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I am into software development and was recently laid off from a North American Fortune 500 company (like a million others due to COVID-19).

The project was twice unsuccessfully attempted in the past and a lot of money was lost. This time around, again the project was over budget and late (project mismanagement, bad technical decisions, company culture, etc), however, with all this the team was only 2-3 months away from Production Launch.

The technical team consisted of 7 members, all programmers with varying degrees of skill and experience. But a lot of overlapping skills nonetheless.

I feel I can complete the remaining stories (in Agile/SCRUM parlance) and finish the project successfully, at least version 1.

How can I approach my previous manager with this idea? How can I tell them I can do it alone, all I need is the domain expertise which they can impart.

These conversations don't come naturally to me and I am not sure if this is a good idea to pursue due to the following:

  1. Fear of rejection, of course
  2. How to broach the money part? I'll be doing it for-profit
  3. How to allude they will have A share? Will it be immoral, unethical to try to engage them in such manner?

How can go about having this conversation with them?

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    It doesn't sound like you have any right to reuse the existing code for your own start-up, because you have written it while working there. So basically you would be a freelancer and wouldn't have any product after you finished the job. Another option would be to negotiate to get the code for free, partner with them and in return give them the finished product for a discount / for free. You will only be successful if you can sell it to other companies.
    – Chris
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 5:32
  • @Chris: OP does not want to create a startup. He wants to continue working for the previous company.
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 5:36
  • @virolin: Then the questions are trivial. -> Look up the freelancer rates and just ask. Of course a freelancer is working with other employees, how would that be immoral?
    – Chris
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 5:46
  • There is nothing immoral, do not worry. OP is just a bit confused, shy, worried... The way I understand, OP would want his old job back - probably like everyone else.
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 5:50

1 Answer 1

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First of all, there's nothing immoral or sneaky about this, not at all. You propose to offer a business deal. You propose to be entirely transparent about your offer.

Second, will you give offense by making this offer? Probably not. And, if you do cause offense, it's probably because your offer will remind them of the weaknesses of their organization. After all, they couldn't get out of their own way to finish this project.) But you may cause offense, not give it. That's different.

If you do finish this project, you risk making some middle managers lose face (look like lazy idiots, at least to themselves and their peers). Be sensitive to that. Be sensitive to the fact that others are just as frustrated as you. Be willing to give them credit for any successes you may have. Don't gloat, even if your accomplishments turn out to be gloatworthy.

About rejection and fear of rejection: please keep in mind that you'll have to convince quite a few middle managers in your former company. Some of them will reflexively say "no" more than once. "This again?" they'll ask.

So, approach this as an "enterprise sale." You need to find an ally, a champion inside the company who's willing to say "Extrainfo has a great idea that can make us money" to his fellow managers and to executives. This champion of yours needs to risk their social capital (credibility, possibly smooth relations with peers) to advance your idea. Without that champion, your proposal will be too easy to put in the "maybe" pile forever. You can't sell this idea all by yourself. Get yourself a champion.

What's the future of the product? Do you want your former company to sell it to their customers? Keep in mind that it takes work to roll out a new product to a customer base. And, keep in mind that smart companies treat their customer lists as real treasure.

What will be the business deal between you and the company?

If you want a percentage of sales, be careful. Can sales of your product be measured separately from other products? What if they give it away? You need to understand their sales model pretty well before you agree to this. Otherwise, they may figure out ways to make their product show low revenue.

Your safest bet would be to be paid as a contractor, by the hour or day, for your work. Ask for 45% more than your salary, because you'll have to pay for your own taxes, insurance, and time off.

You could agree to take a fixed fee upon completion. If you go that route make sure you have solid, agreed-to, acceptance criteria and scope. (Remember this project has overrun schedule and budget in the past. How much of that was scope creep?)

You can make this work with help from your champion. Good luck and strength to you!

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