Why You Should Let Employees Start Companies On Your Payroll

matt meeker barkbox
Strife, Meeker and Werdelin cofounded BarkBox

[credit provider=”Matt Meeker”]

Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on any project they want for Google.A New York startup, BarkBox, wants to implement this perk and one-up Google: its employees could spend a chunk of their 9-5s working on their own startups. 

While he hasn’t decided if he’ll implement the employee perk or not, BarkBox CEO and cofounder Matt Meeker is seriously considering it.

Meeker is in the process of expanding his team of four.  Most of the people he’d like to hire are entrepreneurial. They’re either working at big companies with projects on the side, or they’re planning to start their own companies.

Rather than make employees hide their side projects, Meeker would rather mutually benefit from the entrepreneurs he hires. Employees could use BarkBox resources, then apply their own business learnings to BarkBox. The creative freedom would probably make employees more loyal to BarkBox too.

Most employers aren’t keen to fund another company on their payrolls, but maybe they should be. Many already are without realising it.

One study found that “a substantial fraction of the Inc. 500 got their idea for their new company while working at their prior employer.” And today, when every smart young person wants to be his or her own CEO, many employees have something cooking on the side. The secrecy leads to employers getting blindsided when their talent resigns for a startup.

Even big companies like Google and Facebook are struggling to retain talent.

Robby Stein, for example, worked at Google for four years. Last summer he left to found a company, Stamped. When asked why he didn’t stay at Google, Stein replied, “The 20% time is a great opportunity at Google, but it does limit you to certain extents because you still have to do your day job.”

Most entrepreneurs, especially those who haven’t struck it rich, would rather get paid and be honest about their career aspirations than go behind their employer’s back or quit and watch their bank accounts dwindle. And for employers, many mediocre full-time employees are worse than a single brainiac with an 80/20 split. B players never become A players.

Of course, Meeker’s strategy could create competition. We asked him what he’d do if an employee wanted to start a BarkBox rival.

He laughed and replied, “At least they’d be honest about it.”