Allow me to say this loudly – YOUR IDEA IS WORTH NOTHING – #SafaricomstealsIdeas

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  • 6 years ago
  • Posted: November 20, 2015 at 3:17 am

Your idea is worth nothing is not a harsh statement, read on.

#Safaricomstealsideas was a trending topic on Twitter for about four hours last evening, and is likely to continue with the trend when everyone wakes up in the morning. The hashtag gained popularity thanks to Cyprian Nyakundi who shared an article by a one Mwangi Chege whose rant against Safaricom was published by The Standard under the site’s UReport Citizens Journalism section.

Since the article is short, let me quote it in its entirety here:

In July, I pitched a business idea to Safaricom via its Zindua platform. A few days later, I was subsequently informed my idea was under review. Finally, I received the final word about my idea, that it could not be implemented and I became contented. However, what baffles me is that Safaricom went ahead and rolled out a similar product, albeit with slightly changed features and conditions. I wonder whether this is Safaricom’s modus operandi to solicit ideas from the public, “reject” them as untenable but still go ahead and roll out similar products with slightly changed features to hoodwink the originators of the ideas. I feel this is not fair. And if Safaricom cares to listen, my contact is 0701031087.

Many other stolen ideas cropped up, including the Faulu vs Mshwari case that Faulu lost. What caught my attention were two tweets by Kenyans who also claimed that Safaricom has stolen their million dollar worth of ideas. They tweeted:

Pay attention to the reply in the second tweet, quite telling on how most of us have no idea what a mere idea is worth. Before we discuss why your idea is worth nothing, let me tell you a personal story.

I am a movie guy, that guy who comes up with and dreams of several great movie storylines – mostly thrillers and dramas; some of which I have written down – working to produce a few. But it all began with a TV series I intended to be aired on NTV. Before producing the series, I booked a meeting with Linus Kaikai to share the plot with him hoping he would find it interesting to immediately commission its production. He listened, and as I expected, he found it interesting; and that’s why he stood up from his seat, looked around for his Production Manager to come and listen too, but the PM wasn’t in the office. Kaikai then called the Assistant Production Manager who asked that we talk at her desk. She listened to the storyline and smiled, then she gave me a guideline:

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“First, you need to have a script for at least 13 episodes” she wrote on a sticky note.

“I already have that” I explained

“Then you should have a valid copyright” she continued.

“I have that too”

“And a pilot episode”

“Mh?” I asked

“Then you will need to bring the script in hard copy, watermarked with your company logo, a copy of the copyright, and the pilot episode on DVD” she explained, and continued “We will then review the documents and the episode and if it meets our production standards, we will call you”.

“Have you given this idea to any other media house?” she asked as if worried.

I hadn’t. I then thanked her and Linus before walking out of NMG Center to Kimathi street below, happy and elated. I immediately called my partner and off to our feet we were, working tirelessly to produce the pilot the best way we could. In two weeks we were through, and I personally took all the required documents plus the pilot to NMG reception, it was an afternoon so I left the day pass. The following day I called the Assistant PM to ask her if she had received the documents. She hadn’t. Three days later I called again, the documents hadn’t been received. She asked me to send new copies. I did and called her immediately after dropping the documents at the reception. She promised to follow up. I called a day later but she was already on leave. For a second time the documents were lost somewhere between the reception and the PM’s office.

I then presented the proposal to The Standard Media Group. They received it, reviewed, but never gave me a response, not even an official politely written rejection letter. When I called a few days later the Marketing Manager who doubled up as the Production Manager informed me that if I hadn’t received a response, it is because the team thought that they were not interested in such a TV series. I gave up.

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A year later in May this year, I received an SMS from Dstv asking me to tune to Maisha Magic to watch a new TV series called Nyumba Kumi; which is the theme of the TV series I intended to produce that I had named Two Lines. I watched the first episode and I immediately knew that it was a twist of my show. How did the producer of Nyumba Kumi get hold of my TV series? I have a rough idea.

My partner and I consulted on whether we should sue. We answered to the yes then went to the lawyer who had helped us secure the copyright. After reviewing our case and financial status he told us to forget it – as, foremost, the producer did not produce our series word for word as was scripted – that he had only stolen our concept and with it he had produced a totally different story. The lawyer explained that if our show was airing  at the same time with Nyumba Kumi, the similarities could be seen but not to the extent to confuse a viewer.

My idea (concept) was stolen and there was nothing I could do about it. Am I angry? I was but not anymore.

The reason I am no longer angry is because if I were to produce my idea independent of Dstv, my Nyumba Kumi show could still be different and unique, and probably way better than what they currently have. More importantly, I am not angry because I read an article in Forbes titled Your Idea Is Worth Nothing. The article is introduced by J. J. Colao as follows:

Let’s say you come up with an idea. A lot of people say it’s a pretty great idea. Some people just say “cool” and hope you’ll stop talking. But two people think it’s more than a great idea. They think it’s such a great idea that they quit their jobs, forego salaries for a year, work 70-hour weeks, neglect their loved ones, suffer nervous breakdowns and eventually build your idea into a company worth $100 million—without you. They sell it, become rich (and Internet famous) and you do not. How much money do you deserve?


That’s right idea person. You deserve zero dollars

That’s the bitter truth. Your dreams are valid (thank you Lupita) but valid to they with the means, the effort, the resources and the will to bring it to light. Every day people dream, and think. Some share their thoughts. Others listen. They that listen also come up with ideas, ideas on how to implement the dreams you randomly shared. It doesn’t matter whether the idea has been developed to a point it sounds like a virtual product, that the only step missing is to send it to a 3D printer and viola, MARKET here we come! If the idea is not yet a product or protected, then it is worth nothing. And for your information, you cannot copyright or patent a mere idea. Why? Because an idea is worth nothing – zero – nada.

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Now, for those of you with marvelous ideas and are planning to share them with Safaricom or any other party interested in listening to new ideas, there are a few things you need to do before meeting with these corporate mafisi:

  1. Expand your idea to a form that can be protected either by a copyright or patent. If it is a brand that needs to be registered as  Trademark then see to it that you have the ® and ™ symbols properly given to your brand name.
  2. Visit a lawyer to write for you a watertight Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that prohibits Safaricom or any other party from coming up with a product or service that offers the same or similar functions.
  3. Present yourself with the copyright/patent documents together with the proposal.
  4. And make sure you are accompanied by a competent lawyer who will present your legal arguments.

But if the only thing you have is a brilliant idea, please be kindly informed, YOUR IDEA IS WORTH NOTHING. Check out an article by Kacwhanya written two years ago where he asked, Is Safaricom Being Greedy By Launching Services to Compete With Start-ups?


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