DSMN8 Team: Introducing Roel van de Ven – Enterprise Sales

Regardless how innovative the idea, or how widespread the problem that it solves, any start-up must sell their solution to the masses: communicating why, exactly, a market must embrace and adopt a product.

While the start-up world turns at a head-spinning pace, and traditional thinking has long argued for a stripped to the core, lean approach for the start-up team – without the right sales talent, even the most ground-breaking products would falter.

As others around us in the software industry continue to advocate services teams as nothing more than a cost – to be replaced instead with third-parties, we know that strong customer communication and on-the-ground insight can only come from the right sales talent – for which, we’ve found Roel van de Ven, our new Enterprise Sales Executive.

Introducing – Roel van de Ven – Enterprise Sales Executive

From taking his first steps into the corporate world as an office assistant at an Attorneys’ Firm, Roel has taken increasingly larger leaps – moving onwards from Junior Business Developer at G4S, onto Henkel, a world leader in adhesive technologies, beauty care and home care, grossing 18 billion a year.

Roel’s initial internship would transition into positions on steadily higher levels – Regional Marketing Assistant, to Regional Product Management and finally securing Regional Pricing Manager, all in the space of 3 short years.

This heady rise into the upper echelons of a global leader’s business team demonstrates an impressive business acumen, yet Roel’s career history has been far from all work and no play. Following a stint as a Wealth Manager, he would go on to become co-owner in a wakeboarding business in Dubai – quite the stark contrast to the straight laced and serious world of financial services. The tenacity to be just as effective for high-net-worth individuals seeking financial advice, as adrenaline junkies looking for a speed thrill, is not to be underestimated (and truth be told, as an avid wakeboarder for over a decade, this is also a real labour of love).

As DSMN8 prepares for growth, it is in Roel’s direction, communication and insight that we’ll secure interest, clients and, ultimately, long-term sustainability.

Q&A 

What did you do before joining DSMN8? 

I ran my own water sports company called Wake Evolution, based in Dubai, which is still going strong. Prior to that I was part of the Regional Marketing team at Henkel – spearheading campaigns and growth in India, the Middle East and Africa (IMEA).

Describe your role in 5 words

Develop and maximize growth opportunities.

Who or what inspires you?

There are many great people in the world who I’m inspired by, but I would say my top 3 would be: Tony Robbins, Will Smith and Richard Branson. Each of whom have taken on industries, questioned the status quo and achieved progression by breaking with convention. They also know what true leadership looks like, Branson puts this best:

“A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.”

Why did you choose to work at DSMN8? 

For the challenge, potential and opportunities – challenge comes in many forms when positioned in the fast-paced start-up world, whereas potential can only be realised when ground-breaking opportunities are fully understood and strategically exploited. Around me are a team of leaders who have track-records for success – alongside them, we’ll be hitting the ground running at a speed that start-ups demand.

How does your role fit into the rest of the DSMN8 Team? 

I bring the business to the table – but this begins with a robust understanding of the product features and the ways in which I can bridge the divide between the end user, and our development team. In this way, I’m the cog that makes refinement of features and UX possible. This link is critical to developing a product that users need, and that users love to use.

What are the main challenges for Enterprise Sales at a Startup organisation? 

Starting from ground zero is fraught with many challenges – from an enterprise sales perspective, the most imposing is getting your name out there in front of big brands, over and above your more established rivals.

We’ve achieved this with vigorous research on what customers want from an advocacy platform – this has ensured we’re developing the right features and user experience. Of equal crucial importance, is our robust sales funnel, and our CRM that helps us talk about the right things, to the right people.

What sales tech do you use to make your life easier in identifying leads and booking pitches?

We use HubSpot which is an awesome tool for prospect and pipeline management. Besides that, we use old school tools: LinkedIn, cold calling and networking. Perhaps the most vital form of networking are trade shows, which place us face-to-face with industry leaders. We’ve met some fantastic brands at CES, NAMM and most recently IPSO.

How do you spend your time out of the office? 

I’m a wakeboarding addict, when not in the office, you’ll likely find me in the water at Wake Evolution or at the cable at Al Forsan.

If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs…

2016 is shaping up to be quite the annus horribilis. Quite apart from the passing of such legends as Bowie, Rickman, Cohen, Wogan and Corbet, there has been unprecedented political turmoil, with UK’s vote to leave the EU (“Brexit”) and the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency.

It’s these last two events that have caused all businesses – but particularly start-ups – to face increased uncertainty, difficult markets and most of all, higher levels of risk. Though I think Brexit is likely to affect UK businesses more than Trump’s success (it’s going to be a key topic of discussion at the ‘TechCrunch Disrupt London’ event in December), even sectors such as renewable energies are facing disruption after the election, according to Elon Musk.

“An Entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down” Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.

So what’s the problem? Entrepreneurs thrive on this risk and uncertainty – without the thrill of riding out the waves of uncertainty there would be little interest in venturing into the world of start-ups to begin with. When uncertainty hits, it’s natural for your brain tell you to panic, but those with entrepreneurial acumen automatically begin thinking rationally – how can they effectively assimilate and deal with this new information? How do you keep your head and continue building your plane?

