Note: While this might be true 99% of the time, always trust your instincts on this one.
Let me elaborate on this. People believe having an idea is 90% of the work and building it is the other 10%. They believe big companies are great ideas, but it is the other way around. Companies start with ideas, correctly executed. And idea has almost no value. It’s the implementation of the idea that counts. Here is an example: “Let’s make a tablet” Microsoft came with that idea years before apple. And yet nothing came out of it. Then Apple made the iPad and it was a huge success. It was not the idea. It was the way it was made.
The first signal you should run away from someone are NDAs (not in all cases!). So, someone contacted you and is asking you to sign a contract to show you his idea that is going to change the world. Just by hearing the idea, you’ll be able to create a Fortune 500 company in less than a month, sell it to google, travel to space without petrol and brag about it to Elon Musk. Seriously, check most of the ideas that are big nowadays: a search engine, a website to rent someone’s room, another social network, an electric car. We can almost feel the rejection you would have gotten by proposing Facebook to an investor in 2004. Ugh. Revolutionary ideas never feel revolutionary. And, unless your idea is something like the exact chemical formula to make a new kind of eco-fuel from plants, you are doomed. Ideas have a life of their own, a live you give to them. Build it and they shall come they say, but there hasn’t been something less true in software than that. Take uber for an example, if they had only built the app, nobody would have used it. It is about talking to users, about building, and that is what matters. Same goes to airbnb, to box. And, if it happens, it is probably when you least expect it to like in the case of Facebook. It’s someone that builds the stuff… And definitely, definitely an idea is not worth 50% of the company.
Run away from aggressive partnership contracts. I once was offered a contract that formed a partnership with a company. They offered 33% for me, 33% for the “idea guy” and 33% for management, with one caveat: idea+management were to be done by the same company. With 66% owned by one side, the remaining 33% never has a chance. All the work was to be free, for the sake of the alliance. And funds were to be handled by management and partially reinvested in the company. RUN, AWAY. Don’t get me wrong, It’s one thing to have a contract with someone that protects you both. It is great to be partners, and split it accordingly. Its great to be employed by someone. Being tied to the absolute will of someone for 5 years, with a small revenue income…. Not so great.
If it doesn’t sound right, it is just not right.