Most employment agreements are such that the company owns it even if it is outside of normal hours. So inventions you come up with on your own time are not yours.
And one of the key reasons Silicon Valley grew up in California is a law that, in effect, says:
- As a matter of the state's compelling interest:
- If you invent something
- on your own time and not using company resources
- and it's not in the company's current or expected immediate future business plan
- you own it
- regardless of what your employment contract says
- and employment contracts have to include a notice of this.
Result: People who invent neat stuff their current company won't be productizing can get get together with a few friends, rent a garage across the street, and build a company to develop the new stuff. So companies bud off new companies, doing somewhat different stuff, like yeast. And the opportunity to get in on the ground floor attracts many other skilled people who might not be as inventive, but still wnt to be some of those "few friends" of the inventors.