“There are two rules to success:

1. Never tell everything you know.”

– Roger H. Lincoln

Every now and then, the quote above pops up again. I’ll read it in a blogpost, or see it tweeted, or shared on Facebook. It is a cute quote and generally makes people smile.

But is it true?

It used to be true, for sure. You guarded your trade secrets, kept your business-plan to yourself and used your knowledge to your advantage. I remember how nervous I was when I met the competitor to my first startup, in 1997, afraid as I was that I would accidentally slip him an important piece of information that he would be able to use against me. I tried to keep a pokerface through the meeting as if just showing emotion or delight would signal too much.

But isn’t that all a bit ‘last century’? Startups these days seem to realize that the world is big enough for themselves and the competition and working together benefits everybody. There is room for more than one social network, photo-sharing app or technology news blog.

Old-economy business has known this for years. Having one street in a city with a lot of bakeries is good for all the bakeries in that street. Magazines are displayed next to each other at the newsstand.

Entrepreneurs these days seem to realize that NOT sharing everything you know is more a sign of weakness than a sign of strength.

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