I have a full-time job, but spend nearly 100% of company-time working on my startup. My startup was covered by Ad Age, which my boss receives. He was in a meeting when the article hit, so I went into his email and deleted it.


  • You’re basically a thief. You’re being paid to work and yet you spend nearly all your company time working on your own company. That’s thievery as far as I’m concerned.

    When you took that job you agreed to do whatever job you signed up for in return for pay. If you don’t want to do that job anymore then quit and stop receiving paychecks. The honest way to do it is to work on your startup in your free time, rather than on company time.

    • I’m the guy who left the first comment. Just wanted to add that you also committed a cyber crime by accessing your boss’ email account without his permission and deleting an email from it.

    • I understand that what I’m doing is wrong, which is why I confessed it. I feel extremely guilty for doing it, but I can’t afford to quit yet. It would almost be better if I were fired.

      It started out innocent enough. It began in my free time and slowly took more and more of my attention.

      I’m not admitting to being a saint, I just wanted to open up about it. I guess I’m probably hoping to hear that others are doing the same to help me deal with the guilt.

      • If other people steal and hack into their boss’ email account that wouldn’t make it okay for you to do it either. However, there’s still time for you to change. You don’t have to keep doing this. Just be an honest person and actually do the job you were hired to do, and work on your startup in your free time.

        • +1 I have a full-time job. And a startup.

          I work on my startup after office hrs. 9-5 job ; 7-1 startup

          Mixing it brings guilt.

      • We all make mistakes. We all do things we’re not proud of. Opening up about it anonymously was your first step. Way to have the courage to get this far. Of course, the next step is to start treating your boss better — whether that means really working, gracefully resigning, etc. Final step will be coming clean. It may take awhile. Doesn’t matter if there’s a .00001% chance of getting caught … this will live with you forever … trying to bury the feeling just means it will come out in other insidious ways.

        Check out the book “Radical Honesty” by Brad Blanton.

      • So, basically a thief is the founder of a startup. I wonder how quickly they would fire one of their staff doing the same thing. Oh, and trying to get fired to collect unemployment insurance is also a tad shady. Forget being a saint, how about having some integrity. You may not get caught, but inside you will always know you are a dishonest person.

    • Actually, I recommend you continue to work on your project as much as possible, and as discrete as possible. Either wait to get fired or quit once you have enough traction to cover living expenses/save up 6 months of run way.

      Survival of the fittest. You have to do whatever it takes to make your startup successful, including lie, cheat, and steal.

      • That’s a despicable answer to someone who recognises that they’ve done the wrong thing. Integrity is not something you can buy back once you are successful.

        I would recommend to the OP to either come clean with the boss, and risk being fired, or resign immediately, and stop stealling from him . What goes around comes around.

        And to the replier who suggested that it’s OK to “do whatever it takes to make your startup successful, including lie, cheat, and steal.”? Seriously?

        Do you not think we investors can spot d!ckheads like you a mile away?

        Wise up. Life is not about who you take advantage of, its about who you help.

        And I for one will not be helping you on your weasley downward slide to oblivion

    • At this point your company has reached a public forum (Ad Age) and you are going to be called out at some point. If your company doesn’t cross over into the direct competition stage, it might be best to explain the situation to your boss. Perhaps ask to be moved into a project based contractor position. (Then no conflict of interest if you are busting your butt for them, it doesn’t matter what time of day you do it as a contractor.) Now if you admit the email thing and you are starting a competitive business you are going to be in the sites of lawyers who will take your company from you (sooner or later) and be served by the sheriff in your town with both civil and criminal charges (the latter based on the email thing.) Nobody says you need to be a saint but the longer this plays out and if you see success all the sudden quick, and your boss had no idea you were even starting a startup they can put 2 and 2 together….

    • Most companies today pay less than 1/2 what employees earned 20 years ago, so I have little sympathy for the boss.

      Also, if the employee is not producing anything for the boss, the boss should be fired for not noticing.

      If you are working for a company, you should expect fair pay for the work you do. Anything less and you get what you deserve; double-timing employees. Obviously, the boss did not notice.

    • See sooner or later the cat is going to be out of the bag, I find it very comforting if my boss is aware of everything I am upto in my work life. In most of my jobs I was able to establish a rapport with my boss in way that I can even share good job offers coming my way with him.People basically like honesty .Showing trust in your boss and having a heart to heart discussion with him, seek his advice about how to manage this situation, he might be able to find a way out of this tricky situation which suits both of you.

