Why I do not sign Non-compete agreements

A couple days ago a potential client emailed me. She said I was recommended by a friend and wanted to setup a meeting with me, I agreed and we started figuring out what dates and times work best for us and then she asks if I would sign an NDA and a non-compete to hear her idea.

Like I mentioned last time, a lot of non-technical people are afraid of developers stealing their ideas. So you can imagine that did not sit well with me, this is not the first time or even the tenth time I have been asked to sign an NDA or a non-compete, and similarly to all other times I politely declined. I did offer to sign a contract that barred me from cloning and reselling her app ...if I was awarded the contract, but not one to listen to an idea.

But someone would say, ok Adim, yeah we know you won't steal anyone's idea so why don't you just sign it so you do not aggravate the potential client and put the money in the bank, what is the harm? ...Glad you asked.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; There is nothing new under the sun. - Ecclesiastes 1:9

I have not seen any situation where this quote is more true than in software, I particularly find this ironic, considering how new the field of software development is but yet nothing is new. Every app, if not a clone, is an evolution of another app. New apps come out everyday and it is common to hear an app being described as "Uber for ice cream" or it is "Airbnb for cars". If you think about it you can describe any app in relation to another. You can say Instagram is Facebook but only pictures and videos and Facebook is myspace but with real names and identity. You get the idea. Also as an app grows it becomes more similar to other apps than less similar. So as a software consultant or if you are a developer who plans to change jobs in their career, why would you want to sign a non-compete? The more people that sign these, the more it will be encouraged in the industry. The more successful you are at listening to peoples ideas and getting jobs while signing non-competes, the faster you box yourself in. Sooner than later you won't be able to do a job because it sounds similar to one idea your best friend's uncle pitched you over christmas dinner, after he made you sign a non-compete. There is a higher risk for you if you signed one and you later built a successful version of the app for someone else, that you would get sued compared to the risk that the person making you sign it would lose their idea to a thief. You are the one losing here, at an exponential rate.

The client and I ended up having the meeting... It was a great chat.

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