Kudos to Rikki Tahta for putting NDA's in their proper place, and more importantly reminding us to stop acting so damn self-important.
I saw this on Valleywag, and am reprinting here for those who won't follow the link. Paul Boutin is with Valleywag and Rikki Tahta is a serial entrepreneur and VC in London. Coincidentally, Rikki is a friend-of-a-friend and he and I spent a day together in Chicago a few years ago when I introduced him to various financial markets investors for his financial markets startup that he eventually sold to Merrill Lynch. We hadn't particularly kept in touch, but for no reason other than we didn't have anything particularly pressing to keep in touch about. But when I saw this, it reminded me how Rikki has a great way of cutting through the crap and getting to the heart of the matter, and doing it in an entertaining way as evidenced below:
From: Rikki Tahta
To: Paul Boutin
Date: January 26, 2007 2:16:42 AM PST
hi paul :
i explain to people the imprtance of confidentiality to us as we're still in
stealth mode, and how our NDA is powered by Voodoo not any legal
jurisdiction - and that if they reveal our plans to anyone their face will
be covered in boils plain for anyone to see that they are not trustworthy.
I ask them to think hard before accepting it and not to enter into it
lightly. Once they accept, I say: 'ok for the voodoo to work i need you
take the secret oath, put one hand on your head and rub your stomach saying
to me "i swear the secret oath" '
Frankly NDAs are not really enforceable legally, their primary value is as a
reminder - a sort of statement of seriousness - you hope people, by the act
of signing a meaningless bit of paper, will take the duty of confidentiality
more seriously. But they sign them all day long and are either trustworthy
people anyway who, when they said they will keep something confidential,
they do - or they forget or ignore it as it has no teeth. But no one
forgets the secret oath. I have had people email me saying "i think you
should meet X and i want to tell him what you're working on - but that damn
curse is hanging over me - can i get an exemption?"
There is another value (paricularly important with the VC and funding
community) - it acts as a pomposity detector - if someone isn't prepared to
see the fun of taking the voodoo oath instead of a NDA - then they are
probably too self-important and won't be fun to work with. This is
particularly useful in London where success tends to breed pomposity. I
have had a board room full of bankers cheerfully take the voodoo oath prior
to a bus dev meeting and have had potential individual investors refuse to
take it in the privacy of a private meeting room.
hope it helps
feel free to use my name
and the project is covestor.com
Well said, Rikki!