Rejected client because he didn't agree to a Mutual NDA

I work as a machine learning consultant. Because of the nature of the beast, we (my team) spends a lot of time in researching papers, submitting to conferences, making patent submission etc. (2 patents pending) As such there is a lot of IP & domain expertise involved.

A new client (ex Bain & from one of the top schools) sent a one-sided NDA before he could share any more details regarding the project.

I thought it was fair if I asked for a Mutual NDA. But then he came back saying that he was the "client" and I the "vendor", so it didn't make sense for him to sign it. I tried to explain that there was a lot of IP involved in any engagement, and a Mutual NDA was just a hygiene issue, but he was adamant about it. So, I said it's okay --- it doesn't make sense to go forward with the engagement.

Do you think it was a foolish move?
  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Depends
  1. 2

    Always be careful about what you sign. Better move on than make a mistake you regret. Mutual NDAs are fair because both parties agree to the same terms.

    1. 2

      A NDA is just the start of the engagement, one has to analyse the project. Agree on the terms & scope of the engagement. There are multiple negotiation before a service agreement is made. I felt that if the client had such resistance on a minor point, then I felt that it was not worth going forward.

  2. 2

    That sounds like a fishing expedition. Best to move along. It might be good in any future engagements that you notify the lead that there will be a requirement for a mutual NDA so that you aren't getting to this point in the future.

    1. 1

      That's a good suggestion. 👌Thanks.

  3. 2

    From a corporate world experience, I would say you did the right thing (unless you need them a lot more than they need you)

    I’ll give you an example. I worked for a bank, and we have our own NDA. We talked with Stripe, which has its own NDA. Because both are huge companies, we both insist the other party signs our own NDA without changes. It becomes a stalemate at that point, and there’s only three options

    1. One side concedes (most likely who needs the other more) and signs the other's NDA without changes.
    2. One side agrees to bring in the lawyers to review a non-standard NDA and decide what to do. Or propose changes, which then will bring in the second lawyer.
    3. Both sides walk away and discontinue talks.
    1. 2

      Thanks for your perspective! I prefer to have a collaborative relationships with my clients. Both of us learn & profit from the relationship. A NDA is just the start. I felt that if there is so much resistance to a valid request, there will be other problems in the future.

  4. 1

    I agree with the comments below... Unless you desperately need the money, why involve yourself with a client who is difficult from the outset?

    Fewer headaches, happier life, right?

    1. 1

      It was a gut feeling. Shared it on IH, because I wanted to check what others felt. Especially since this is a growth forum.
      I am bootstrapping.....using my savings for growing my business. So a new client is a welcome addition.

      While talking to the client, I tried to explain my reasons. But he didn't agree. ......And I felt it was odd for him to reject a valid request.

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