Sevrain shared that wisdom and more at a recent MIT Enterprise Forum.
Morewood Molecular, a Pittsburgh company that is commercializing a biological testing technology for the pharmaceutical industry, faces the same quandaries regarding disclosure that other technology companies confront, especially those with a technology that has yet to be commercialized. Giving away too much steak with the sizzle when trying to get financing, secure a strategic or equity partner, or acquire key expertise could put your business in someone else's hands.
For a lot of high-tech companies, especially those in an early stage of development, their principal assets reside in their intellectual property, and protecting that property is critical to the company's future. However, several key activities involved in launching and growing a technology company endanger the secrecy of that asset.
Asking investors to consider putting investing in your venture requires you to disclose at least some details of how your technology works. And hiring employees, especially key personnel, requires the same kinds of revelations.
Sevrain says acquiring patents early in the process, securing nondisclosure agreements and retaining secrecy about your technology will go a long way toward keeping your secrets secret.
Other key suggestions:
* File patents early. The filing date is critical to defending a patent claim.
* If patents haven't been filed, Sevrain won't discuss the technology with anyone without a nondisclosure agreement and will make no public disclosures until patents have been filed.
* Nondisclosure agreements shouldn't be limited to outsiders and employees. Board members, consultants and advisers should also sign them.
* Venture capitalists will almost never sign a nondisclosure agreement. Some may even be snooping for details about competitors of companies in their own portfolios.
* Finally, Sevrain suggests that you keep your vanity in check: "Don't brag about your company." How to reach: Morewood Molecular, www.morewoodmolecular.com