Developers October 18, 2020

Using your side gig product at your real job?

Dargon

I'm looking at starting my own SaaS side gig project. It would be a developer productivity tool.

What I'm trying to figure out is whether I should try to introduce the tool to my team at the real job? I wouldn't charge them, they would get a 100% free license forever. Dogfooding the tool with them would be pretty invaluable for its product development. And I think the tool would help our team too. (that was a big inspiration for me writing it!)

The tool is in a totally separate category from the company's product so it doesn't compete at all. It's a California company so I think I am safe from them potentially claiming ownership as long as I'm careful to develop it on my own time and own hardware. (although if the team is testing/dogfooding it, maybe that counts as development..)

It seems like a few choices are:

  1. Don't introduce it at the company, too much hassle/risk.
  2. Just introduce it and don’t make a big deal of it, no one cares that much about this kind of thing.
  3. Full disclosure, get executive approval in writing before trying to introduce it. (Which has a potential downside of hurting career growth at the company)

Any advice, have you had experience navigating this? Thanks!

  1. 3

    Hey, I would never do this. Literrally the worst idea. :)

    You run the risk of creating a weird tangled relationship that could lead to all kinds of headaches.

    And worst of all, one of the hardest parts to building a product is getting and evaluating the right inputs. You need some distance from your customers. You need to be able to take their messy requests, think deeply about them, uncover the hidden value & then repackge that in a way that adds value to all your customers. Not just them.

    I would imagine that sitting in the same room with customers will make that pretty much impossible & you'll build them a load of features that no one else wants.

    1. 3

      that makes sense, I think I really needed to hear this advice!

      1. 2

        ++ to everything he said. You’re asking your coworkers to give feed probably on company time. Your company will definitely feel like they financially contributed to the development of the project if it takes off and you don’t want to be in that position.

  2. 2

    I hem and haw over this a lot. When I worked a full time job I had a side project that made me a lot of money and had a lot of mental needs. the full time job switched to part time for a year, and my employers were not happy. They ended up asking me to come back on full time but really full time.

    It helped that I was honest with them and even had a few people in the office as clients.

    Remaining amicable helped me transition out of, and back into the job. But I can see how it can be very frustrating for a boss to know that your mental capacity is not 100% there.

    Personally, at this point in my life, I wouldn't work at a company that would not allow me to work on other projects. But also the same cannot be said about other people's situations. Coding at work and coding on nights and weekends might not be sustainable.

    For a while I worked on my side projects only on holidays. That helped break up the week to week monotony and forced me to work only once a month or so on side projects. But isn't the same if you're working on one business on the side.

    I also made sure that the side hustle was a totally different effort and skill set than what I did at work. I was in operations in my job and I curated a newsletter on the side for a few years. The outputs and efforts were very different from one another.

    Oh and on another note: many people quit FANG companies to start a company that ends up getting acquired by the company they quit.

    1. 1

      awesome, appreciate the wisdom!

  3. 1

    I wouldn't do this, keep it separate. Conflict of interest is so tricky and messy, just don't do it.

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