  • All the commenters above make good points.
    Ultimately, if you carry on down the same path it will end in tears.
    On the one hand; you come clean and have legal stuff hanging over you. You stay and get caught or you could leave before it gets out of control. This is not to condone what you have done as it is in effect stealing. But… You did come here for a solution or idea of what to do next.

    If you feel guilty then take the hit, get a loan, trade off cards or Get another job without using company time. No one here knows the full context of the situation but depending on your standing in the company, your relationship with the higher ups; you may have a an extremely high risk option of a soft landing. Again, this is high risk but not entirely impossible. Only you will know this…

    The best way to remove your guilt is to make some hard decisions as you will have plenty to make over the life cycle of your startup.

    Do the right thing now before it is to late.

    • Bravo to the employee! The boss was an idiot in this case.

      First, he or she did not notice that employee did nothing.

      Next, the boss left his/her computer exposed to be hacked. Two strikes for the boss.

      Strike 3. The boss should be fire. Kudos to the employee. Let him keep on stealing from a stupid boss. I keep my staff accountable.

  • I hope you also realize that if your company were to suspect you built this on company time and could prove you used company equipment or infrastructure to do so, they could lay claim to your work.

    • +1 admitting this here was stupid even though it is anonymous. If your company finds out about this they can sue to OWN your start up

    • +1 The company completely has a claim to his work. The fact that his boss subscribes to Ad Age implies that his work is at least related to his current employment. Check your employee handbook – chances are if you do get caught and frankly – even if you leave – and someone makes the link later that you started the company while employed – this company has a complete claim to the IP. You will eventually get sued and it will be very hard to raise money.

      • oh and the deleting email from your boss’ account. How many more times will you do this? That is downright dishonorable. Would you also bug his phone if the situation ”called” for it?

        • You know I heard David Geffen does admit in some book to steaming open his boss’ mail while he worked int he mail room. He ended up in high places, yeah… But does that really mean you got to be shady to meet success? What is success? Having a big bank account and loads of hanger-on friends and admirers who really just want the money in your account, or maybe having a life of integrity instead of being invited to the White House and dining on caviar?

  • I am sure a lot of people have used at least some of their “day jobs” time to work on their start up. It does make me wonder about your HR department and your boss as to why no one has noticed you are not doing your job. apart from that why did you delete the email? Is there something in your contract that says you can’t also work on your start up while working there? or was it because you did not want your boss asking you questions? Lots of other people could have seen that email and/or could tell your boss about it. Leave now before things get messy

  • Thank you for sharing this with us. I don’t know why you chose to share this, but I assume its because your conscience is telling you something (you are CONFESSING, after all).

    The thing about committing unethical acts such is this is that it’s usually symptom of a pattern of negative behavior. This won’t be the last time that you cross the line, socially or legally.

    You tampered with your manager’s personal property. What was going through your mind while you did it? Why didn’t you stop yourself? What feeling or thoughts overrode your restraint?

  • Working on your startup at work, even near 100% isn’t a big deal as long as the work you were hired to do gets done – most entrepreneurs do that. Deleting emails from your boss’ account can do more than get you fired, it can get you arrested. To tell the truth, that’s pretty messed up and definitely not a leadership quality. If you can’t take the heat from a boss at a job you don’t want, that may fire you for working on your startup, you’ll never be able to deal with upset customers, upset employees, upset press etc.

  • I don’t think anyone here is right or wrong. People are saying what they’ve been taught to regurgitate: that your stealing, and you’re not being honest. And they’re right, you’re breaking some rules.

    But fuck em. You think the winners in history were ever concerned about playing it safe, or being honest? You think Steve Jobs was an honest and likable person? He fucked people over all the time. He stole and did disrespectable things at levels you don’t dream of. But he got away with it.

    I think you should be aware of all the rules you are breaking while continuing to break them in pursuit of your dreams. If you are smart enough to lead a successful company, you will be smart enough to get away with all this. This relationship with your company is immensely beneficial to you. No sense if you stopping.

    • Ugh. really? the “steve jobs did it” defense? That won’t play in court if this guy/girl gets sued. I’ve seen it happen.

    • One bad action needs defending… that defense leads to rationalization – that rationalization lowers the bar for bad actions – eventually you will become what you do. Behave honorably and you’ll never need to confess again.

    • So the end justifies the means ?For any behaviour? Just where do you then draw the line?

      So if he boss found out about it and told him that his startup company would forfeited under the terms of his employment contract, would then condone murdering the boss to protect your startup?

      because once you start down the path to the dark side, forever will it consume you.

      we have a word for you downunder. – Tosser.—-Wise Up.

