Research, as unglamorous as it may sound, is really what is required to see if your business idea is viable.
Here how to check if your “original” idea has already been done (and how successfully):
- An excellent resource for conducting comprehensive research is the Canada Business Network (canadabusiness.ca), which provides a wide range of business research and start up resources in conjunction with various partners and agencies across Canada. What would be of particular assistance to you is the Business Service Centres that include an extensive library of research information and resources, as well as librarians (who seem to know everything) to assist with research. Service areas can also include seminars and other informational resources on a wide range of topics, from tax issues to intellectual property. All you have to do is visit the website, select your region, and have a look at the services and resources that are available in your area.
- As part of the research process, not only can you identify established businesses that may be already operating in your area of interest, but also trends and developments within the industry that pertain to your business idea and can provide insight in terms of where the industry is going (and if your idea is already in development by others).
- Your research should also include identifying business directories, associations, or groups that may relate to the industry or specific area that relates to your idea. This may help you to identify actual companies who are already selling or developing your business idea, as well as newsletters or chats about recent developments or new ventures.
- If your idea is technical in nature, you may wish to consult with a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and who could help you negotiate through the complex world of patents, trade secrets, and other types of protection. This process could help you to determine whether or not other parties have already filed or hold patents to technologies that may be similar to your own idea.
In terms of keeping your idea under wraps, think very carefully about how much information you really have to share and remember that research is more about listening (and reading!) than it is about talking.
You should ensure that you formalize confidentiality requirements with any advisors or parties that you engage by having them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) prior to sharing information. Not to worry; an NDA is a standard type of agreement that is typically only a couple of pages in length. A lawyer can help you to ensure that your NDA addresses all of the pertinent areas and protects your idea as you undertake the process of developing it.