Are Distributed Companies’ Source Code At Risk With Their Employees?

You hired a random freelance developer and can’t sleep at night since they can steal your source code.

I hear this all the freaking time. Heck, we have 15 devs or so here, some remote, and I’m fairly content with code permissions (aside from our critical hiring process, of course).

But here’s the thing.

Source code alone doesn’t matter.

❓ Can you outcompete iOS if their source code leaked?
❓ Will you outsmart Facebook’s users with a clone using the same code?
❓ What about Google? You know, the best search engine in the world?

And if someone says “Well yeah, with their database!”, that’s not how it works. You can’t just download 10 million terabytes of data and push it to a server. It’s fairly well protected, even if you manage to take a sneak peek, it doesn’t really matter due to a dozen other security layers.

Bottom line: Your business relies on your industry expertise, contacts, a niche market, vendors, partners, other opportunities, your manpower, and a lot more.

Source code is massively important. Tech is running the show for a while now.

Are Distributed Companies' Source Code At Risk With Their Employees?

Watch the video to know more about this!

Highlights

00:00:21 – What’s the big fuss?
00:01:21 – The core of a business
00:02:01 – How e-commerce stores survive
00:05:15 – You can clone Uber, BUT –
00:07:44 – It never is the holy grail of everything

TRANSCRIPT

Are certain companies endangered from getting their source codes stolen from their employees?

So I get this occasionally, every now and then from people who say “oh you know it’s really dangerous working with certain company” or with a company that’s looking at it elsewhere and so on because the code is going to get stolen and this is going to entirely kill the entire business.

Now there are very few instances where this can be legit and those instances usually fall on specific terms or specific kind of conditions, such as bioengineering or some exclusive far indeed deals from laboratories and universities and basically companies with no specific business acumen and companies who invest a lot more in R&D, in discoveries, in kind of new bleeding edge tech and new algorithms and new “cure cancer” type of solution than any other business out there.

What am I talking about?

If you think about let’s say, publishers, like there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of publishers out there, blogs, magazines and different types of sources that produce some sort of media.

If you think about it almost 97% or so are running on top of WordPress, WordPress is open source. So, what is the big fuss?

We still have lots of publishers because the core and the entity of the business is actually creating and publishing content. They are promoting it and finding the right people who are capable enough to produce that content, write it, publish it and kind of shape it in a way that relates to their target audience and things like that.

So by itself, the technology doesn’t really matter a lot and most people are already using different flavors of open source in their day to day.

Even if you don’t think about publishers because that’s kind of trivial in the sense of all of the readers are visitors or at least almost all of them.

It’s kind of a straightforward scenario even if you think about e-commerce, let’s say you want to purchase a laptop.

How e-commerce survive

How many e-commerce stores in your opinion are selling a MacBook, a Lenovo notebook, a Samsung notebook or something else, probably thousands, if not tens of thousands? But who cares?

People use e-commerce stores for different reasons sometimes they just see a good opportunity, a discount or know someone who’s selling that, someone who is running the business or the e-commerce itself.

They see them at conferences at events or they know the brand from someone else. E-commerce is part of a broader business, a bigger one or they can combine into different services or stuff, or they have watched YouTube reviews of the products and that’s how they decided to buy it from that store.

So even in that case, there are lots of e-commerce businesses who survive online simply because people can buy from different places and the fact that the e-commerce technology itself is there.

Most of the time it’s also open source. Again, it’s WooCommerce or Shopify, while Shopify it’s not open source but it’s freely available, Shopify, or Magento or something else.

It’s about their trust in the brand

So that’s why stealing the source code is not as important because let’s think about it.

You have a company that is building a product, let’s say a company like Google or Apple or someone else.

Now we do have lots of Chinese brands that are copying iPhone. They launched something that looks in a fairly similar way.

Sometimes it runs Android, sometimes it runs some freaking clone of iOS.