  • Always be straight up with people. You may lose in the short term, but the human connections you preserve pay off very well on a long timeline. We’ve been written up in national magazines (big uns, no shit), and far and away the best leads, jobs, connections, et cetera all come from people we know. It isn’t even a close second. Occasionally some people hit the lottery and don’t have to give a shit about anybody, and good for them, but the vast, vast majority of businesses are built a brick at a time, and in those cases you need people behind you. Don’t pull some Winklevoss shit unless you’re sure you’re Mark Zuckerberg.

    TL;DR You’re not Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t fuck people. You’re going to need them.

  • Totally rockn’ the same effort. Aside from the illegal shit and all. However, i’m in a unique position in that I’ve told my CEO because i new he’d be supportive. Which is incredible. The downside – I have to figure out a way to be super balanced and still perform at a very high level in my “day job”. We’ll see…

  • Let us know when you IPO. I would be happy to invest with someone showing the same “business sense” that made Jobs, Zuck, Spiegel, etc etc successful.

  • Excellent job you ve got there! Next time try to get the access to his bank account. That ll be the startup with clear monetizing exit!!

  • Successful startup founders are 90% people who never show any guilty conscience unless absolutely necessary.

    Never question yourself. Just focus on growing and improving your startup so you can leave your job ASAP.

  • I’m in a similar weird position in which my job doesn’t keep me busy full time. And I know the boss (small company) doesn’t have enough to give me to fill the time… so I’m afraid if I say something, he’ll cut my position or hours. Thus, I do sometimes work on my own venture. It’s nowhere near 100% of the time (what job does this guy have that’s 100% un-busy???) and I certainly would never go into my boss’s email. But I still am not totally comfortable with the situation. The only ethical lifeline I hold on to is that my boss values work being done and done well vs. time clocked. So, I do my work and do it well….

    • I was hoping I would see a comment like this. This is exactly my thinking on this issue. It should be reiterated that there was a crime committed when the supervisor’s email was deleted. Very risky situation to be in. I would confess and hope they do not report it to law enforcement.

      I recently got asked to resign over a lack of engagement. I was given the option to re-commit, but just could not due to a lack of confidence in the vision and strategy, if you could say there was anything concrete – I did not see it. It was liberating to be honest and leave it to God. I made mistakes too, but I was unwilling to take full responsibility for my lack of enthusiasm and engagement.

  • Actually, I recommend you continue to work on your project as much as possible, and as discretely as possible. Either wait to get fired or quit once you have enough traction to cover living expenses/save up 6 months of run way.

    Survival of the fittest. You have to do whatever it takes to make your startup successful, including lie, cheat, and steal.

  • Don’t feel bad about it – other people are wasting time on their jobs browsing reddit and cat pictures, while you’re building something that can take you far. Guilt is for suckers, I know that cause I feel it. Noone ever made an omlet without breaking a few eggs, get as much as you possibly can out of that company (time, money) and don’t listen to the haters.

  • IMO, its totally inappropriate for people to swoop down on your post with shaming comments. The psychiatric diagnosis hopefully was a joke. Otherwise it’s totally ridiculous. I love the idea of sharing apps, but unfortunately I don’t think that the public is ever going to be sensitive or intelligent enough to hold people who are suffering.

    I wish you the best as you navigate through your decisions around your start-up and company. As for the rest, I suggest a reflective lens on your own shortcomings before you publicly shame people looking for support.

  • I think you made a major risk doing what you did OP. If boss finds out, he can claim all IP for the work you did and fire you. Don’t let him find out but otherwise, poor ethic.

  • If you end becoming a billionaire with this gig, you will be appreciated. Otherwise, people will throw stones at you if you shut down your startup. Keep working at it. Ignore people. The past is gone, learn the lessons and move on.

  • I understand the argument about stealing from the company because you are doing something else on the clock, but…

    Let’s face it. If you want real health insurance in real America, you are going to have to work the crappy corporate job with psychotic supervisors who actually believe marketing types.

    If you are working job one in order to make your very well kept secret dream happen: go for it within reason. College athletes who leave college early for the pro contract are considered wise for going pro at their highest market value. Do you really think they wanted to go play on a college team in the first place? Actors skip college and try to land gigs after high school because it’s five extra years of potential mega-success versus sitting in higher school waiting to turn 21…or 25 depending upon the profession choice. Do you really think entrepreneurial teenagers want to work the dead end fast food jobs? Or are they kind of restricted to that until they turn 18?

    Go for it…on the job…within reason. Get your paid work done first though. The best time to work on your own stuff is breaks and lunches…in your car on your own computer. Play it safe and don’t let the negative people talk you down.

