I've been contacted by a early start-up company (2 people) to do work in rails for a product that they could potentially market to dentists. The person who contacted me (one of the two owners) knows me for last 3 years and works with me for his 9 to 5 job. I was told that there might not be any money upfront, and I'm assuming there might not be any money at all if the product doesn't take notice.
I would love to do the work as it will keep my skills honed and I'd gain some experience as well. However, since there is no money upfront this task doesn't sound like a consulting or contracting work. Would I be out of line to ask for equity, not for the whole company but only for this project/product? I will just make some % of the total they make on this product. For me I see two benefits in this, I've been thinking of opening my Consulting company and this would be a great way to get my first client and If I do good enough work on this product then I can showcase it on my company's profile.
I've thought about the negotiation conversation and what the other person might say. They might say they can just get someone else who won't want equity. However, who would be willing to work on a product without any up front or hourly money? Furthermore, they are aware of my competence in helping them deliver a finished product as well.
Please give me some suggestions whether asking for equity in this case would be out of line or would I be putting an axe to my foot by asking for equity?