Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: How can I work towards building a company while employed?
413 points by mr_puzzled on May 27, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 182 comments
I will start a job as a software dev and with the job offer comes a bunch of contract clauses that basically lets the company own all IP while employed. I am from a third world country, so I won't be able alter the contract clauses. With these restrictions in place, what can I do while employed to have a better chance of succeeding when I do start a company?

My plan :

- continue learning while on the job

- prepare for interviews so that I can apply to companies that are friendly to side projects (stripe, gitlab, github and a bunch of other such companies. Please mention companies that are ok with remote workers and are side project friendly, even startups paying $30,000 work for me)

- build side projects in my free time that demonstrate my skills

- maybe participate in Pioneer.app tournaments so I can network

- basically work on stuff that won't become a company

- once I get a job at a more side project friendly company, I'll start working on my ideas.

As you can see, it's quite a shitty situation to not be able to pursue my side projects that could become companies, but it is what it is and I want to make the most of the next year or so. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

I don’t think many of these comments are realistic. I’m truth, these clauses are likely defensive, particularly for tech companies. There is an almost 100% chance that if you started a company and left your job, your company will not register your coming or going in the slightest. If you’re some famous person that ends up starting some billion dollar company, and it was in an area highly relevant to your job, you might have a problem. Or if you try to sue them to stop doing something you created while employed for them. But if you’re just a regular person that starts some business that’s moderately successful (already an unlikely scenario), everything is going to be fine. It will likely take you YEARS and YEARS of toiling in obscurity before you come even close to profitability, and that’s if you’re lucky. You think some big tech company is even going to remember you? Even if you build a multimillion dollar business, that’s a drop in the bucket for them, not to mention legal fees, difficulty of enforcing the dubious contract, and the bad PR of squashing a former employee’s business.

Exception: You work at a decently funded startup, you play a key role, and you leave to start something in the same domain.

They know who you are, and they're probably insecure about their own success.

That's why you never sign a non-compete.


I had a non-compete in a startup contract and I outright refused to sign it. I'm glad I did. They wanted complete control of all the software I wrote too (which up until that point had been GPLv3; all volunteer work). After the startup failed, my efforts in that contract negotiation paid off as I made sure I was allowed to re-release the software as GPLv3. It's currently used by students at the University of Dayton:


Expired cert and HTTP 503?

Hmm .. seems like my certbot container stopped renewing and my confluence container ran out of memory. I should really add some monitoring. :)

It is disappointing but not surprising that this is the top comment. If you want to start a company on the side, choose a field unrelated to your current company. If there's even a small sense that you are exfiltrating IP, any company worth their salt will come after you hard as a punitive measure. And yes, even Oracle and Google would care about small-scale IP theft, even if it isn't making much money.

Yes. This, 100%. I would like to just add this one thing which may be obvious: don't draw attention to yourself, don't tell any coworkers about whatever you're doing on the side.

And I will add to this excellent pair of comments, 90% of "starting a company and running it" has exactly zero to do with what ever the "idea" is that your building. It is all about how to hire people efficiently, how to get the best work out of them, how to make your company visible, how to communicate your product's value, how to find potential customers and get them to look at what you have, and then how to get them to hand over real money for what you're offering.

I would strongly recommend against remote work if you're plan is to learn about starting and running a company because so much of what is involved must be observed and isn't communicated. How does the CEO talk in group settings? How do they talk to investors? How do employees talk to each other, what do they think of their manager and how is that expressed in their behavior. This is a game of observation which you cannot do on the other end of a web camera.

I just wanted to add one more scenario.

You make the next minecraft and are making millions after a few months. You now have money to fight back with your own legal team.

The clauses I have seen attempt to claim all intellectual work regardless of when it was done or whether it was related to the job.

To me, this is an indication that we truly have not progressed beyond wage slavery. I believe such clauses should be illegal.

I think one thing we might be able to do is to create a list of companies that have blanket clauses like this and then some people (not most) will have the luxury of boycotting them. I see this as a human rights issue actually. It is an attempt to trap an individual indefinitely in a labor mode.

And yes, it's extremely common and a standard legal practice. So was outright slavery for many thousands of years. However, attempting to claim unrelated work outside of office hours is a violation of natural rights.

I'm kind of mind-blown reading this thread. Right now I'm working on a product of my own, and I'm currently employed. The product has absolutely-zero-nada-nothing to do with what my company does, I do it on my own time, with my own money, with my own machine.

Are you saying that I still may not be legally in the clear? If so, that is incredibly insane, and I can't believe clauses like that actually exist.

Not sure how I made it this far without knowing this was a thing, but goddamn that's infuriating.

edit: brb gonna go sift through all the shit I signed when I joined

> The product has absolutely-zero-nada-nothing to do with what my company does

Be careful about declaring your side project unrelated to work. Your definition of unrelated might not match your company’s definition.

If you are programming for your company, and programming for your side project, they’re related at that level at least. I realize they might still be 100% orthogonal, but your employer and the law don’t usually see things the same way you do.

For my last two jobs, I had a side-project before I interviewed, and when it came time to decide on their offer, I had a lawyer write an exclusion for my side-project, legally declaring it unrelated to the company’s business and legally allowing me to moonlight. Getting the lawyer to write it up seemed expensive before I did it, and then seemed like it was both inexpensive and invaluable insurance after I did it. Both companies signed and gave me offers. Asking for the exclusion didn’t seem to hurt my prospects.

On the positive good-news side, you probably are legally in the clear. And also, most companies don’t initiate legal action against employees with side projects. In the few cases I know about where legal action happened, there was more to the story and/or the side project was clearly related to the company’s business.

Even if you are legally in the clear, your company’s lawyers could still try to fight for it anyways.

Make sure you Never use company resources, and next time, consider getting a copyright assignment exemption before beginning work.

The reality is that it probably isn’t really likely all companies are out to steal your personal work through dubious copyright assignment agreements, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be super aggressive.

Not a lawyer but I would probably just keep all side projects on the down low, don't draw attention by asking for a copyright assignment exemption, don't develop it at work or even log in via a company pc or phone. Don't mention it to co-workers. Keep your name off of it on the public side. Keep it anonymous. I expect you could even use a 'pen name' if you wanted to, if you need to be visible, do podcasts, etc.

Most of your side projects aren't going to amount to anything anyway but if you keep it anonymous the chances of your company approaching you about it after you leave are very small. Even if it turns in to a success.

One thing I would mention is to check your state/city/province/country laws etc. I am not 100% certain but I remember reading in California such clauses aren’t allowed so you can do whatever you like in your own time or something. Double check though.

>Are you saying that I still may not be legally in the clear?

You're not necessarily guilty of anything per se, but if your company decides to sue you, they have that right.

It's standard practice to include this in employment contracts as protection, but it'll be up to the court to decide if what you worked on actually falls under the umbrella of your employer's IP. In practice, the company can't blanket tell you you can't work on anything, ever.

If you are in California you should be fine; of course there is a good chance you aren't so good luck.


Read your employment contract, see if it contains this Sex Tape Clause

It'd probably be easier to create a list of companies without

That’s what I think.

I have mainly worked at non-profits (gov, inc, edu), and even these own all your work.

The only way is to develop your idea, which has to be unrelated enough to your work, at a different location, on you own time, with your own money.

> The only way is to develop your idea, which has to be unrelated enough to your work, at a different location, on you own time, with your own money.

To be clear, many (if not most) of the IP clauses discussed here would still claim to own your personal IP produced while employed EVEN given all those conditions.

As an aside, workers in California have much better protections from this kind of IP overreach by employers, and abiding by the conditions you mention will protect you there, but not necessarily elsewhere. Also, and this really grates me, employers in California will still often include a total IP ownership clause, even though it's nullified by the state law, for reasons I can't fathom - to scare you into not developing your own IP off the clock? Or just in case the law changes? I find it very distasteful.

I agree fully. The absurdism only becomes visible to some if you were to turn it around. Retroactively disqualify code at previous jobs, because you garnered the skill at a different location on your own time with your own money. suddenly its ridiculous.

In my personal experience of 20 years, these clauses are meaningless. I know several people who not only left companies and started their own businesses but also became competitor to their former employers. No one ever got in trouble. In fact, a famous Magento shop in DFW area was started this way.

Well there is one lady who got sued because she took her clients with her to a new firm. Didn't start a new company though.

But I have noticed that non-doers love to use this as an excuse to do nothing. In every happy hour/lunch, there is at least one person talking about a great idea but they not gonna do it because their evil employer made them sign bunch of documents. You tell these documents hold a little weight in court and they should go talk to a lawyer, they might agree but never will talk to a lawyer. Next happy hour they are complaining about same thing.

