A start-up or entrepreneur looking to raise capital is willing to do almost anything to accept capital from an investor.  As a corporate and business law attorney, experience with more successful clients has led to some observations about what an entrepreneur might also want to look for or consider in an investor besides capital only.

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Consider the following observations when looking to attract investments.

Build Friends Not Just Investors

The Terms of Use for a website is critical to maintaining control of how users access and use the information on the website, and in limiting liability for unapproved uses. Regardless of whether users actually read the Terms of Use – many don’t because it typically contains complex legal jargon – the Terms of Use binds users to its terms by virtue of their use of the website. The Terms of Use constitutes a contract between the business and the customer. That legal jargon protects from liability from users and allows control over the information contained on the website.

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Businesses with an online presence — whether it be social media, e-commerce, mobile, static or interactive site — should always craft a carefully written Terms of Use. These terms are written to include a variety of different subjects relating to the business, the customer, information that is exchanged, information received and how that same information may be used.

Avoid Using Boilerplate or “One Size Fits All”

Starting a business is a difficult endeavor. While many people want the opportunity to start their own business, the time and commitment required to establish, develop, and grow a successful business are not for every potential entrepreneur. Instead of starting their own business, some individuals may look to another alternative: resale franchise.Fotolia_62005718_Subscription_Monthly_M-283x300

A resale franchise is an already-established franchise business that the current owner is looking to sell. The current franchise owner may be selling his or her franchise for reasons such as a divorce, a death in the family, or even for purpose of retirement. Whatever the reason, a resale franchise provides an opportunity to dive into a business without building it from the ground up.

Investing in a Resale Franchise: Pros

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding refers to entrepreneurs seeking relatively insignificant financial contributions from a large number of people, often via social media or other internet networks, to fund the start or growth of a business venture. According to one report, more than 600 crowdfunding sites exist and raised billions of dollars for various types of businesses in 2015 alone, worldwide.

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Types of Crowdfunding

When the shareholder of a corporation files bankruptcy, the shareholder’s stock becomes part of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate and will generally be subject to liquidation by the bankruptcy trustee for the benefit of the debtor’s creditors.

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However, when a limited partner in a limited partnership (LP) or a member of a limited liability company (LLC) files bankruptcy, the debtor’s ownership interest may well be treated differently because interests in LPs and LLCs are typically considered and treated as more contractual in nature.

Membership Interests in LLCs

If your company sells products or services online, the purchase process almost certainly includes a click through agreement, also known as “clickwrap,” “web-wrap,” or “click and accept” agreements. This refers to the button the consumer must click to indicate they accept all of the terms of the sale. If they choose not to accept, the sale will not go through. This agreement often includes intellectual property protections for the company, license restrictions, liability limitations, disclaimers involving warranties, among other standard contract terms.

The large majority of online consumers often click through without carefully reading the terms of the agreement. If a consumer later contests a term in the click through agreement, will a court uphold and enforce the terms of the initial agreement? This is important to know, as an unenforceable agreement can result in liability and losses. Consulting with an e-commerce attorney is the best way to guarantee a legally binding contract.

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Court Ruling on “Shrinkwrap Agreements”

One of the primary benefits of incorporating your business and complying with corporate governance laws is that a corporation provides personal liability protections for its owners from the debts and liabilities of the corporation. These protections exist because a corporation is viewed as an entity that exists separate from its owners and this creates a “corporate veil” which is intended to protect the shareholders from personal liability. However, there are some circumstances in which an injured party may hold shareholders personally responsible for the debts or actions of the corporation. This is commonly referred to as either “alter ego liability” or “piercing the corporate veil.”

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Generally speaking, when a party sues a corporation, that party seeks money from the corporation and not from shareholders as individuals. In some situations, however, owners may simply be using a corporation as an “alter ego” for themselves and they do not actually treat the corporation as a separate legal entity. In such cases, a party suing the corporation may pierce the corporate veil and try to hold the owners personally liable as well. While successful alter ego liability is rare, it does occur and all corporate owners should take steps to avoid it whenever possible.

Signs of “Alter Ego” Corporations

In the early stages of a merger and acquisition (M&A) transaction, owners may be willing to overlook certain differences in favor of focusing on the benefits of the deal. However, as the M&A transaction is completed, the rose-colored glasses may come off and sudden concerns may develop into serious legal disputes between owners. If these disputes are not handled correctly, it can result in long-term consequences, both financially and regarding the relations of the parties. The following are some information regarding common post-closing M&A disputes.

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Deferred Payment of Purchase Price

Many M&A agreements are structured such that part of the purchase price is paid at closing and the rest is paid at some point in future.  This is done with “earn-out” clauses and purchase price adjustment clauses, among others.  An earn-out clause is where the amount of future money paid depends on selling company’s performance after the acquisition, i.e. the money has to be earned after the closing before it is paid out.  These types of clauses are sometimes interpreted differently by buyers and sellers after the closing.  For example, if the selling company’s product is upgraded after the closing, the buyer and seller may view the revenues from those sales differently under an earn-out clause.  As another example, if the buyer and seller have different accounting practices that could certainly affect their interpretation of purchase price adjustment clauses.  Resolving these disputes can involve complex accounting and negotiations by both parties.

The last thing a business wants is the unexpected surprise of having to pay back money it has received from a customer for goods or services. Although charge-backs and payment disputes may be more common in today’s digital world, a startup or business will likely be caught off guard when it is served with a “preference action” filed by a bankruptcy trustee or bankrupt customer.

The Bankruptcy Code permits the trustee to avoid and recover from creditors for the benefit of all creditors of the debtor’s bankruptcy estate certain pre-petition transfers made within 90 days (and sometimes longer) of the debtor’s bankruptcy filing that would otherwise benefit one creditor at the expense of others. Such transfers are referred to as “preferences.”  Simply put, a preference is where a trustee can recapture certain payments made by the debtor prior to its bankruptcy filing.

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The avoidance and recovery of a preference payment helps to ensure equal distribution among the debtor’s creditors and is intended to discourage aggressive collection tactics by creditors that force the debtor into bankruptcy. An adversary proceeding (a lawsuit filed in the debtor’s bankruptcy) is required to avoid and recover a preference, but a preference action is often preceded by a demand letter from the trustee setting forth the trustee’s claims and demanding immediate repayment of the preference payment.

The purchase and sale of goods and services at a storefront is rarer these days. Information technologies make online transactions more efficient and convenient. However, those same transactions expose businesses to greater risk and liability when receiving and using customer information. Information technology companies must not only must safeguard their electronic transactions, but also secure sensitive information and proactively combat data breaches. Failure to do so can lead to a huge economic loss for the customers and the company.  Structure Law Group, LLP advises companies engaged in e-commerce on privacy and security issues, how to safeguard against the inadvertent data breaches and counsels them on the necessary steps to take if such an unfortunate event occurs.

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California law protects the individual’s right to the safety and integrity of his/her personal information. California’s Information Security Act defines personal information as any information that could identify or describe a person. Personal information includes a person’s name, address, social security number, license number, medical information, and the like. If your website collects such information, then you are required by law to take reasonable steps to prevent disclosure of such personal and private information. California law obligates businesses to implement security measures reasonably designed to protect the integrity of the such information. Every business entity, from a sole proprietorship to a multi-national corporation is subject to the Information Security Act.