I am almost in the final step of joining a big research company. This company has a huge amount of data for research problem X, and their research team is always digging into it. I just want to highlight that the data of this problem is scarce. At the same time, I am working on starting a startup to use X in a real-life application. I've read in similar online questions that it's totally fine.

My question here is, should I inform the company of what I am trying to do outside of my work there? I don't want it to look like I was hiding something, and then the company thinking that I was stealing their data.

  • In which country/state are you in? Will you be an intern? Are you a grad student? Will you be a full time employee of that research company? May 31, 2022 at 18:51
  • @StephanBranczyk I am in Canada. No, I am not a grad student. Yes, it's a full-time job offer.
    – Minions
    May 31, 2022 at 18:53
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    If the big company thinks that there is even a smallest possibility that one of its employees may use the company's data or knowledge to work on that employee's own startup, the big company will say "No, you can't work or do anything related to technology X outside the work for our company". It's understandable. After you get a job offer, you should tell that company about your plan to work on your startup with X technology. Then, after seeing their response, you will have to decide whether to work for that company or your startup. It's unlikely that you can work for both at the same time. May 31, 2022 at 20:32
  • 5
    This represents a major conflict of interest. I would be highly surprised if this unfolds the way you want. Jun 1, 2022 at 0:37
  • 2
    I don't think it's fine. Where did you read its fine? Jun 1, 2022 at 15:06

3 Answers 3


Absolutely yes, you need to tell the company. And expect them to forbid this.

OK, let me walk that back a bit. You should probably talk to a lawyer, but I'm fairly sure the answer will be a) yes you need to tell them b) they are going to own everything you do in this area c) they won't want you working on this on your own.

Put simply, this is a conflict of interest. If you have a bright idea in the shower one day about how to solve problem X, is that idea your property or theirs? The company definitely want it to be theirs. You would have to make a decision whether to act in the company's interests or your own, and you never want to be in that kind of position. If they are hiring you to work on problem X they also want everything you currently know about it to be available to them. Are you going to be telling them everything you know?

You might get away with this if your area of work unquestionably never overlaps with Problem X, and that you never talk to anybody at the company who might have knowledge of their problem X solutions, and you can prove that in court under questioning from the company's highly paid lawyers.

Even if you do everything absolutely legitimately the company may well try to shut down your startup if it competes with them. And unless you are an exceptionally rich startup they may succeed for long enough to cripple your startup, even if the law is not actually on their side.


Patent lawyer is needed here to answer that question

IMHO, you should check your contract and employee handbook of the company you are joining

These things will be outlined there.

Maybe indirectly, like "All work product in your job is ownership of the company". In this case your startup can be sued if they can prove that you used your work access to develop the product.

  • Not just the startup. The OP can be personally sued. May 31, 2022 at 18:06
  • @GregoryCurrie that too, but this is why contract and employee handbook need to be referenced
    – Strader
    May 31, 2022 at 18:42

My question here is, should I inform the company of what I am trying to do outside of my work there? I don't want it to look like I was hiding something, and then the company thinking that I was stealing their data.

Many companies require that you disclose your outside work.

If this company doesn't you should probably take it upon yourself to be proactive and list your work in writing for precisely the reasons you note. Your startup should have a lawyer, and you should run it by them first.

If this is a deal-breaker for the company, you want to know that now, rather than later.

Also, make sure you read, understand, and perhaps ask your lawyer about any documents you sign that might limit your ability to work on your startup.

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