And if you tell them about your side business, they will do their best to scare you.

I work for major tech giant, and openly advertise my business on LinkedIn, resume, carry business cards. No issues so far. I don't talk about it at work or with non-doers.

In California, such clauses are in-fact illegal.

Utah and other states have laws that specifically state anything you create on you own time with your own equipment that is unrelated to your employer is yours, regardless of what any contract says. Unfortunately, there's plenty of room for ambiguity around what "unrelated" means.

Not as good as California's law, but still something.

See section 1, about half way down the first page: https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title34/Chapter39/C34-39_180001011...

Check your own state's laws.

You are right in the sense that California and few other state have regulations around this. And so far, I have seen not one employee agreement in violation of those laws.

On the other hand, the devil is in the details. You may not be safe still because of these regulations in California.

Meh, if your job is to regularly create IP, it becomes difficult to prove what you came up with at home vs at work. And really it doesn't matter because you are usually paid a handsome sum for your inventiveness. I can understand such clauses as I change my risky situation of not coming up with anything of value and not having money for a steady wage but no chance at extreme richness. I am always free to stop working at my employer and try to score golden patents on my own...

I don't think the vast majority of programmers are paid to generate tons of IP.

More importantly, we're almost always only paid to generate IP in a single domain. So if I go home and generate IP for a totally different domain, there's no reason why my employer should have any claim to it.

But many companies will have it in your contract that they own it, regardless of relevance to the company.

You can put anything in a contract or legal document. Doesn’t mean that it’s enforceable or can be upheld in a court of law.

> a bunch of contract clauses that basically lets the company own all IP while employed.

This is default here as well (Germany), but I only interpret this as stuff done during work time. So the stuff I come up with and the code I write at the office on my workstation is automatically owned by my employee. That's fine, because if it wasn't, that would cause all kinds of legal trouble should I ever leave the company.

But if I create things in my free time at home, on my own equipment, then that's MINE, and I might start a company from it -- the only trouble might come if there is reason to believe I stole code/trade secrets (e.g. starting a company in the same niche) or my employee might assume I worked on my it during my paid hours (e.g. all of a sudden bootstrapping a 100 employee company, while getting paid 40h a week until yesterday).

Of course your contract is probably very different, but I have a difficult time imagining that what you're doing in your unpaid time is owned by your employee. Logic here is: You're paid to work a specified time of hours per time interval (e.g. 40h/week). What you do there is owned by your boss. Then if your boss wanted to own all you do/come up with outside of that time, he would need to buy that time from you as well. E.g. to own all you come up with, even in your sleep, you should be eligible for a 7*24h/week compensation. Of course this is more morals than law, but well, maybe you just misinterpreted the wording?

//edit: Mind the discussion below this thread. IANAL, and my moral point of view might not match the legal reality.

> This is default here as well (Germany), but I only interpret this as stuff done during work time.

This is a very dangerous attitude. I'm from The Netherlands, consulted a lawyer on this matter, and she confirmed it was definitely an issue. I proceeded to make it explicit in the contract that it only covers IP created during work time and/or on company hardware.

What you're saying is definitely understandable, but in my experience, it's not how the legal system is currently looking at these matters.

Wow, okay. I honestly didn't believe that was legally possible - and thanks for pointing out that I'm probably wrong. I checked the wording of my contract, and regarding "my employer has ownership of my work" it explicitly says "im Rahmen dieses Arbeitsverhältnisses" -> "as part of this employment relationship". So I suppose I'm safe (there is a clause that I have to ask for permission to do side jobs; but I know company policy is that permission is always granted and this is about informing them about it).

edit: see geocar's reply.

I asked about this before joining my current employer: I'd like to write a tetris clone and sell it on the AppStore (that was the specific example I used). I promise I won't use company resources. They said please don't. It's a grey area. Worst case you'll have to explain to a judge why your code doesn't infringe on anything the company owns or does. Even if it's something as trivial as a tetris clone.

You are however fairly safe if it's completely different from your work, for example, pottery or writing fiction (assuming your company does neither).

As for "as part of this employment relationship", I'm not a lawyer but I wouldn't assume that it applies only to what you do at the office. It might very well apply to anything while you are employed there. You need to clear the scope of that with HR or a lawyer.

You definitely don't want to base your company on shaky legal grounds. You might lose your company, your product, and your job. It probably won't look good in your Arbeitszeugnis either.

If it doesn't work out Then try again.

If everyone acts in good faith Then nobody should end up in jail.

If too many people end up in jail Then major problems could occur.

Right, and it also depends upon your role (I was in a leadership position). Regardless, the law is intentionally vague (“could be related to your work” leaves room for interpretation), and it’s better to get explicit permission.

I'd say it's always better to ask forgiveness. They probably won't find out anyway, so why waste everyone's time (especially your own.) You'll spend more time writing useless emails to HR / lawyers than working on your side project. The simplest thing is to just do your thing, keep it to yourself. In the very unlikely event someone brings it up, you just play dumb. (Your Tetris clone isn't infringing on the company anyway.)

I'm also from the Netherlands. Can you give examples of cases or precedent because all Dutch lawyers I know think of this law as a joke because it is almost unprovable in court.

> But if I create things in my free time at home, on my own equipment, then that's MINE, and I might start a company from it

That's not entirely accurate: You're required to submit it to your employer if it could be related to your work, see especially §18 (1-2) and §19


IANAL, but if I'm reading §2 correctly, that only applies to patentable inventions.

Interesting. I was always afraid of creating stuff at home since I've started working in Germany. So. I can just create my own company, register domains and so on, and as long as it doesn't have anything to do with the company I currently work for, it is mine?

Oha, thanks. That's actually repeated in my contract.

This may sounds like a reasonable wording, but is very often not the case unfortunately. I believe it’s because you’re salaried rather than paid by the hour. Even though your contract is for a set number of hours, you’re expected to have just one job, and for that job to get your focus and attention in a way that you wouldn’t be expected to do if you were paid hourly. This means that companies often technically own the IP you develop in your own time, and big ones will enforce that.

Germany is a very special case. AFAIK you can't lose the right to things you create here, that means the "copyright" (Urheberrecht) of code you create will always belong to you. You can't sell it or lose it in any other way. Your employer "only" has the right to use it without limitations. I would not draw conclusions based on the situation in Germany, since the law could be wildly different.

As per the contract the copyright of my work goes to my employer, and I have no copyright to (on?) it.

The difference is that I am not allowed to reuse that work somewhere else (e.g. my own project) with my contract, but from what you say that would always be possible. Also what you say means I could always sell work I do on the job to someone else, e.g. a direct competitor. So I am not sure if that's really right ;-)

Urheberrecht vs. Verwertungsrechte...

> Copyright should neither be transferable in whole nor in part. Rather, the author should only be able to grant someone else the right to use the work in a certain way.

Nach dem geltenden Recht kann das Urheberrecht als Ganzes und in seinen Teilen (z. B. das Vervielfältigungsrecht, das Aufführungsrecht) abgetreten werden. Nur die aus dem Urheberpersönlichkeitsrecht erwachsenden Befugnisse, wie z. B. das Recht, Entstellungen des Werkes zu verbieten, sind unübertragbar. Der Entwurf sieht - wie das österreichische Recht - von einer derartigen unterschiedlichen Regelung der Übertragbarkeit der einzelnen urheberrechtlichen Befugnisse ab. Das Urheberrecht soll zukünftig weder im ganzen noch teilweise abtretbar sein. Vielmehr soll der Urheber einem anderen nur das Recht einräumen können, das Werk in bestimmter Weise zu nutzen. Das Urheberrecht selbst verbleibt dabei, belastet mit dem Nutzungsrecht, dem Urheber. Hierdurch wird sichergestellt, daß der Urheber auch dann, wenn er die wirtschaftliche Auswertung seines Werkes einem anderen überläßt, stets eine gewisse Kontrolle über das weitere Schicksal seines Werkes behält.


deepl.com english translation:

Under the applicable law, copyright may be assigned in its entirety and in its parts (e.g. the right to reproduce, the right to perform). Only the powers conferred by the moral right, such as the right to prohibit the distortion of the work, are non-transferable. Like Austrian law, the draft refrains from such a different regulation of the transferability of individual copyright powers. In future, copyright should neither be transferable in whole nor in part. Rather, the author should only be able to grant someone else the right to use the work in a certain way. The copyright itself remains, burdened with the right of use, the author. This ensures that even if the author leaves the economic exploitation of his work to another person, he always retains a certain control over the further fate of his work.

yes, I think I had the same type of clauses (haven't read my contract in a long time) So I did clear out that with my current (to be at the time) direct manager and that was the consensus. So my advice for the original question would be to clear that with the (future) manager on what those clauses do indeed mean. And I don't feel that question is endangering getting the job in any way... I feel nowadays many people have side projects that they have not intention of relinquishing of its rights even if nothing more that a side hobby. So managers are probably asked those question all the time. PS: But I wouldn't go straight the manager and state that I'm planing on start my own business wight at the same time I start working for him... That probably raises the flag that you will not be 100% committed and might leave in a short period. I would just bring it up as "side projects".

