An alternative to useless NDAsAn alternative to useless NDAsPAUL BOUTIN — The problem with Google's double-secret non-disclosure agreement isn't that it's evil, or that it's typical. The problem with NDAs is that they don't work. People forget them in the heat of a conversation. They kid themselves that when you said "confidential" you didn't mean, like, confidential. But one angel investor has found a magic oath that keeps confidantes quiet better than paperwork. Read on.
From: Rikki Tahta
To: Paul Boutin
Date: January 26, 2007 2:16:42 AM PST

hi paul :

i explain to people the imprtance of confidentiality to us as we're still in
stealth mode, and how our NDA is powered by Voodoo not any legal
jurisdiction - and that if they reveal our plans to anyone their face will
be covered in boils plain for anyone to see that they are not trustworthy.
I ask them to think hard before accepting it and not to enter into it
lightly. Once they accept, I say: 'ok for the voodoo to work i need you
take the secret oath, put one hand on your head and rub your stomach saying
to me "i swear the secret oath" '

Frankly NDAs are not really enforceable legally, their primary value is as a
reminder - a sort of statement of seriousness - you hope people, by the act
of signing a meaningless bit of paper, will take the duty of confidentiality
more seriously. But they sign them all day long and are either trustworthy
people anyway who, when they said they will keep something confidential,
they do - or they forget or ignore it as it has no teeth. But no one
forgets the secret oath. I have had people email me saying "i think you
should meet X and i want to tell him what you're working on - but that damn
curse is hanging over me - can i get an exemption?"

There is another value (paricularly important with the VC and funding
community) - it acts as a pomposity detector - if someone isn't prepared to
see the fun of taking the voodoo oath instead of a NDA - then they are
probably too self-important and won't be fun to work with. This is
particularly useful in London where success tends to breed pomposity. I
have had a board room full of bankers cheerfully take the voodoo oath prior
to a bus dev meeting and have had potential individual investors refuse to
take it in the privacy of a private meeting room.

hope it helps

feel free to use my name

Rikki Tahta
and the project is

cheers Rikki