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Worried About Your Best Employees Starting Their Own Businesses? Trap Them With An Internal Incubator...

If you're like a lot of companies, one of the biggest threats to losing your top talent - the best of the best - is those individuals leaving to start their own companies.

It's a 1% problem.  Only the most talented people have the means and the courage to leave to do this.  The problem is that often times that 1% creates a lot of value - much more than the 1% that shows up on the FTE report.  

What do you do with that?  One problem a lot of us have is that these folks try to have their cake and eat it to - starting side businesses while they are still working for your company.  That doesn't feel good to a lot of companies or bosses.  If you get wind that's happening, you basically have 3 choices:

--You can suck it up and hope their business fails and they stay with you, 

--You can become a hard-ass and put out strong policies against moonlighting in similar jobs/industries, 


--You can be like Google and get ahead of it and start your own incubator to let them work through their ideas while they still work for you.

More on Google's Incubator plan from a source called The Information: Sergeybrin

"Sundar Pichai has a new plan to stop Google employees from jumping ship to start companies: Create a startup incubator within Google.

Dubbed “Area 120,” the incubator will be overseen by long-time Google executives Don Harrison and Bradley Horowitz, according to people familiar with the project. The two discussed the new group at a recent all-hands meeting.

Google teams will apply to join the incubator full-time for several months, submitting a particular business plan. After that, they’ll get the chance to pitch Google for term sheets for further funding and to establish a new company with Google as an investor.

Area 120—sometimes called just 120—will have a space inside one of Google’s newest San Francisco office buildings. Executives are hoping that it both keeps entrepreneurial employees at Google longer and also stokes big new ideas the company should be working on.

In recent years, Google has watched many fast growing startups slip into rivals’ hands, notably Instagram, founded by a former Googler, and WhatsApp, which Google had its eye on.

And the company remains paranoid about missing the next crop. The creation of Alphabet itself—which is designed to house entrepreneurs like Nest’s Tony Fadell who don’t want to work inside of Google corporate—is trying to do something similar."

If you watch Silicon Valley on HBO, you know that the culture of tech at the top levels of talent is often working for a big, seemingly progressive company but always keeping an eye on the next big thing.

The cynic in me feels like the plan is perfect for Google.  If we like your idea, submit for inclusion in the incubator. If we like it enough, we'll let you work on it for a couple of months after which time you can submit for more funding, etc.  But you've tipped your hand to our company.  We now know your idea, have had a chance to evaluate whether there's enough of a kernel there to invest - basically let you work on your thing rather than your day job.

And lord knows what you signed away related to future rights to your idea when you sought initial inclusion in the incubator - whether you are allowed to continue or not.

Remember Google's 20% rule?  The one where you spent 20% of your time working on what you wanted?  I'm guessing the best ideas never got worked in that time, and word on the street is that a lot of managers are ignoring the 20% rule and they seek to execute business plans in a tougher environment for Google.

Me? I love the play for Google. Smart.

But I hate it for the employee with the big idea. Reminds me of this scene from Silicon Valley.  Keep your idea or get paid?  Tough choice.



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