[Part 2]

But same kind of work (programming), and company can possibly use it for their business (you don't know, even if you think you do) or using even similar code snippets in both programs (and that happens, even only in non-business logic parts of the code doing unimportant stuff) would unfortunately lead to a situation with possibility of conflict. After all, they pay you, to program "things that can be useful to them", so that's your job. Does that mean you can sell them this specific program, just because they haven't yet ordered you to write it in your work time? What do you want to do if they order you at work to write something like you have written in your free time? Being sulky? Writing a "totally different" program from your free time program just because you want to waste their time and money? Bringing your home-grown program which violates all company quality standards to work? You cannot win either way. As said before, the time when you did it, does not matter. (Except of course: before the start and after the end of the employment, you are free (from this employer), but as long as you are emloyed, it does not matter if it weekend.) It is all complicated, because it is not just some stupid and easy to follow rules. Law is not what one side thinks is right, but often times a reconciliation of interests, and it gets messy.

Ask yourself: could a reasonable third party, without knowing your or your employers intentions or even technical details, draw a clear line between your free time work and the stuff you are paid to work on, only by looking at your free time project and the kind of work you and your colleages do in the office? If the only product of your employer is monitoring software and you write the stereotypical Tetris clone: yeah, that case might be easy. Real companies and useful free time projects? Not so much.

Also to train you to think like a reasonable third party: think of a bricklayer laying bricks in his "free time". (Sounds a bit odd, doesn't it?) When would this be acceptable, when wouldn't it? Not so easy. Of course you have to give something up for getting paid.

I would suggest not being a salary slave, but that would be hypocritical of me, because I am.

Get paid enough, save enough, make a clean cut, start project later.

Have other hobbies, go out in the sun, meet some friends, life is too short.

As others wrote: the programming is the easy part of a business, you can easily solve that after you lost your chains.

The line I draw: if it is only for my amusement and noone else can access the work, I will do it for myself. (Strictly speaking, this may also be a relevant work, but that's the line I draw. Some may say: daring, some may say: cowardly. Probably right. Both of them.)

Getting an exception for works within your area of work, for which you do not have to to transfer rights into contract supplement, should be possible at reasonable employers, but check before you start creating the work, don't let them think your work as employee will suffer, and if is commercial, a side-business or similar: that's another independent problem to take care of (no competition, maximum work time as required by law may be applicable, and so on). (Contract supplements are done all the time for more trivial stuff, no big deal. The world changes, and so do contracts.) A small employer might even say: if your work is not in this and this business field, we don't care. For bigger ones it will be the other way around: you will have to be specific on what you want to do and some legal department will check business interests, IP problems, if it is far enough away from your departments work, and so on. This might as well limit the work you can do in the company, so check your career plans.

Check if you need to program at all. The ready solution might be available as open source already. These days many employers also have open source policies, giving you some additional free space for your programming projects while employed, see if you can use that to your advantage. If you are good at project management / people skills: let others do the work.

So let's all stop bitching about the lawyers (a lawyer would have written a more understandable and concise text, but would have charged you more) and the law: the world is complicated and full of conflicting interests, don't expect the business world to work like your hobby projects with your friends. Don't be sad, grow up.

[Part 1]

Sadly, it sucks even more than some people imagine. So while I'm also not a lawyer, I will gladly play the Devil's advocate here.

If you have a salary, you are actually paid for the work product of the whole month. (As opposed to a wage for time worked.) Well, actually you are paid for honestly trying, but your contract transfers usage rights related to your work, so this has nothing to do with hours worked. They would also have to pay your salary, if they say you can stay at home and do nothing, because nothing to do.

Having your work time limited to 40h a week has nothing to do with transfer of rights, as it is a different realm of law. This is just to protect you (or your employer) from you being overworked. (Cynics might say: this was invented by politicians/unions to get votes, or by employers that don't want their human resources damaged.) Anyway: this has nothing to do with your pay and the rights you sell. It might even work against you, as you have to use your "free time", to get fit for work again. (Yes, yes!) While secondary employment is not generally forbidden in Germany (and contract clauses which say so don't last in court), except for competition, your employer of course needs to know, because he also has a say in whether or not your other activities are against their legitimate interest: e.g. if it is indeed to be deemed competion or you are overworking yourself this way and having this drain your energy away from your employers work might be a valid reason to stop it. (Of course: in the end, the court may decide if one side sues, hopefully in a commensurate way.) But you may say: but this is like overtime (it is not: you did it voluntarily and overtime is ordered), and overtime has to be paid even for salaried employees in certain cases (again: different laws, has nothing to with the rights you sell as part of your employment and only with protection from overworking and your compensation for time because of the imbalance between stipulatory and accomplished hours -- hint: if your employer or a labour court thinks your employer owes you (as a salaried employee) overtime compensation, it is because you are still way below a decent salary ... but this is getting off topic).

So while it is true you cannot transfer your Urheberrecht in Germany, as pizzapill wrote, (because it is connected to you as a person, with one exception: it is transfered to your heirs after your dead, but if you're dead, you rights are very limited anyway) you transfer the Nutzungsrechte (usage rights) as part of your contract. And here the employers try to get as much as possible. Not only because of greed (but we would not rule that out, would we?), but simply for legal safety: you cannot easily disentangle one work from another if it is basically the same in the law (like "computer program" -- if the creation of these type of work is your job). Sure you and I can easily see, this program has nothing to do with your dayjob, but can your employer? In a tiny shop, maybe. In a big corporation: not so much. A big software company has so many fields of business, products and services, your manager and their manager and their manager cannot possibly know if your free time project goes against the business interest of the company if you do it independently of the company, so the contracts generally assume it does. (And it probably actually does: given a big enough company you will most certainly have teams in other divisions building similar things as you do in your free time, even if it is only in some tiny research departement on the other side of the world. And I mean plural "teams": they often don't know from each other. Think your boring business software employer does not do cool IoT stuff in some unknown lab? Think again, you haven't networked enough and don't know your company.) And for the work time + work equipment / free time + private equipment argument: yeah, I would also say so, I am paid for this, but not for that ... but this is a very weak argument. Not only for the obvious reason that it would be very problematic if some employee chooses to do the work for this employer in his free time on his equipment and thus trying to circumvent the usage rights transfer, but also (and maybe more importantly) because this is all in your head and how do you prove it, that e.g. your private work and employer ordered work did not influence earch other. And what about employer-relevant work you were not ordered to do? Say e.g. something you think could be useful at work: this could easily go against your employers interest (if you try to sell it to them or the competition or even if you wrote it and they don't get it), which is at odds with your duty of loyality.

That being said, I doubt contract clauses which automatically transfer exclusive usage rights of your free time works to your employer without extra compensation are enforcable to the full extent in Germany for "everything copyrightable you might create regardless what". (Speaking of contracts, I don't think I have seen it in this form yet, the sane companies write it more like this: if you create some work out of your area of duty, you have to offer exclusive rights to us, like you do for on-duty work, except if it is obvious, we cannot use this in the company.)

So with a dayjob as programmer and writing poems / painting pictures in the evening, you can savely say: this has nothing to do with each other and therefore it is not the business of my employer.

Do not do anything non-work related on company equipment! Ever, for any reason, seriously don't do it! Do not even research the idea! Assume the company is logging everything. They likely are. Honestly, I'd just focus on work and learn if you are just starting out. Learn as much as you can while employed by other folks (they are basically paying you to learn). Learn as much about the business your company is in too. For example, say you are a software dev at a VFX company. You might only care about your specific dev project in a tiny silo. But, learn the larger context of where your piece fits into the bigger company picture or industry. Learn about your company, where it fits into the bigger picture, where are things headed in your industry. This will open all types of jobs opportunities as you can pivot around in your industry. Why are you doing what you are doing? This will really help you down the road when you start your company as you want to think of the larger workflows and where you fit in. Focus on workflows as the underlining tech constantly changes (but workflows rarely do)! Running a company is a 24/7 thing, you will not get weekend or nights off, so don't burn yourself out working for someone else and doing your own thing useless you really think it will work. I have tons of 10% complete projects that I thought where good ideas but never panned out. So, just play around and see what might work. Don't take it all the way unless you are really sure.

