Co-founder @ SMERGERS and

Startup(ing) Problems 27-Jun-2011

Today evening, I was having a chat with one of my friend. We landed on this topic of how side projects help us learn better etc.. and within no time we were talking about how commercialization of the same takes a back seat when we are working for some xyz corporation. Some of the points that we discussed are listed here.

» The technically smart guys are always upto something, its difficult for them to sit idle. So they indulge in side projects. Some contribute to open source software, some write software just for the sake of learning. But they have something to show to the world at the end of the day.

» After significant amount of work and with several iterations, lets say, they have a brilliant product which they think could be helpful to a much larger audience.

» If it is a non-commercial application, some companies may not object. But there are several other companies which are quite strict about side projects - This question on stackexchange talks about it.

On the contrary some companies encourage employees to work on their area of interest for 20% of their work hours, but the end product belongs to the employer - a good deal if you are not very keen on starting your own company.

» For someone who is a wannabe entrepreneur, It is very difficult to dive into it full time without having a significant traction with users (customers). But it is difficult to get users without some dedicated effort on your product. This is a chicken and the egg problem. This is where taking risk comes into picture. Hesitation can kill a company even before it is started.

» Some superstars resign from their companies to work full time on their ideas. In order to earn their daily living, they end up free lancing. This is not bad, but not everyone will have the guts to resign from their day job.

Let's look at how an employer is affected by the same.

» The vacancy created by the superstar will be filled in by another candidate who may or may not be a superstar. If he is one, the same cycle repeats. But if he is not one, then the employer is at loss. They just lost a very good employee.

» The new guy takes significant amount of time to ramp up and start contributing to the project.

» If the startup founded by our superstar succeeds, great! but what if it fails? he/she spent a lot of time on the idea, sacrificed a well paying job and a lot of other perks. After all this, they start looking for another job!

Lets see what amazing things can happen if your employer supports you in the following ways!

» One can make money from their side projects - provided they are not competing directly/indirectly with employers' product/service.
» The company will help you with some of the initial marketing by providing leads, introductions to potential Customers/VCs.
» All the company cares for is the timely completion of any office related work.

How employee benefits from this?

» One need not think of resigning from the company.
» One need not worry about other sources of money as long as they have a day job. They can continue to work on their side projects and more importantly, be the face of the product/startup.
» Provides the opportunity to test the water. Is it really worth jumping into it full time?
» Brings in a good bonding between the employee and employer. employee will be happy for all the support he is getting from his employer. Could that increase productivity of the employee?

Is this something which was tried/tested earlier? and then discarded? How many of you would love to work in such a company? I see this as a win win situation. I would like to know what you think about the same.

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