But, the vast majority of the people don’t buy that replicate even if it’s five times cheaper than the original iPhone simply because they can buy the original product.

They enjoy it, they are fans of the brand, they have been supporting the brand for a while, they believe in the innovations that Apple has allegedly been doing since back in the day and so on.

So they’re trusting the brand.

They do believe in the foundations of the brand, they do believe in the value of the brand, in say Steve Jobs, Tim Cook or some of the other originals like Steve Wozniak or someone else who’s been building that brand and product for years.

They do remember the iPods of the world and the iPad and the first MacBook’s, and everything else that has emerged from the history of the brand.

It’s not purely about the new technical gadget because if you think of it, let’s say for example iPhone, for many years now, is not the most advanced technological product out there.

There are even Chinese brands, let’s say Mi, 1+ or some others that are releasing hardware with better capacities, with better let’s say cameras, with more RAM, with better CPU’s and etc.

But that doesn’t mean that people are automatically jumping on that ship and just saying “well this has better tech, so that’s why I am buying it”.

Again that’s purely from a consumer standpoint perspective for specific problems.

Can you clone Uber?

But even if you’re building a business, let’s say you want to clone Uber – so, lots of people have tried to clone Uber and they wanted to make their own company transporting people across the city or whatever it is, very few have succeeded.

Lyft is one of the top competitors of Uber and they were pretty much the second one right after Uber that has started, worked hard and tried to recruit drivers and riders and tried to leverage all of the bad PR that Uber received over the years in order for them to become a successful competitor of Uber and to be more or less an equivalent competitor of Uber as well.

But again lots of people can just buy a similar Uber-like solution for probably $500 from freelancer.com.

That doesn’t mean that they can start a business because running a business like Uber it requires lots of legal hoops, it requires lots of marketing, onboarding for drivers, trying to make assessments and try to set some regulations and rules for making a legitimate brand and a legitimate business model.

Then start with some of those, then recruit people who can start working and give them free credit, and this free credit is being paid to the drivers so that they have the incentive to start.

You know there is a lot more that goes into building than that.

So whatever example you take, Google, Apple, Netflix or someone else.

Netflix, they’re launching their own TV shows and their own movies right. Even if you bring the Netflix technology which is actually quite brilliant and they have lots of innovations and they have some of the most expensive engineers out there.

So even if you get the technology itself. Who cares?

You don’t have the copyright to the movies, you can’t launch new movies, you don’t have contracts with specific actors, publishing houses, producers and everyone else in the publishing industry in LA and pretty much everywhere else.

So what I’m trying to allude to is working with a remote company may have some dangers more or less one way or another and that’s fine.

But blaming or being afraid that someone’s going to steal the source code is ridiculous because the core, the essential for every business may be heavily dependent on source code in the sense that the business cannot run without technology, the technology has to be good, technology has to support the business needs and has to solve the business problems.

All of that is true, I assure you most of the time but that doesn’t mean that if someone magically gets the very same clone of that same technology that they can just bootstrap an entire successful business because they don’t have your stuff.

They can’t automatically keep scaling and keep enhancing and improving that they don’t have. They don’t have the business knowledge, sometimes they don’t have patents or intellectual property.

Sometimes you have contracts with specific partners, vendors and someone else who’s in charge.

You know you have lots of competitive leverage to use be it networking, business experience, portfolio, connections, staff recruitment, location, anything that helps you scale and that makes your business successful.

Never the holy grail of everything

Technology is one of those things but it never is the holy grail of everything.

You may need technology but the fact that someone else magically has a copy of your source code by itself doesn’t make this a dangerous situation even though it’s a hypothetical situation and in practice, it has almost never happened in the first place.

So that’s pretty much it. If you have any concerns about working with remote teams or remote staff or whatever, let me know here in the comments and I’d be happy to share my experience with leading a distributed agency with 40 people right now and let you know some of the challenges that we’ve been facing over the past 9 years on the market.