If you want a job at something like gitlab. Hangout on their open-source project, learn their codebase, and send in patches. Even if they are simple docs patches. Send in 50 of those and you will start to learn the devs. Ask one of them what it is like to work there, ask them to refer you, etc. The CEO of gitlab is constantly on HN (I swear he has an alert for mention of gitlab). So, he will likely see this post. My point, take some initiative and try not to go through the conventional recruiter pipe (apply on website and no one ever gets back to you cycle). Doing this, has worked out really well for me in the past, and it will work for you too. Sure, it is more work but gets you ahead of everyone else as you are making an effort. Be strategic about this and really choose who you want to work for and go after them. Having something like, hey, I patched 50 minor typos in your code/docs goes a long way, between you and some nobody!

> Do not do anything non-work related on company equipment!

And ideally don't bring work equipment home (i.e. laptop). This could be used against you. Low probability but high impact for you.

If only I could be on-call and fix things without my laptop.....

I find that first advice a bit paranoid. What country are you from where it is normal that a company is logging and spying on its employers? I have a company laptop but there is no logging whatsoever. Outside office hours I use this laptop to do personal stuff all the time.

In many countries if you have a company laptop then everything on that laptop or done on that laptop belong to the company. They are unlikely to be spying on your directly, but they will often have administrative access, will perform backups to ensure continuity of business data you are working on etc. If you leave and start a competing company someone in IT is going to get a call asking them to check your archived data (email, etc.) to see if you were working on this new company while using old company equipment or during old company time. If they find evidence of this then in many jurisdictions you are going to be in trouble...

Save the headache and use your own equipment. At the very least have a personal VM that you run to do your personal work on.

I appreciate your concern, but in this case, there is really nothing going on this laptop that I am not aware of. Company e-mail is archived somewhere in Google but I obviously don't use my company e-mail for personal use.

I am a bit surprised that multiple people here are living in such a permanent state of paranoia.

Most companies in the US monitor everything. And you probably wouldn't know, things like intercepting DNS are not obvious from users end. Many monitoring tools hide themselves like malware.

If the owner didn't want it installed, it would be malware!

(but since the owner is the company....)

I've worked in information security my entire career, and let me tell you: we have the ability to monitor anything and everything, and it's often completely invisible to the end user. Read your employee handbook and there are likely places in there talking about monitoring on work-issued machines.

It may be that your employer doesn't do that. You would be extremely in the minority. Even connecting to the employers network, either from VPN or at the office (can get everything on the network up to layer 7), even using their DNS server (can log every DNS request), even using their AV software (can read every file on your system, even removable media), even using their proxy (can watch all your Internet traffic and decrypt SSL), or MaaS tools (game over, full access, including keylogging), there is a ton of tracking and monitoring that can be done from the most basic tools. Most web proxies are capable of breaking SSL requests to inspect the traffic and then rebuilding it before passing it on. I work with a technology that does deep packet inspection and full payload capture on every flow that hits the network.

It may be that your company doesn't do any of that. But before you go coaching people to quit their jobs or assume they're not being tracked, you should realize this is extremely common and any company who does not do it is putting themselves, their employees, and their customers at extreme risk when it comes to security. The most basic of malware could bring down the entire company if they don't have a proxy or AV. And if anyone can attach any device to the internal network without needing any controlling software or inspection software, if anyone can send whatever data they want out of the network, it's not a question of if you will be hacked, it's a question of how long have you been hacked and you just don't know it.

They're not using monitoring software to watch your Amazon shopping habits. They're using it to protect the company, their employees, and their customers.

>You would be extremely in the minority.

Rubbish. Most companies don't even have an IT department and are too busy trying to keep the business going and make payroll to be worried about malware or what their employees are Googling.

I agree with being cautious, but by the sounds of it you don't know what "most" businesses are like in the real world.

You're right. Anyone who doesn't have a corporate network likely isn't going to have a security team or even an IT department. But considering I explicitly mentioned the corporate network and the security department, you obviously knew what I was talking about and just wanted some reason to disagree with me.

Companies without an IT department are extremely unlikely to let their developers take a company-owned laptop home, for the sole reason that they don't have developers or company-owned laptops.

"What country are you from where it is normal that a company is logging and spying on its employers? "

This is everywhere.

"I have a company laptop but there is no logging whatsoever."

I suggest they very well could be logging your web requests. This is very common.

It's not like your manager is necessarily even going to have access to this. They're not interested in what you are doing, generally.

But if there is a serious security problem, or a legal problem ... this will then be used.

I don't know if you mean logging of traffic on the company network or all network traffic on the laptop itself. The latter is definitely not happening here.

They'll log at a network level, not from software on your laptop.

If you work remotely obviously they can't.

But if you work in an office, there's a very good chance they are.

How do you know it's not happening?

Because I installed it myself and nobody else touched it. If you suspect your employer to secretly keep logs of your internet traffic to one-day claim your IP rights you seriously need to search for a new employer.

I'm really sorry, but this is naive. It may be true that in your case you have complete control over your laptop and there is no possibility of logging, but this is not broadly the case, and it is not a good litmus test of an employer. If you start working for a company with lots of employees and valuable proprietary data, they will have access to take a look at what you've done with your company computer. And not because they're evil, but because "insider risk" is a real problem that scales with a company's size and success. An employee could be looking up private information of an ex-partner, or sending a zip file of customer credit card data to their private email account, the company could be sued and need to provide information on those acts during discovery, etc. I think good employers should assume good faith by their employees and should not employ the sort of active monitoring and productivity tracking stuff that exists, but I think having the ability to reactively look at backups and system logs is important.

Quite a lot of larger companies use various endpoint monitoring / protection solutions that will log and stream back a lot of data in order to e.g. protect against device compromise and insider threats. It's not as though your manager is likely to have the ability to grep through your device history on a whim, but if you do get into a legal tussle they might be able to go back and review those for evidence.

These days it is super common. It used to be the domain of only fairly large organizations, but now even smallish to medium sized companies have easily available options to do it.

If you have an IT department (or person) who pushes updates or otherwise controls (or can control) software configuration on your machine, there is at least a decent chance they are also doing at least some of:

- logging all traffic on company network (+ VPNs, of course)

- MITM all SSL traffic on this network (and do filtered logging based on deep packet inspection and/or endpoints)

- above including personal devices connected to that network

- logging all software configuration changes on your machine

- logging all network requests on your machine (regardless of network)

- logging all crash logs and/or other OS level interactions

- timetracking app usage

- logging all communication layer traffic (i.e. mic usage, camera usage, endpoints)

less likely: keylogging or other direct monitoring.

In my limited experience all of this stuff is too logistically complex for small companies, but as soon as you start centralizing IT servicing at all, you will be offered products with some of these capabilities along with more standard virus scan etc.


Also, I remember that when the GDPR got implemented in the EU, I had to agree on a new contract amendment in which the company legally had to list all the data that was collected on its employees (e.g. emails, personal info like age, address and income, ...).

GDPR includes an exemption for companies logging information that is required to maintain the security of their infrastructure. This includes things like logging employee's DNS requests, AV logs, DHCP logs, web proxy, etc. Things that are fundamental to ensuring the security of the corporate network and the data it contains.

That means even under GDPR, your employer could (and should) monitor what you're doing on their company-owned assets.

My company literally says "assume 0 privacy". Not joking.

I don’t think this is relevant even in the US, Silicon Valley notwithstanding. And it is definitely not relevant in Europe.

There's a lot of awful legal advice in the comments here much of which ignores key issues like what exactly your contract says, which legal jurisdiction you are in and what you are planning to do. Ignore all of it.

If you want to know about the legal consequences of something you would like to do, take your contract to a lawyer before you do it and pay for written advice.

As for what you can do to be successful when you start a company here's some advice:

1) Network. People make crucial decisions about large amounts of money on reputation, instinct and lots of other intangibles all the time. Build a list of genuine contacts. Build a reputation for competence and integrity so that those contacts think and speak well of you. This pays off more than anything else you could do for getting off the ground.

2) Learn. I don't mean learn certain technologies or do lots of qualifications. Learn about an industry (not IT) and it's business problems. Learn this directly from people doing the work, not from go-betweens or books. Of course learn tech too but tech is pretty easy to get to grips with if you're really a geek. When you match cool tech up to real business problems suddenly you look like some kind of wizard.

> Build a reputation for competence and integrity so that those contacts think and speak well of you.

That's all well and good when you've already got a business up and running. But is there a way to start building those sorts of relationships before you quit your day job? Only way I can think of is by doing contracting/consulting on the side.

> But is there a way to start building those sorts of relationships before you quit your day job?

