Articles Tagged with start-up

If you are looking into ways to market your business online, you have undoubtedly come across articles extolling the virtues of social media marketing. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow businesses to target certain groups of consumers with pinpoint accuracy, interact with them directly, and build brand recognition. Furthermore, there are often no costs associated with creating social media presence for your business and there are certainly ways to engage in social media marketing without spending money on paid ads. If your business posts a piece of content that goes viral, it could easily result in millions of views from individuals who may become paying customers or clients.

Fotolia_120584439_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x188
Unforeseen Liability

Before you rush out to join the social media marketing frenzy that is in progress, you should consider some of the legal issues that may be implicated. The good news is that it is completely possible to engage in social media marketing without incurring legal liability; it is important, however, to determine whether there are any legal problems that could potentially arise. Here are some of the potential issues to consider:

Contracts are an integral part of conducting business and the necessity for certain contracts can arise from the very start of your company. The following are only some examples of important contracts for startups in California.

Fotolia_104278045_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x169
Founders’ Agreement — If you are going into business with one or more people, having a comprehensive and clear founders’ agreement is imperative. This agreement can be likened to a premarital agreement: it foresees and addresses potential issues that may arise and sets guidelines for dealing with those issues. A solid and enforceable founders’ agreement can prevent a lot of legal conflict and costs down the road.

Nondisclosure Agreements — If you have the idea or formula for a unique product or process, you want to keep information confidential so others do not try to misappropriate your idea. However, it will be necessary to share information with co-founders, employees, investors, contract developers, and others involved in the project. In such cases, you may have others sign a nondisclosure agreement to ensure they will not disclose confidential information to other parties.

Issuing equity in a company is a popular form of employee compensation. This trend is especially popular here in Silicon Valley, where startup companies often defer cash compensation to their employees in exchange for a share of future growth through the issuance of equity. If you own a non-public company, you may wish to compensate your employees partially by issuing them equity in the company. Equity aligns incentives between employers and employees while enabling employees to build up wealth over a longer term. Equity issuance can be done in different ways, including by issuing restricted stock grants or by issuing stock options. Each of these forms of compensation can have its own pros and cons and you want to make sure you carefully analyze the decision and decide which is best for your circumstances.

Fotolia_67762966_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x200
Restricted Stock

Restricted stock is a stock award that will not fully transfer to the employee until certain conditions have been met. These conditions can include a certain length of time working for your company, meeting certain performance or financial goals or milestones, and more. These restrictions can be helpful for owners to ensure that employees do not simply walk away from your venture and that they must wait for the award to vest before they receive the stock benefits. In addition, by making an 83(b) election with the IRS within a certain period of time after the restricted stock grant, employees can save significantly on the tax burden once the stock vests. If no election is made, however, employees may face hefty tax liability at the time of vesting depending on the value of the shares. Restricted stock is less risky and easier to manage in comparison to regular stock.  However, restricted stock has less favorable tax treatment than options.

In this day and age of online accessibility, all you have to do is a quick Google search to find an array of sample shareholder agreements at your disposal. While it may seem much easier to pay a few dollars and use an online template for your agreement than to consult with a business attorney, using a template can often result in costly legal disputes down the road. A shareholder agreement should always be uniquely tailored to address the specific circumstances of your corporation and a one-size-fits-all template will almost certainly miss some key issues or provisions.

Businessman signing a contract
A shareholder agreement will differ from company to company though these agreements generally set guidelines for shareholder rights, management of the corporation, and legal recourse in the event of a dispute. The following are some provisions that can be key in a shareholder agreement:

Shareholder Rights

Hiring and retaining employees is critical to success in business. While successfully managing a workforce has many components to it, understanding the basic components of the employment relationship not only protects the company when hiring, but also helps to set the expectations for new and existing employees. Clearly articulating expectations – such as whether the employee is hired at-will or for a fixed term, identifying the main responsibilities of the employee in a clearly articulated job description, informing the employee on the processes and procedures involved in the review process and protecting the company’s intellectual property assets – ensures the employer sets the stage for a successful employment relationship.

