If you pop back to my post at #12 on the thread above - page 2 - you will see the order that is not unusual in a business involving investment monies...
investor doesn't come in until stage 5
'tossing ideas around' is stage 1
patent is stage 3
so there is an order to these things...
so you are right, you wouldn't look at patents until after the ideas phase and after developing the concept - you should by the end of stage 2 know as acurately as you can that at a conceptual level it works - then it is worth a patent as the actual product detail can be ironed out later - as it works conceptually a product will be possible - so worth patenting...
but you don't even talk to an investor until way beyond that
they want to know:
-that conceptually it works (stages 1 & 2)
- that you have the IP protected (stage 3)
- that you can demonstrate that the concept will work in reality (prototype - stage 4)
- then there is something worth investing in... stage 5.
of course with an online business it is a bit different - as mentioned above, patenting processes is not a universal approach - but you can still take the same principles - you just need your IP to be protected...
the investor wants to know that the business is as risk free at that stage as possible - there is enough risk in a new business in the running of it to not need additional / controllable risk...
so proof of concept / proof of code / proof of IP protection / etc. will all be important
so, even online there will be a number of stages prior to talking to an investor - they will almost never be involved at the ideas stage - unless they are wearing a different hat at that point