It depends on your specific job but generally you're going to have colleagues and customers. Today's customer might be a future collaborator. Today's colleague might be a future co-founder. Today's boss might one day be a buyer.

For me, the CEO of a business where I was a dev eventually retired after acquisition and some years later helped me to find investors in my own startup. If he hadn't thought well of me I doubt he would have helped.

You can't really plan all these interconnections, so you have to do this generally and that's a good thing.

Great advice. Number 2 is really hard to execute though. What are actionable steps you can take to really learn about an industry/domain. I wish I was a fly on the wall and could observe people's workflows. Thought about making a platform for this like lunchclub. Kinda like how kids shadow professions they may be interested in.

> What are actionable steps you can take to really learn about an industry/domain

(This is from the point of view of someone who has largely been a s/w developer building products sold to customers not in tech).

IMO there aren't any secrets method really, just behaviours that are in some respects obvious but also may run counter some instincts people in tech have. Maybe some of these are overcoming introvert tendencies, maybe some are more about getting outside a tech bubble.

Take opportunities to work directly with customers rather than just from specs or via product managers. If you can help out in pre-sales and go meet a prospect, do it. Read the RFP questions and listen to what the client asks. Think about why.

If you can go help out with an integration project for a month or two, why not? Learn about the other systems your customers use and what they love/hate about them.

Talk to actual users whenever you can. When you deal with a support ticket pick the phone up and have a conversation. Be nosey, show an interest in what they're doing and why. Get comfortable saying "I don't know" to people who do.

Read the background on the industry your customers are in. Is there a regulator? Are there industry news feeds everyone follows? Do the large players publish business plans? Read their reports to investors. Identify the key people and follow their output.

There's nothing particularly insightful here and I expect this is beyond what most people want to do early in their careers but if you want to build enough knowledge of an industry to start a business at some point you'll need to do these sorts of things. Most people aren't going to wake up one day with a killer idea like being hit by lightning, or fall out of college into the next Google. The majority opportunities take some knowledge, experience and confidence to recognise.

> a bunch of contract clauses that basically lets the company own all IP while employed.

Probably the most practical solution here is to simply disregard this clause in the contract. Breaching such a clause would be a civil, not a criminal offense, and it is unlikely that a civil complaint would be even considered unless there was a lot of money at stake, and it was easy/cheap to prove/uphold. In order for it to be upheld your employer would have to spend a lot of time and energy deciding, and then proving what it was you built "on their time".

In other words, given that you don't actively publicize your own personal contribution to a commercial project its very unlikely that your employer can have any leverage over you in this regard.

If it's not a pure tech company I think you can disregard it simply because it's not worth the effort / bad PR for your employer to pursue it. For example I'm currently employed by big tech co and am dabbling with an ecommerce business. Why would my employer subject themselves to probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to claim a stake in a processed food startup? Even if the business is worth like 1M-10MM (it's not, maybe it could be in the future, but unlikely) why would they risk hurting their ability to attract talent to make what looks like a rounding error to the organizational budget?

this is very dangerous advice. If it is in your clause,then it's easy to come after you for it.

Just don't do it on company dime and company time. This is what weekends are for, and it'd be up to the company to prove otherwise.

> This is what weekends are for

What I get from the OP's question is that the company owns anything he creates, independently of it being done on work time.

But if it says "while employed", I don't think working on it on weekends makes a difference. Employment lasts until it ends, not only while on working hours.

The idea behind these clauses is that they apply 24/7/365 while you are salaried.

You are giving the same advice as the commenter you are replying to.

Just start a company and make sure you document that the company you created is doing the work and not you personally. That'll probably throw a spanner in the works if it ever did get legal. You could say a contractor did the work then I guess. Obviously I'm not a lawyer and I'm probably totally in the wrong but seems at least another layer of safety over you just doing it personally if your employment contract says your employer owns all IP regardless of when its worked on as long as you're employed by them.

Don't overindex on your contract wording: just because it says that doesn't mean your company will in practice a) realize that you worked on something else while employed there, b) care enough that they'll take the time to sue you, and c) win that case if they do.

Realistically speaking, unless your side gig is a direct competitor or becomes a massive success, you're probably fine. And you can reduce risk further by not launching your company while still employed, which makes it that much harder for them to notice and/or prove you worked there at the same time.

The big risk isn't that they sue you, it's that various collaborators you need to make the company a massive success (investors, cofounders, acquirers) will not want to do business with you if your IP and legal paperwork isn't "clean". This sort of stuff comes out in due diligence. You don't want to pour your soul into a company for years, actually build up a business to the point where it's a success, and then find that a potential acquirer passes on the deal because they noticed your commit history overlapped with the dates of employment of your past employer.

1. Be fair to your company. They are paying you to make their product succeed. Imagine a future situation where you are running a succesful company. Would you want your employees taking your money while working on their own pet projects?

2. An hour or two every day and code marathons on weekends can get your a basic version of product out in a few months.

3. Never give in to temptation to steal office hours to work on your project.

Re 1: put yourself first when it comes to careers. As long as you are putting in the required number of hours (physically and mentally) at your employer, there's nothing wrong with spending your free time on your own projects.

That’s not mutually exclusive. Do spend your free time on your own stuff and advancing your career, don’t spend company time on it.

> 1. Be fair to your company. They are paying you to make their product succeed. Imagine a future situation where you are running a succesful company. Would you want your employees taking your money while working on their own pet projects?

On this point in particular, if you're doing pet project work outside of working hours, then your employer should have absolutely no say on what you're doing. You wouldn't have them manage your hobbies, your social life or your dating life, that would be unreasonable, same goes for side projects.

1. Why would the company care what he does in his free time? Assuming he is not using company IP or working on company time, it should be completely up to him.

Sure, the company will not want him to suddenly leave to launch his company, but the way to combat that is by making the position more attractive, and screening for it when hiring.

The American view on labour seems quite similar to slavery.

The simple answer is that the employer needs a clear picture of what they own.

Let’s say you’re a scientist. Your employer sets you up in a lab (that you could never afford on your own) and gives you the task of solving a problem that, if solved, would be worth millions to the company. One night you go home thinking about the tough problem. The next morning at home you have a shower and suddenly you realize the solution!

Who owns the solution? Did you solve it by yourself? Can you now take the solution and launch your own company? If the company puts itself up for sale can they claim ownership of the solution?

This is why in the U.S. these “the company owns everything while you’re our employee” clauses exist. Consider them legal laziness: It’s easier to declare ownership of everything than it is to negotiate with every employee over who owns what under what circumstance.

Edit: These clauses are enough to take to trial. At the very least a deep-pocketed employer can scare off investors from investing in the employee.

Clearly anything related to company IP belongs to the company, even if you come up with it in the evening.

I am of course talking about innovations or just work done in unrelated areas, while employed.

The idea that an employer owns everything you create is offensive to human dignity and happily that is not how it works in Europe.

You are even encouraged to start your own company, in some countries you have a legally enshrined right to take a LOA for six months and work on your business, and then come back to your old employer.

Wage slave is a real thing.

He explicitly stated that the contract is inclusive of that context.

Sure, but my point is that this is pointless, absurd and immoral. And probably not enforceable.


yea if I am the owner of the company, but if I am the employee, i would want to work on my own project while also taking money from the company.

Different position some time need different way to handle things.

I do not think the issue here is (1) to be fair to the employer, to take the employer's money (the money I earn while working is my money), (2) to find personal time or to (3) steal office hours.

The problem is that the employer pretends to own all Intellectual Properties produced by the employee while in contract. Be it during code marathons, night hours, week-end time...

I used to have a contract of that kind, and I found another job to keep ownership of my weekend pet projects.

If you want to build a company, use the time to build relationships with your future customers and credentials for your reputation for being good at whatever you mean to do. Your employer can't own these.

Once you have those relationships, learning their problems and proposing a solution to them, and having them pay for it is also likely outside the scope of your job with your employer.

If the problem is valuable enough to them, you can agree to solve it for them for enough money that it will float you for the first 6 months while you develop it. Quit your job, live on your savings, maybe pick up some contracts if you can't raise seed capital, and deliver the product to your customers.

Companies aren't made of code, products are, and there are no products without customers, as otherwise it's just art or a science project. Companies are made primarily of relationships with customers, underwritten by products, some of which are made of code. That direction is not reversible.

I've developed my own software projects, and for a long time tried to figure out how practising something I could pay someone offshore to do for $30k/year could somehow be worth so much more if I could just do some secret thing right. The advice was always scattershot, be more this, do more that. What it came down to was, it's not the code, it's not the features, it's not the design or architecture - it's the relationships.

