Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Starting with Ethics: A Teacher’s Guide

In October 1999, our Web site, the Ethics Connection, received a provocative post on its message boards. An engineer who had gone to work for a new Silicon Valley company raised various important ethical issues about her experience in the then-exploding world of high-tech start-ups.

As we circulated and discussed her comments, it became apparent that very little had been written about the special ethical dilemmas confronting start-ups. In response, we began to put together Starting With Ethics. This material, available both on the Web and in a special edition of our publication, Issues in Ethics, represents the views of scholars, entrepreneurs, investors, and high-tech workers.

The framing articles were written by eminent business ethicists Kirk Hanson and Dennis Moberg. Hanson’s piece, A Good Start outlines key steps new ventures can take to make ethics a distinguishing mark of a start-up’s culture. Hanson was recently appointed executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Former Director Moberg discusses The Treatment of Employees in High-tech Start-ups: A Test of Executive Character.

Two cases invite readers to consider some of the crucial ethical edges in the start-up field. The Case of the X979 Jumpstart, by SCU Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Peter Facione, looks at proprietary information. The Case of the Underwater Options by Ethics Center Director of Publications Miriam Schulman explores how much employees are entitled to know about a start-up’s finances.

The material also features a series of interviews with some of the key players in the start-up world. Each interview is connected to a message board where we invite you and your students to respond. The interviews/message boards feature:

Investors and Venture Capitalists

Floyd Kvamme, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

Audrey MacLean, Angel Investor

Donald Milder, Versant Ventures


Warren Anderson, Anderson Soft-Teach

Cheryl Breetwor, formerly ShareData

Umang Gupta, Keynote Systems

Bob Lorenzini, SunPower

A.C. "Mike" Markkula, Owner ACM Investments, formerly Apple Computer


Gina Pastega, eLuxury

A Young Entrepreneur

Your students will find other useful resources on the site. The "Starting With Ethics" homepage features links to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics popular Framework for Ethical Decision Making, as well as to other business ethics articles available on the Ethics Connection. We also provide links to other sites with relevant material.

Finally, we invite you and your students to evaluate this material by filling out the online survey linked to the start-up ethics homepage. For other comments or questions, please use our feedback form.

"Starting With Ethics" was made possible by a grant from the James Kemper Foundation.