Although the verdict is still out whether or not entrepreneurship can be taught there are a few legal problems that all entrepreneurs can avoid with some proper foresight.
8 Startup Situations Every Entrepreneur Wants to Consider
1) Founder’s Agreement: Most co-founders will have some simple planning conversations at the beginning of the venture. However, it is important to take these conversations one step further by developing a Founder’s Agreement. The agreement should outline what each partner brings to the business, his/her roles, and how the business and its assets is distributed when the agreement is terminated. It should also demonstrate how and when the business will be terminated as well as methods for resolving disagreements among the founders. A Founder’s Agreement formalizes the initial planning conversations to ensure that there isn’t any confusion down the road when one party remembers the conversations differently than the other.
2) Non-Compete: It is important that you check your contract with your current employer for any non-compete clauses prior to transitioning full time in your startup, especially if your startup is in the same industry. Similarly, be sure to place a non-compete clause in your employees contracts to ensure that they cannot steal your trade secrets and become your competition.
3) Incorporation: Be sure to incorporate prior to raising capital as it will reduce the amount of tax that you pay when issuing yourself shares. If you delay incorporation until after you’ve raised a seed round your business will very likely have a much higher valuation and thereby holding you accountable for the increased value of those shares.
4) Social Media: Social media can be a business’ best friend or worst enemy. Remember that all posts on social media are public and permanent, so be careful what you post. Create a company social media policy to help ensure the proper use of social media among your personnel. Always handle online criticism with positivity, transparency, and professionalism.
5) Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding is becoming a rapidly growing method for raising capital. As a result, there are a lot of schemes that the government is trying to crack down on. Don’t put yourself at risk by overpromising and under delivering. Be sure to deliver on exactly what you promise. Also, be sure to read the terms and conditions for each site that you start a campaign on as they might be different from site to site.
7) Provisional Patent: Don’t wait until you start selling your product to protect your intellectual property. File for a provisional patent (or better yet, a utility patent) and protect yourself from day 1. Be cautions when speaking about your product to anyone outside of the company and do not share any trade secrets. Use non-disclosure agreements when appropriate, but realize that many parties, such as investors, will not sign them. Lastly, it is important to realize that, in most cases, you can discuss your startup/product/service without giving away anything that is truly proprietary.
8) Unpaid Interns: State and federal guidelines dictate whether an intern should be paid. Should they determine that you hired an unpaid intern that should be paid you could be liable t pay back pay, back taxes, and penalties. Be sure to learn your local laws and abide by them.