Who do you have relationships with and what are their problems? If you can't solve them with what you are good at, maybe you need to find new people with new problems. If you can't do that, find someone who knows people who have problems and money, and then partner with them to sell a solution.

It sounds so simple, and it is, but if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Does anyone have any anecdotes about companies enforcing this rule and coming after a founder that started a side project while working for the company?

Launch fast. Do not spend a year building your first one without launching.

Your motivation will tank at times... in those moments its extremely helpful to have paying customers--you'll find your motivation replenishes a lot easier.

Also, it's easy to get caught up in daily stuff after work, so you have to make it a priority above most other things.

> what can I do while employed to have a better chance of succeeding when I do start a company?

Market research! If there was one single thing I should have done more of before quitting my job to start a company it was making sure people would buy what I was going to build. If there was one single thing I should have done less of before quitting my job it’s spending time building something I wasn’t sure people would buy.

Ha, but if you are actually "sure", as usually people are :). No seriously, excellent point, I knew about it and still did it wrong way.

They own IP but there are lots of valuable things you can do for a startup that don't involve important IP.

For b2b you can start talking to potential clients in the space. They don't own your network.

For b2c you can start finding communities and building an email list. They don't own your audience.

This is great because as a dev it forces you to do the hard stuff first that has the biggest impact on your success or failure. Not coding which is the fun easy part(for coders).

1) Do NOT use your company provided gadgets / facilities - laptop, mobile etc to accomplish any of your personal / startup task. 2) Do NOT use company/office hours to work on your side projects. 3) Most companies do not mind their employees taking up side gigs unless it affects productivity or a competitor is involved. Talk to your manager.

FYI, I am from a developing country as well.

Here is what I'd do.

* Pick a tech stack and get really good at it. You can do it at your company's time and equipment as it is gaining knowledge.

* Give yourself 6 months to blog and contribute to open source on your own laptop. Get something decent to get started. If you feel buying a Macbook Pro or a similar Dev laptop is a huge expense, look for options to rent it in the short term. Consistency is key, ensure that you are pushing out a new post every week.

* Get into a freelancing gig where you are able to set your own times. This will give you a sense of business priorities and how to pitch and get clients. Conduct trainings and workshops and charge market rates for your expertise.

* Then if you really find a problem that needs more than your mind and two hands to solve, by all means setup a company, hire people and do things. As a developer looking for freedom from the man, freelancing is a good way to gain that freedom. Your own employer might hire you on your terms for twice the pay he is paying you currently.

Do not use your company's time or equipment, period. "Gaining knowledge" needs to be justified, if you start learning tech stacks not endorsed by your company on company equipment and time, you'll have a problem.

What problem? Who cares if you upset the company? Just get another job.

Show up. Do the work. Take every opportunity to learn the skills you deem relevant to your long term plans.

Don't fill up all your free time with other work-related projects. You won't be able to learn as fast on the job if you're constantly depleting your cognitive reserves.

Do sports. Go out. Read a book. Don't load up on side projects you might not be able to finish.

One of your biggest risks when you start your own company is handling the business side of the business. The tech might be the easy part. Your present employer may be willing to teach you the business side if you're willing. Allow yourself to be noticed as a person who can be groomed for management.

I worked at a small company for a few years before my spouse and I decided to relocate. Today I have a small side business, and everything I know about running that business, I learned from the job that I worked for a few years, a couple decades ago.

Would you mind sending me your resume? I have a job you could do for $30k/year, it’s not glamorous but also not difficult and I don’t care how much time you spend working on your side projects as long as the work gets done in a reasonable amount of time. Email is in my profile.

If you want to be extra paranoid, sit down and make a list of everything you need to do to start a small software company besides write code.

Stuff like, find co-founders, identify the customers for the product you want to create, figure out your business model (direct sales? support? freemium? ads?), run numbers on your business model (how successful would you have to be to turn a profit?), how do you file taxes as a business (in many countries the process is different), how will you recruit employees, remote, developers, sales, do you need to incorporate immediately, how do you do that, is there a payroll/benefits provider you should sign up with, how much does that cost, where can you get angel and VC funding for your company, are there any conferences you should go to to identify customers or competitors, etc etc etc.

There's a lot of stuff to do and learn to start a successful company besides producing you MVP. Get them out of the way now and focus on honing your programming skills. And if you don't like thinking about taxes and employee benefits and balancing what you can afford against what you want to provide, well, you might consider just working at a startup instead of starting one.

A.f.a.i.k. while I am not a lawyer, rule of thumb is anything you do

* on your own equipment

* on your own time

can be considered yours.

If you want to be extra sure, maybe consider first switching from employment to consulting? A friend of mine was primarily a consultant in pc-game-marketing space and then he founded a company, slowly building out a product.

On the other hand, I get that going for consulting gigs can be daunting, personaly, I prefer the cushy job that is mandated to pay me a salary every month, and to pursue my side-projects, I managed to negotiate a 4 day work-week. In the end the 3 day weekend mostly became a venue for more family time, but I still see it as a more viable future option, than working on a project an hour after my kid is asleep/before she wakes up :D

Note that OP writes that they are from a third world country. That means we don't know which jurisdiction applies, but it's not US or anywhere in Europe. So IP and labor laws may be very different from what we would consider normal or fair.

Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Yugoslavia are all third-world.


From the position of the ost-block, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, were definitely considered first-world western countries :-)

Yugoslavia is weird. But I would never dare insult somebody from former Yugoslavia by suggesting they are from a third-world country, it would be like asking for a black-eye :D (unless we are friends, and already drunk, then they might suggest it themselves?)

I am willing to bet the OP meant a poor , developing country with a colonial past version of Third-World than member of the Non-Aligned Movement . Most countries in the latter satisfied the former with the exceptions you provided.

In that case it would really point towards "just be a consultant", where the balance of power can somewhat swing back from the corporation to the person doing the work.

Also not a lawyer, but I would urge more caution - this is overly optimistic advice. A lot of employment contracts in the US claim ownership of all your IP produced on or off the clock, regardless of the equipment used. Whether or not that contractual language is "really legal" is another issue, but practically speaking it may not matter, if determining that means a costly legal battle against your employer.

How many hours do you work during the 4 days? What do you generally give up during your negotiations for the 4 days?

I work 8 hour days. But we have fairly flexible policy and I work at a company where nobody cares, as long as your pull-requests keep comming and you respond on slack :P Everybody just knows that for me, that won't happen friday-sunday.

Negotiation looked like this:

They: so we would like to hire you,what salary would you have in mind?

Me: I'd rather you tell me, but I would especially be open, if I could have only 4 day work-week

They, after some back and forth: ok, we would give you X

Me: To clarify, X for a 4 day workweek? That sounds good!

Them: Ehm, we meant for full week, but no problem with 80% X for 4 day workweek

Me: ah, let me think it through

Them: we can make it 85% X for 4 day workweek, if that would make it better

Me: ok, will let you know ... by friday?

While I can't comment on the company related stuff, I'm also from a 3rd world country and you can absolutely alter contract clauses. A contract outlines a working relationship between an employer & an employee, it is not a slave trade agreement.

The OP has presumably already signed the contract, which means it's going to be an uphill fight to get the company to change them at this point.

There are also a number of large companies that will point blank refuse to negotiate contracts, to the point of pulling the job offer if you don't play ball. Of course they will still negotiate when they feel they need to, but you're unlikely to have the necessary leverage if you're only starting your career.

The most important is to use your free time efficiently without burning out.

If you contract remotely, you are less likely to have clause in your contract that requires all of your IP outside of work to be owned.

Most small companies won't even have anything like this in their contract. Larger companies, especially in California, will definitely include this in their contract.

You said you are in a third-world country. Are you getting remote work in a different country? If so, the likelihood that a company will spend the resources to fight you in court in another country is almost 0.

Maybe this will help you https://blog.ladder.io/business-idea/

Before you do any development, ask legal for a written exclusion for your specific project.

Do not rely on the fact it may not apply, if your idea generates millions, you can be certain they'll manage to draw a connection.

If they can't/won't provide one, you either quit and work on it, or don't.

What they can't seize from you is your thoughts, unless again you're silly enough to begin development without doing the above.

It almost sounds like the kind of place where if you were to' try too pull something like that that it would go down fine, and you'd have your coworkers chatting to you about it's architecture on lunchbreak and then six months down the track you'll find your company releasing the same product

Regarding "I am from a third world country, so I won't be able alter the contract clauses", I dunno in what country you are working, but most of the western world isn't like that.

Perhaps you think like that because you are from a third world country and you are used to being abused by your employers.

(And it's not that I am western supremacist, actually I happen to like middle east and asia better)

Look at some inspirational talks by non westerners, like garyvee for example. He's immigrant. He's taken command of the situation. You can too. The only thing enabling him to do so is knowledge, experience, and a unique attitude.

