As I currently work at a startup I have a small stake in the company. When talking with one friend of something I have been working with someone with on the side, the question came up over if this was a conflict of interest. I was actually quite shocked to hear the question at first, not only did I expect them to do likewise, as I know many that do. The full on conflict of interest statement just shocked me. Being at a startup it does make it slightly more of an interesting statement, but I received similar comments sometimes at my former Fortune 100 employer. I’ll start with that place and then migrate to the startup environment.
I could not disagree more being an employee at some place, and working on additional things being a conflict of interest. In short you are an employee, not property, your best interests lie with yourself. Sure its great if you believe in the company and what they do, but in our generation you are not attached for life to the company you work for. The company has claim on what you do between 8-5 with regards to work, sure if you do things that may damange a company brand or your effectiveness to do business its fair for them not to retain you, but simply doing additional work in your spare time? Hardly!
Now as we move on to the startup atmosphere, where it’s pretty standard that when becoming employed you receive some amount of equity in the company. In most cases with not being a founder this stake is of relatively small size. Sure you could consider Google where I believe it was over 400 employees that were made millionaires by their IPO, but these situations are very rare. The equity receive normally vessts over a period of time, and from my perception is simply equivilant to a portion of your pay no more no less. Sure it does make you feel more of a sense of ownership, but does not extend to the full extent of the business owning you.
As an employee you’re being paid to perform a job, they don’t have full claim to what you do on your time.