Governor Patrick will announce an economic development bill today including a measure which will essentially render the non-compete agreement you likely signed with your employer un-enforceable in Massachusetts. California and New York - our frequent partners on the annual Olympic medal stand of US venture capital rankings - made this change years ago, and have been using it to recruit some of the best people from some of our best companies ever since.
Despite this, powerful forces led by EMC and an army of lawyers are about to rally political and financial support to oppose this change, to essentially defend their right to decide where you can work after you work for them.
Here are the Top 3 reasons you need to take some time to support this change:
- Indentured servitude works in Westeros, not in Westboro. Companies have every right to protect their IP with non-disclosure agreements, and their people with non-solicit agreements, neither of which will be effected by this change. The Governor has even proposed adopting the Uniform Trade Secrets Act - as 47 states already have - to strengthen these protections going forward. But employers shouldn’t be able to tell you where you can and can’t work in 2014, especially when they’re not paying you themselves.
- Non-competes helped destroy the last generation of great Boston technology companies. There was a time when Silicon Valley vs. 128 was a jump ball. Smart people have argued that the difference in policy related to non-competes impaired labor mobility here, and liberated it there. Efforts to correct the imbalance over the years have failed, in large part because the startup community lacked the clout, critical mass or cojones to stand up for itself. Well times have changed.
- Communities of innovation are powered by the natural forces of creative destruction. Smart people develop specialized expertise in big companies that solve big problems. They look around for ways to leverage that expertise, and - if they can’t - they leave to start new ones… creating jobs, capital returns, and a thriving economy in the process. A non-compete law in Massachusetts makes about as much sense as a non-running law in the Serengeti. You end up with a few well-fed lions, and no more gazelles.
Local Starterati including Bijan Sabet, Jeremy Hitchcock, Scott Kirsner, Jeff Bussgang, Dharmesh Shah and others are getting behind this issue in a major way. The New England Venture Capital Association will be leading the charge over the coming weeks, and have set up a campaign page here. If enough of us do that in the next few weeks, this WILL happen.
So take 15 minutes, find and e-mail your State Rep. Then share, like, blog, tweet, and plus the heck out of this post so everyone with a stake in this important issue can be heard.
Screw California, and screw the fat, greying lions in Massachusetts who think they can legislate your loyalty instead of earning it. Let’s rally on this, and get it done once and for all.