Over the years I've emailed CEOs, CTOs, and PMs of some of the most successful companies in the world (and also a lot of professors), and you know what? Most of them respond. They're just a little busy.

By the way, I have a question. Why don't you just ask?

Opening a dialogue is never wrong nor is it actually difficult.

Btw, read everything here:


Given that OP says that he can't alter the contract because he's from a third world country, I assume that he'll be working in his home country. There's nothing in the post to suggest that he is an immigrant or working abroad.

From my experience, as I did exactly that..

- If you're looking for a new job, find one that has a good work life balance and where you will learn skills relevant to what you want to do. In my case, I was weak in dev ops, so I picked a job where I'd learn that.

- As far as the legal front, a company can't own 100% of your time. When you begin working on your own stuff, use a separate computer, and keep notes with dates. Basically you want to show evidence, in a worst case scenario, that you created this in your own time and not using company resources.

- Then don't tell anyone about what you're working on until after you leave your job. Once you leave, ideally everyone will think that everything you built is post-job.

- Once you leave your job, depending on what you built (if it's competitive with your past job) it's good to tell everyone about it. My early investors were my co-workers.

That's just stuff off the top of my head. Happy to provide more info if you want. And best of luck to you! Starting a company is a hell of an adventure.

Two observations:

1. If you look at the contract, there will almost definitely be a clause where the company will claim rights over all IP that you generate, and that you need to pre-declare any IP that you already own (otherwise they will have the right to claim it). If there isn't, there should be and it's OK to push back against it not being there.

Once that is sorted, write up a declaration of all the ideas that you have had so far for your side hustle and submit it to the company. (You don't have to go into detail: bullet points are fine.)

This gives both you and the employer the protection they are looking for.

2. Starting a business is mostly not about the IP of the software. I have had customers go bananas over something that I spent a day writing. (I have also had stuff that I spent a year writing go nowhere and never sell.)

Most of the ideas that you think are good will be impossible to sell profitably. The first step in any business is establishing that there's a real customer need, and that you can reach those customers. You will probably try 20 different ideas before one works. Buy adwords for them, or do some other kind of outreach to customers and see what works: you also need to go and talk to potential customers. (e.g. every Saturday meet up with someone).

Off the back of this you will eventually find something that works, that's easy to sell and easy to explain, and you will probably have a backlog of customers wanting to buy it. You will also discover that it's probably only a few weeks' work to build the prototype. You can then approach your employer and discuss what you want to do, and get an exemption to the IP clause, or quit and use your savings.

If your first thought on starting a business is to start coding, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Pencil out a block of time each day to work on your project. This can be time spent researching, planning designing, building - the only rule is that you can not do ANYTHING ELSE that isn't related to your project during this time.

At minimum this should be at least one hour a day but 3 hours would be ideal.

Schedule the time and stick to it religiously and you will see results.

First, I think you have the right mindset and you are thinking about this the right way. So that is a good start.

- No one can stop you from learning. Learn what you need to to help prepare you to do something of your own. BUT do not use ANY company assets/laptop/network etc. to do the learning/research etc to be on the safe side.

- Build something. Yes definitely. On the side. even if just a concept. Tinker with stuff. Again do it outside of your company time/assets etc.

Remember that most companies won't give a shit unless you actually become big and noticeable. For example, I am sure google won't come after you for creating something that makes you $10,000/Month and you did not directly steal from them. I could be wrong but I am sure google has better things to do.

Finally, Do not let anything or anyone stop you from what you really want to do in life. life is short and It is not worth living it doing things that you don't want to do.

> I am from a third world country, so I won't be able alter the contract clauses.

I don’t think this is true. You can always request changes in the contract, and you should consider it. It may seem expensive, but worth it, if you have the money to have your own lawyer read your contract and propose modifications that suit you. It may also reveal to you that parts of your contract were unenforceable.

In my experience, it hasn’t hurt me or anyone I know who’s negotiated their contract. In some cases, because it’s somewhat rare for people to negotiate the non-compete terms, it made me look more confident and desirable than other candidates.

BTW, there is no reason you can’t do this long after being hired and after signing your employment agreement. Companies and lawyers can and do make addenda after the fact all the time.

First, with respect to the IP ownership. Be honest with the company you are joining about your entrepreneurial goals (it’s usually a quality that good managers like). You may underestimate their willingness to be flexible. Contracts are alway about setting terms, especially for future unknown situations - if you expect a future situation to arise you can set the right terms.

Second, being a good developer doesn’t always equate to launching a company. The skills you might use to launch something new might not be your dev skills at all. Understanding a problem/solution/market fit requires lots of skills you won’t get writing software. You can/should do customer research, low fidelity testing, etc. to prove to yourself something is a good idea before jumping into a new venture.

Save money. Get a job that pays as much as possible, even if it has shitty clauses around side projects, and just save as much money as you can. When you have 1-2 years of nest egg saved up (might be eating ramen, etc), then quit and go work on your company.

Optimize for getting a job with lots of paid time off and which doesn't require more than 40 hours per week (Government jobs are good for this) then use the time and energy you have left over to explore your ideas and business opportunities. Use this period to save up some money and quit when you feel you can't go further without quitting (and have some money saved up) or you are seeing significant traction. Also make sure that your IP is in a good place given your employment contract and be sure to document that work you have done outside work was in fact done outside work and to never use any company resources or tools to do work you don't want them to own.

> I'm from a third world country, so I won't be able to alter contract clauses

Just because you need a job doesn't mean you should accept whatever the company offers. You should be assertive and inquisitive when it comes to these kinds of clauses, especially at new jobs. I've had contracts altered slightly or completely before starting with a company, from things like where and with whom I get to work after I leave, to IP. Even if company says that this is a deal breaker for them and that the clause has to stay, and you choose to accept, I think it's good to at least demonstrate that your objection.

No need for interviews.

Look for an idea. Then spend time researching the details, the market and the competition. Find your niche. Interview potential customers. Find a co-founder. Start building a prototype as a side project.

A side note:

> even startups paying $30,000 work for me

Value yourself and your expertise more. You should expect 2x or 3x the mentioned amount from any respectable company, or even more if it's a position requiring expert-level knowledge. You being from a third world country should not affect your paycheck. If you're the same, or better, compared to someone in the SV, you should both be valued equally.

You can get a better paying job, keep the same lifestyle, and save the extra cash so you can afford longer breaks while you work on your stuff, or to invest it, so you have additional cash flow.

Regarding Pioneer.app, carefully consider. If I recall correctly they take a percentage, if they want and they only provide mentorship not really a lot of funds (some though).

I’d focus on an open source project in the realm of what you’re interested in. Email your manager asking if that’s alright, print and save the email. Make it clear it’s on your own time to improve your skills. Later use the open source project to start your own business, if it pertains to it. Otherwise at the very least, you’ll have gained skills and some credibility.

Many of the commenters have validly pointed out that you need to take care of the legal aspects. I’ve a few questions from the other side of things: Have you identified a customer segment and target group? Ideally these ppl have a problem you’re trying to solve. Please validate that they indeed have a problem. How? Talk to a few , research online etc. remember that entrepreneurship involves multiple hats. Learn a bit of finance- it’s the language of the business. Finally , Build , validate , learn repeat :-). Good luck!

You cannot and you should not due to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem_effect

Companies can put anything in the employment agreement. What is enforceable and what isn't depends on the country and/or state you are working in, so starting there will help.

Don't work on your project during the office hour, or allow your project to affect your performance at work. There are two main reasons:

1. The employer is paying you to help their product/service succeed. It is unprofessional and immoral to deceive them. I've seen some colleagues do this and I was disappointed in them.

2. Work you produce at your place of employment belongs to the employer. It depends on the contract and I am not a lawyer, but it's best to protect your intellectual property.

Also #1 leads to a situation where you don't put your 100% effort on either side, and you'll fail miserably on both your job and side project.

BUT I think while you're employed you should try to learn how budgeting, cashflow, capex/opex, taxes, accounting, etc. work.

This will be very helpful for the job you already have, and also for your side project and any future job.

You don’t need to own IP to start. Given how many companies fail, to get to protecting IP is a long way.

Most initial steps don’t have anything to do with your contract - coming up with ideas, learning, building MVPs, finding real needs in a market.

Once you find an unmet need and you prove that out, then you can think about quitting your job to do it, or doing it while at the job (which i advise against).

Also, you agreed to those terms so I don’t think it’s fair to abuse their(company you are currently working for) trust.

There's a lot you can do in terms of starting a company apart from writing code.

