I am a software developer. I have a good idea and I'd like to create a startup. I am planning to invite one or two of my colleagues as co-founders.
I am concerned about the relationships with my current employeer. I work in a small web development company. The owner directly manages development.
I have signed a standard non-disclosure agreement. As far as I remember ideas I have during the employment belong to employer. I am concerned that if my project ever becomes successful and I leave the company, my current boss can claim that the project is his.
I am not sure he would do it. He does NOT look like a monster.
The start-up project IS related to my current work. I am going to use similar techniques (display some kind of maps on the website). This could increase the risk.
But I would focus on completely different customers. My current employer works for local authorities and I would work for general public (freemium/advertising/mobile apps).
I am not going to copy any existing code. I can write code from scratch using different design patterns.
I do not know and will not use any trade secrets / patented solutions. I am just going to show some public data on online maps.
Of course, there are much bigger risks, e.g. marketing, but they are out of scope of my question.
2 How to minimise the risks.
A) Keep the project in secret.
B) Discuss the project with the employer now. Try to sign an agreement that he does not claim the ownership of the project /idea / code I will write.
My current employer is writing a web service which will generate the maps I need for the project.
In fact the web service is being developed by me and a guy who I'd like to invite as a co-founder.
If the web service works well and if I can use it for project, it can save at least 50% of the development effort/time. This could speed-up the project and decrease risk we give up since we do not have enough time. Apparently we can re-write the code from scratch (in free time) but it would be a waste of time.
I wonder if I could ask my current employer that
- I do project in my free time, and he does not claim it belongs to him
- I will use his web service in my project
- While I am using the web services, I will pay him e.g 20% of profit, if I get any profit.
- I am free to stop using the web services and to write the code I need from scratch
Is it a good idea?
A) My boss wants to came up with a product for general public, but does not have the idea (and resources since we are busy on his current projects). I wonder if my proposal would irritate him since he wants to do a similar thing himself. I wonder if it increases the risk that he would claim my idea and project are his.
B) He wants to attract external developers who will use his web service and pay him subscription. In theory my project falls in this category and he should be glad, but ... see item A.
C) I think my work is important, and if I leave, our small company will experience difficulties. Employer should be interested in keeping me happy. If he allows me to do my project, it will increase chances I will stay with the company without salary increases :-)
But if my project will be successful and I leave to run it, the current employer might be angry. See point 1.
D) The point of non-disclosure agreement, as my boss explained to me, is to prevent ex-employee from becoming a competitor. I am not going to compete with him so I hope he will not use it against me.
Sorry for long explanation.
My options are
Option 1) Keep the project in secret and to write code from scratch.
Option 2) Discuss the project with the employer now. Try to sign an agreement that he does not claim the ownership of the project /idea / code I will write. Write code from scratch.
Option 3) Use the web service (and promise % of profit) as described in section 3.
What would be better? Any other ideas?