Should my Employee be At-will or Fixed Term?stretta di mano per lavorare in un ufficio

Employees can be hired as either an at-will or fixed-term employee. Unless otherwise specified in a written agreement, all employment in the State of California is “at will,” meaning either the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time with or without cause. While at-will employment gives employees more flexibility in controlling how long they continue to work with a particular company, at-will employment also grants businesses with a greater control in terminating employees. Businesses can fire at-will employees at any time, with or without cause. (Obviously, this is limited to instances in which the business is not committing discrimination.) This is true because no contractual obligation exists between the business and its at-will employee.

While many well-known businesses are either corporations or limited liability companies, partnerships remain a common and savvy business entity selection. In fact, some of the biggest names in tech—Apple, Microsoft, and Google—started out as partnerships.

What is a Partnership?

cooperation
Partnerships exist whenever there is a cooperative endeavor of two or more people, entities, or some combination thereof, to provide a product or service. The main characteristic of any partnership is that the partners share in the profits and losses of the business.

Startups centered around a technological development or product are highly popular in this day and age—and for good reason. Companies such as Apple or Facebook originated in garages or dorm rooms and are now each valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Even if you are not a technical person and know nothing about programming or coding, you can still start a successful tech startup, as evidenced by companies such as Pandora. It is not surprising that individuals are continually trying to bring the next big idea to life and start their own tech company.

Fotolia_65954245_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x300
However, like any other type of business, there are many legal concerns for tech startups. One highly important concern is how to properly protect your intellectual property (IP). A novel and viable idea is generally the heart of a tech startup and you do not want to risk your success by failing to adequately protect your idea. The following are only some IP concerns that may be relevant to your tech startup.

Choosing the right type of IP protection

Too many startups fail to successfully get off the ground because of decisions that result in inadequate financing. As a founder of a startup, you can have a completely viable idea and still fail due to financing mistakes. For this reason, it is important to understand the different types of financing appropriate at different stages of your business. Financing can be complicated and it is always helpful to consult with a skilled business attorney who can evaluate your financing needs and provide valuable advice.

Fotolia_77570998_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x293
One type of financing used by startups is called “mezzanine financing.” The name is appropriate because this type of financing is in the middle between equity and traditional bank debt. Your business is less leveraged because there is no hard collateral to mezzanine investors, though many charge more interest than a bank loan. On the other hand, you will give up less control of your company than you will if you pursue additional equity funding.

When is mezzanine financing appropriate?

Many startups in the tech sector are idea-rich and cash-poor, meaning that their most valuable (and often only) asset is their intellectual property that may have the potential to be worth a substantial amount of money. While some startups are able to move their ideas from concept to deployment with relatively little labor involved, many of these ideas require the assistance of developers, programmers, engineers, and marketers, all of whom are skilled professionals who can easily command salaries well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Fotolia_71990168_Subscription_Yearly_M-300x260
For this reason, many startups are faced with the issue of how to pay their employees during the development and launch phase, before they are generating any revenue. Of course, one option is to borrow the money or to seek investors – a solution that has significant pros and cons which should be considered. Another very popular option is to offer employees equity shares in a company in lieu of cash compensation. In some cases, this may take the form of equity for a lower salary than they would normally expect, while in others an equity share may be the only compensation they receive.

There are many issues that tech entrepreneurs and founders should consider when offering equity as compensation. These include the following:

According to an article published by Forbes in late 2014, 42 technology startups potentially looking at a 2015 IPO had raised venture financing of at least $1 billion. With the potential for the creation of significant wealth in a relatively short period of time, it is no wonder that many people are seeking to enter the tech marketplace with new ideas that have the potential to impact the way that millions of people conduct their daily lives.

Incorporation is one of the major steps involved in the growth of a tech startup and involves creating a distinct business entity that can own intellectual property, issue stock, raise capital, and is subject to rules of corporate governance. Incorporation can be a complicated process and involves filing paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office in the jurisdiction in which you wish to incorporate.Business-ball-300x245

What are Bylaws?

Contact Information