A non-disclosure agreement (NDA), or a confidentiality agreement, is an agreement that sets the terms and conditions of a confidential relationship between two or more parties. It is a legal document for businesses and individuals who wish to protect their confidential information from being shared or used without their permission.

Let’s explore the key elements of an NDA and consider the benefits of signing an NDA as a startup and when you might actually need to sign one.

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

Before we look into the components of an NDA, let’s first understand what it is and why it is necessary.

A non-disclosure agreement is a legally binding contract between two or more parties that outlines the confidential information that will be shared between them and the terms and conditions of that sharing. It protects sensitive information, such as trade secrets, business plans, financial information, and other proprietary information.

The purpose of an NDA is to ensure that the confidential information remains confidential and is not shared or used for any purpose other than the one stated in the agreement. It also provides legal recourse in case of a breach of the agreement.

Components of a Non-Disclosure Agreement

A non-disclosure agreement consists of the following key clauses:

1. Parties Involved

The first component of an NDA is the identification of the parties involved in the agreement. This includes the disclosing party, which is sharing the confidential information, and the receiving party, which will access the information.

Your lawyer must draft your NDA and identify all the parties involved to avoid any confusion or disputes in the future.

2. Definition of Confidential Information

The next component of an NDA is the definition of confidential information. In this section, you must define all types of private and sensitive information that will be considered confidential and protected through the tenure of this agreement.

It is crucial to be specific and detailed in this section to avoid misunderstandings or disputes about what information is considered confidential.

3. Purpose of Disclosure

The purpose of the disclosure section is to explain why the disclosing party shares confidential information with the receiving party. This could include a potential business partnership, employment opportunity, or any other reason for sharing the information.

Clearly stating the purpose of disclosure helps to limit the use of confidential information to only the intended purpose.

4. Duration of the Agreement

The duration of the agreement is the period during which the NDA will be in effect. This section specifies the start and end date of the agreement, or it can be left open-ended.

Including a duration in your NDA is important to ensure that the confidential information remains protected for a specific period. For example, some information would be considered confidential only for a specific period of time.

5. Obligations of the Receiving Party

The receiving party’s obligations section details its responsibilities and restrictions concerning confidential information. This includes not sharing the information with third parties, using it only for the agreed purpose, and keeping it confidential. It is important to clearly state the receiving party’s obligations to ensure that they understand and comply with their responsibilities.

6. Exclusions from Confidentiality

This section of the NDA lists the information that is not considered confidential and, therefore, not protected under the agreement. This could include information that is already in the public domain, information that was already known to the receiving party, or information that was independently developed by the receiving party.

It is important to include this section to avoid any disputes about what information is considered confidential and what is not.

7. Consequences of Breach

This section outlines the actions that will be taken in case of a breach of the agreement. This could include legal action, financial penalties, or any other consequences agreed upon by the parties.

Including this section in the NDA serves as a deterrent for the receiving party from disclosing or misusing confidential information.

8. Governing Law

The governing law section specifies the laws that will govern the agreement. This could be the laws of the state or country where the deal is being signed. Including this section ensures that the agreement is legally binding and enforceable in the specified jurisdiction.

9. Signatures

The final component of an NDA is the signatures of the parties involved. This proves that all parties have read and agreed to the terms and conditions of the agreement.

It is important to have all parties sign the agreement to make it legally binding and to summon those who can be witnesses in court in the event of a dispute.

Key Points for Startups Considering Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

If you own a startup, consider signing an NDA when sharing sensitive and confidential information with your:

  • employees
  • contractors
  • investors
  • partners
  • any other third-party

NDA as a legal tool helps your startup during the following situations:

  1. Protecting Intellectual Property: Startups often deal with innovative ideas, technology, and business strategies crucial for success. Signing an NDA can help protect these intellectual property assets from being disclosed or used without permission.
  2. During Initial Collaborations: When discussing with potential collaborators, investors, or business partners, it is advisable to sign an NDA before sharing any sensitive information. This ensures that the other party understands the confidential nature of the shared information. 
  3. Before Hiring Employees or Contractors: Startups should have employees and contractors sign NDAs to protect any proprietary information they may have access to during their tenure with the company. This helps safeguard trade secrets, business plans, customer lists, and other confidential data.
  4. Before Pitching to Investors: When presenting business plans, financial projections, or other proprietary information to potential investors, startups should consider having them sign an NDA. This prevents investors from using the presented ideas without consent.
  5. Before Engaging in R&D Activities: If your startup is collaborating with external researchers, developers, or consultants on research and development activities, signing an NDA can protect the collaboration results and any information shared during the process.


A non-disclosure agreement is important for businesses and individuals who want to keep their information safe. When you cover everything, including who’s involved in the agreement, what counts as secret info, what the other party must do, and what happens if they break the rules, NDA is an effective tool to protect your private info.

It is essential to have well-drafted NDAs in place before engaging in any activities that involve the exchange of sensitive data to ensure the protection of valuable assets and maintain confidentiality. Consulting with legal professionals to draft and review NDAs can help startups ensure that their interests are safeguarded.

This content was written and reviewed by a lawyer but it does not constitute legal advice. We always recommend engaging a lawyer before taking any legal action.