Is it acceptable to approach my current employer and ask to purchase a dead project off them? The end goal is to revive this dead project (a Civil Engineering application) and sell it - essentially starting my own company.
I work for a civil engineering software distributor. The company doesn't quite develop software but it does sell & train users to use 3rd party civil engineering software. 90% of the companies revenue comes from selling this 3rd party software, the remaining 10% from training users to use the software.
I am a Full Stack software developer and I was hired to develop software that facilitates more sales of the 3rd party civil engineering software (CES). What that means is developing CES plugins for existing and prospective clients, developing installers that make it easier to integerate & customise the CES with client workspaces, develop & manage the company website and, finally, to develop a Civil Engineering app for mobile devices - this is the dead project I am referring to.
The app was a 'Pie in the Sky' type project. The boss had this idea and wanted me to develop it. Keep in mind the boss is not a technical person - no experience in software engineering or development. He's a former Civil Engineer who now sells Civil Engineering software. So after producing a Project Specification, Costings of Development, Use-Case Diagrams, Class Diagrams and a Proof of Concept the boss realised how technically involved such a project would be and how much effort will be required. He got cold feet and killed the project. He can literally walk into a Civil Engineering firm and, because theres so much infrastructure development going on, $10k of software licencing falls into his lap rather than him waiting 6 months (paying a developer all that time) to code an app and maybe make some money off it. This mindset is understandable but I know that if this app were to be developed it would be intrinsically and extrinsically valuable.
So the crux is, I wish to approach my boss and ask to purchase the dead project off him. How do I about this, what actions should I take?
- The company I work for is a small company of 7 employees. I have 1 boss who is the owner of the company and the sole person who will decide whether to sell me the dead project or not. The company atmosphere is very informal and de-centralised - many employees work from home.
- If I successfully purchase the app from my employer and I develop and release the app - the app will not be a competitor to my current employer's 3rd party CES. In fact it will be complimentary to my employers CES and encourage users to stick with the CES. Hope that makes sense.
- If my boss were to refuse to sell me the app I would seriously consider ceasing my employment. Not due to offence or bad blood but because I am currently under utilised in the company. I am a Full Stack developer and I have a passion for programming but my current employer has me working on projects that are neither challenging nor valuable. In this scenario I would move on to another software development job that is more challenging.
- I realise that by asking to purchase the project from my boss I may jeopardise my employment but as I stated above, I am under utilised and under challenged. So either way I think I will be leaving my current employer; either with or without the app. All I can do is ask I guess?
I am concerned because my asking to revive a project my boss killed may be interpreted by him as me saying 'I think you are wrong, I think you made the wrong decision and I'm going to go it on my own rather than work for you'. Not the most polite thing for an employee to imply I guess. Imagine your employee who's been working in the Civil Engineering industry less than 3 years implying that they know more about what Civil Engineers want than someone who was a Civil Engineer and has been selling CES for 15 years.