Things like competitive research, talking to customers and meeting possible co founders/team members out in the community. You can set up landing pages and test the market and hire contractors to do some work. Also, talking to customers (worth mentioning twice).

You can also read about starting a company (nolo books are good).

This will give you a foundation when you are ready that will put you ahead of others.

There is one phrase that coders need to look for in the inevitable IP contracts employers ask for -- "related to the business that <employer> conducts".

It is reasonable for your employer to ask you not to compete with them. It is not reasonable for them to say not to do side projects. And that phrase, or something similar, is what makes the contract say that. I always ask for it to be put into employment contracts, and refuse jobs without it.

Would creating a GPL or BSD licensed project and then contribute to that work (in case the employer allows work on FOSS)? Then one would presumably be free to start a business using that software after quitting. Also if it's BSD licensed there's nothing preventing one from close sourcing the stuff after quitting. Of course the code would potentially already be out in the world and used if it's in a public repo...

Be careful, some employers consider any work done on any project during work hours (or on company equipment) their property.

Wouldn't the fact that if they are ok with you working on FOSS protect you? If you have the source you are free to modify it to you hearts content, right?

> participate in Pioneer.app tournaments so I can network

Anybody has any experience with this. How did you got in? What was your experience with it?

I participated in Pioneer.app for several months, scoring near the top of the leaderboard each month, being selected as a Finalist a few times, but was not selected as a Pioneer. I wrote a long piece on my thoughts on this but haven't published it anywhere yet, so here's the TL;DR:

We found the tournament valuable, since we were able to receive feedback every week. The challenge of having to submit a progress update each week was also a great motivator.

We eventually stopped participating though, for a couple of reasons. Primarily, based on the time we were spending, and the returns we were getting, it wasn't worth it anymore. As we went on, the comments and feedback we received became less and less valuable, as other players continued to "game the system." I also had some serious concerns about lack of transparency with scoring, which made it hard to understand why we scored what we scored.

That said, a friend of mine was selected as a Pioneer and he says it's a good experience. I like the team and they've been responsive when I emailed them. I think the most important thing is to make sure that as you continue to participate, you make sure the tournament is continuing to provide value to you, like all things. It certainly was valuable to us at the beginning, but eventually lost its value as we grew.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out. You can contact me through Keybase, which is in my profile.

Several books on this precise topic, The 10% Entrepreneur is one of the best, full of useful info and practical examples. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01AXE98UA/ref=dp-kindle-redirec...

Depending on your state, laws will work more/less in your favor. California law makes it hard for a company to sue you unless you explicitly steal IP and/or are a founder. Even non-competes don't hold up as well. If you work as a contractor attempt to get your contracts to be governed by CA law.

That is dramatically incorrect.

A company (and person!) can sue whoever they want, whenever they want, for whatever reason they want. The claim doesn't need to be truthful. Frivolousness of the claims doesn't mean it's free for you to defend against. See "nuisance lawsuit." Several companies in SV are known for applying them to ex-employees that didn't breech any legal or contractual obligations.


Have you considered creating or contributing to an open source project?

If your strategic in your choice, you can build some experience in what you want to do for your side project.

After you get a little bit of experience at the day job, you can always switch to a new position that is more friendly to what you want to do.

My suggestion is to make a careful attempt to modify the clauses to specify only related work done on company time.

If it is not possible, then work for them for awhile, save up, and try to find another company. Be upfront with the next company about the issue before you get too deep into the negotiation.

I've described how I've built a probitable side-project while still working a full time job here https://abot.app/blog/profitable-slack-bot-rails

unless you work 24/7 your own time should still be yours. however, anything generally developed / worked on on company resources is theirs. at least that how it works for my contract. That means u can on your own machines and own time make something for yourself. but if you ever once accidentally even load it onto work computer, it belongs to them.

if they don't even let you do that, then i would firstly seek a job which does let you work for yourself on your own time, and then start really pushing for your own company. Learning how to do so is free for you to pursue, as long as you don't 'make' anything on the companies' system / resources it should be out of their sight and safe to do.

hunker down and save as much money as you possibly can. it will take 3x longer than you think and you will need the savings.

literally this is your most important job. build a savings buffer of 3 years, at least. the bigger the buffer the less you will feel tempted to abandon it.

I’m not sure we are getting full situation. Companies never have a full on claim to all IP you do, rather only in certain circumstances

-using their IP -using their equipment -on their time

So get your own laptop, work on a side project outside of work hours, and don’t start a company that competes.

Good luck!

This is just an excuse you tell yourself to not start a company. A cop-out. Nobody at your current employer is going to know or care you started a company.

Don’t listen to most of the comments here, they’ve been brainwashed into fear and subservience to their employer.

Use your own time, equipment and ideas. Stay out of your employer’s market. If you are launching publicly tell your manager so they aren’t surprised if THEIR manager asks them.

This is a growth opportunity that will often make you more effective at your day job.

Best of luck.

1. try to build the whole thing for yourself in your free time

2. if 1. fails, see if investors are interested with what you were able to build

3. if 2. fails, pivot to something you can build, if 2 succeeds, hire 1-2 trusted employees who fill the gaps you are missing

I’d say negotiate away that clause or find another job. Company owning all IP outside work for the duration of employment is in my opinion a red flag. I’d not be surprised to learn they mistreat employees in other ways as well.

We're remote and side project friendly. Send me an email, filip at aevy dot com.

A few people have written about modifying their work contracts. Can you share the contract template you used instead? Can you explain how you negotiated the change?

Edit: maybe engineers can team up on this so things start to change?

Hire someone. Then you have a company. Just make sure that you are not competing with your current employer! Ask your employer just in case if you are allowed to run a side business. Its probably illegal to deny having a side business if its not a competitor. Make sure your own company becomes its own entity eg. it owns all IP not you, you are "only" the owner. Ask your employer if its ok to work for another company too. It might be illegal to deny that. Just make sure you are not competing. The all IP clause is to protect them from rouge employee stealing IP. And might even be illegal in the exact wording. When you start a company you want to get help with the paperwork then ask the lawyer if there's any issues with you current employee contract.

Does it need to be a tech company? My workaround for when companies have a super restrictive IP contract is to work on companies that don't require coding: eCommerce, local small business, blogging, etc.

I can only recommed you read this http://www.paulgraham.com/before.html Life changing

Abstraction !

You need to build strong tooling with abstraction to reduce, minimize boring, repetitive tasks.

Only then, you can maximize your company hours to do your own stuffs.

It’s called bootstrapping, there is a lot of reading available and even some success stories to help you keep yourself motivated.

Often we forget a company of one person is no company, it’s a business. A company implies multiple people working toward a goal, often people forget that, so start thinking about it now.

Start thinking about who you will hire. What will they do? How much do you need to pay them? What skills do they need?

Begin with a spreadsheet. Estimate monthly cash flow. How many employees can you afford? What’s the ROI from a single employee? In the beginning it may just be you. Which employees even contribute to revenue and which are just support? At what point does the ROI of the employee bring in enough revenue to hire a second employee and have sufficient runway for the business? Then figure out when you can hire the third, and the forth, and at what point (if ever) does revenue grow enough that you can start hiring dozens of employees. Does this business still make sense with this company?

How many hours do your employees work? What hours do they work? How much time off do they get? How much does it cost you? As your headcount grows, your revenue should be growing, but your costs also grow. Is there ever time to make big company investments? Better offices or company getaways for morale and team building? Do you even have offices? Where do all these people work? Surely you can’t all just be in a coffee shop somewhere. Do they work remotely? If so then what time zones are they in, and how will you know they can trust you or you trust them? How do you know they won’t steal from the company, or do their own personal work while working on company time?

Who will do your sales? Initially probably you, but not for long, you have other things to do. How will sales people be compensated? Purely commission based? Maybe it works if you have a very high value product, but even then you probably also need to give them a salary to keep them around. How much commission? How long is the sales cycle?

How will you measure employee performance? How will you deal with non-performers? How will you fire someone? With little to no mercy? Even if they really need the job?

And how will you delegate responsibilities? When do you plan to delegate spending decisions to someone who handles finances? When will you dedicate someone to hiring people and managing employee relations?

All this and more are things you will have to confront if you plan to build a real company.

Just get a cofounder and attribute all the IP to them. What can they do, steal the IP from them?

How do I participate in pioneer.app ? Tried logging on and it did not work.

you should see a lawyer about these things - its likely that your employer will claim ownership on your IP if its similar to what they produce. in my experience, its not worth the headache.

You can work for Postman, they are currently hiring in Bengaluru, Karnataka - India. They have a very open culture and even the company itself was a side tool developed while Abhinav Asthana worked in Yahoo!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact