayFounder beta site!
We are excited to introduce WayFounder to the world and look forward in the coming weeks and months to meeting a number of great entrepreneurs on the way to our full launch later this year.
WayFounder was founded on two core beliefs: first, good ideas come from everywhere – not just specific communities, areas of “startup hotbeds” or institutions. Second, all startups have multiple founding moments, and the key team members vary as a company grows through different lifecycles.

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