  • Deleting the email not nice, working on your project during other job is ok. Other people browse the internet…

    The ethic / moral arguments in a work relationship are bullshits, it’s something that remains from the past and that some people like to think true to give some sense to what they are doing, but.. it’s all about money, maximizing profit, is that ethical ? In our times it looks like it is but laying down hundreds of people to make more money is ethical ? Are corporations ethical ? 😉 No, they just maximize staying in the law or they could even go against law taking risk of paying a fine.

    So I don’t see why one single person, that in my opinion is much much more than an organization built to make money, should behave differently.

    If you notice most comments are about your boss, because the moral argument is more powerful when you talk about people, but here the only “people” is you, your boss is just a part of an organization built to make money.

  • Ciao!

    I suggest to all you watch Ricardo Semler. His work philosophy will allow people to work for their your own startups while being hired.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/ricardo_semler_radical_wisdom_for_a_company_a_school_a_life#

    As you are working 100% of the time for your company and since your mentioned that your employer did not notice. Assuming that his company still trading a find that it is a great “achievement” from your bosses.

    But I want to ask How sure are your that they don’t know what your are doing?

    Maybe they are happy to keep you and use you later when you really want your freedom to be your own boss. If you used their time, equipment, products etc they are entitle to turn to you and ask for something in return.

    You want to be free and you want to have your own business in the future. You will not be free until you tell your employers.

    From my personal experience I had to quite a very good job (in my opinion). I wanted to have a go at building a business. Only when I took that decision I realized that nothing is lost, but I will gain more experience being free and get use to it, after all that nobody is truly free after the business takes off, the commitments are greater for being an entrepreneur versus being an employee.

    I can’t condone the fact that you hacked into a computer, but honesty will get you into trouble here.Depends what are you prepare to lose.

    If you want be free, you have to take the jump. Be safe.

    CONNECTING PEOPLE,MOVING FORWARD.

  • Disgusted by the comments condoning theft, invasion of privacy, misuse of company property, and theft in general. Those tha reckon its ok should recognise that karma is a bitch. How would you feel/behave if you discovered this was going on in your startiup – or worse?

    Can you imagine getting your client list stolen by somone working for you?

    Can you imagine losing your business as a result?

    Bankruptcy?

    Losing your house and car?

    your wife kicking you out on the street leaving you homeless

    never seeing your kids again

    being forced to live in a cardboard box

    giving up and turning to drugs or alcohol

    or worse yet, commiting suicide, and leaving your children without a parent?

    and as a result, psychologically scarring them for life?

    These are real scenarios that start from the actions and behaviours of just one person.

    Don’t think is could happen to you?

    Check out the suicide statistics – 80% are males aged from 30-50, 90% of which are seperated.

    stop pretending you are some sort of gangster or robin hood, and show some respect to your fellow man

  • At this point your company has reached a public forum (Ad Age) and you are going to be called out at some point. If your company doesn’t cross over into the direct competition stage, it might be best to explain the situation to your boss. Perhaps ask to be moved into a project based contractor position. (Then no conflict of interest if you are busting your butt for them, it doesn’t matter what time of day you do it as a contractor.) Now if you admit the email thing and you are starting a competitive business you are going to be in the sites of lawyers who will take your company from you (sooner or later) and be served by the sheriff in your town with both civil and criminal charges (the latter based on the email thing.) Nobody says you need to be a saint but the longer this plays out and if you see success all the sudden quick, and your boss had no idea you were even starting a startup they can put 2 and 2 together…

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  • This reads like the typical story of an Indian H1B visa holder in development or product management.

    First, screw the company that hired him over an American.

    Then, start your own deal on the side because you read some BS on Growthhackers about a “startup side project”.

    Eventually come on a message board and ask for help about a coverup of deleting your boss’ email.

    Your startup got coverage in AdAge–ground zero for every sick con game and consumer ad hustle in digital.

    Fuck this bullshit. And if you’re not from India—trust me—this is typical for that “market segment”. Piracy as a business model.

    Tech is broken. Big time.

    • Good one. If he was an H1B Visa holder (employee), then he should be fired asap. I assumed the employee was an American, who may have lost his prior job to an H1B Visa holder. I still think the boss is an idiot.

  • honestly, i wouldn’t have a problem with lying cheating and stealing if it actually worked out in the long run. however, being cursed with a little more than the little brains and more experience now some of you many of you dark and evil little asshats above clearly have, i know how the story ends for both you and the person(s) you duped over. and it isn’t what is the real prize. at least one that will give you permanent satisfaction or hopes of it. you can’t change this fucked outcome. you can try. but you will fail. or please prove me wrong. id be so happy to be proved wrong that the answer is actually as easy as being a sleeping neighbor’s head bonking ape.

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