When I started my last business I had absolutely no money, no staff, no business plan and a sizable amount of unsecured debt to my name – not to mention my wife, Viki, and Ofelia, our six-month-old baby, to support. And it was slap bang in the middle of a recession! Five years later, at the age of 31, I sold my company, E-Tale Marketing Solutions Ltd., in a multi-million-dollar deal; after selling to, and competing with, some of the biggest businesses in the world. Despite the challenges it was something i felt compelled to do. I simply had to do it, and i trusted myself that, whatever the challenge, I could overcome it. The journey was peppered with a huge amount of risk and uncertainty, but it’s how you deal with it that marks you out for success. These are some of the mental strategies that kept me going:

1. Think Positive

During the good times, entrepreneurs can find is easy to forget about focusing their mood, because the smiles come easy. But when the tough times present themselves – and they will – try to find a happy or positive thought to rebalance the panicked reaction. Whether it is a business breakthrough from recent weeks, or a promising event happening soon, remind yourself that good things can (and will) happen and that focusing on negativity will not help you to get through it.

 2. Let Go

As much as the entrepreneurial instinct is to micro-manage everything, there are some things that are simply out of your control – such as the outcome of an election. When these situations arise, you need to be able to accept that, yes, this will affect your business, but no, you cannot prevent it or ignore it. So your job is to ride it out and decide the best course of action to see the other side with minimal damage. Try not to exaggerate the situation to yourself or those around you – acknowledge it with a level head for exactly what it is and plan using the information you have available.

3. Prioritise

Understanding the difference between a make-or-break decision and an inconsequential one is vital for when tumultuous situations arise. The truth is that every decision made during the running of a start-up brings uncertainty, but by using the information available and focusing on the most important decisions first, whilst weighing up a range of possible outcomes will save a lot of your energy and relieve enough stress to allow you to wiz through the small choices later.

4. Trust Yourself

You started the business on your own and sometimes you must trust the same instincts, that used to scream at you that this was a good idea, to carry it forward. Start by listening to your instincts on small matters and learn whether your first impressions are to be relied upon or if you’re the kind of person who needs to research more thoroughly. Many top entrepreneurs know how to settle their brain and focus on the issues – Steve Jobs took walks to make decisions, whilst Einstein went sailing to clear his mental blocks.

5. Stay Agile

I’ve said it before, agility to is the best defence against uncertainty and by adopting an agile, or flexible approach to your business, you gain a competitive advantage. Now is the time to take a progressive view, remain dynamic and revert to Entrepreneur 101: remain agile and look for opportunities.

 

Knowledge is the key, and whilst it is vital to remember that there will be things you cannot possibly know – you can take the information you do have and build upon it to make plans. Whether it’s finding funding, or choosing the people you want to be by your side, plan ahead and never let negativity hold you back.

How do you see it? Is your business facing new challenges as a result of Brexit or Trump? How do you handle uncertainty? – let me know below.

5 Keys To Hiring The Best Talent

Dyson launched a recruitment campaign last week, kick-starting their quest to recruit three thousand engineers over the next four years. They have effectively done away with traditional recruitment techniques in favour of a series of ‘cryptic’ puzzles designed to attract and identify lateral thinkers.

Investing in staff is crucial for the growth of any business; whether start-up, growing SME or mega-corporation, each will face a different landscape when it comes to hiring. Whilst large, well-established corporations can rely on their brand, reputation and large budgets to create intricate recruitment campaigns and cherry-pick from a pool of talent, start-ups face several limitations. However, there are a few key things you can do to improve your chances of hiring the best talent out there.

1. Hire Early to Stay Ahead of The Curve

This does involve hiring more people than you need right now, but I don’t mean that you should hire people unnecessarily – what it does involve is looking to the future. Staff who are able to support customers, fix bugs and hold the fort when the time comes, need to be in place before they are needed. Try not to worry about excess employees sitting around with nothing to do. When it comes to start-ups, there’s always something to do…

2. Your First Hire Should Get Stuff Done.

Early staff within start-ups need to be willing, able and flexible enough to do whatever needs doing. There are often responsibilities from different sectors being undertaken by one person.Hiring staff in advance of their necessity means these ‘extra’ people can help to take the weight off and make sure that the workload is spread evenly. When hiring staff, it is important to make sure that they understand the need for flexibility, new hires must have an adaptable outlook on their role. As Miles Jenner, of Recruiter.com, says:

All companies must now assume the inevitability of change, if not disruption, for which there is no manual. It’s imperative to hire for this challenge, which can only be met with agile, adaptable and flexible minds that are capable of constant learning.

3. Employees like Money – It’s Not Rocket Science.

Knowing that your first few hires will be taking on much more than their specified position entails, it is worth thinking seriously about their pay. According to ‘JobVite,  61% of job seekers see higher pay as a bigger draw toward a job than other factors, including location, flexibility and company mission, especially when they factor in the often heavy workload and instability of the company. Clarity on this last point needs to be addressed directly and as early as possible, reassuring new hires that they will be looked after should the worst happen.

4. Recruit in The Same Way You Work.

The transition from candidate to employee can be fraught, but to make it as seamless as possible, and to avoid giving your chosen candidate a nasty culture shock once they’re through the door. Your recruitment process should match the company culture. For example, if online processes are an integral part of your business, they should be a part of your recruitment strategy. Recruitee.com have some great tips for integrating digital innovations into the recruitment process. Closely matching your recruitment technique to your company’s culture also allows you to see how well candidates will respond to, and integrate with the current working order of things – it may also give you the opportunity to receive feedback and opinions for improvement.

5.  Always be Looking

50% of employees see their current position as a placeholder and job satisfaction is no longer a guarantee of employee loyalty, therefore, it is impossible to know whether your current employees are planning to remain with the company. This does not mean that you should be hiring continuously, rather you should be making connections within your industry, reaching out to potential candidates and keeping them informed about future possibilities, so that they are primed and ready to commit, should the opportunity become available. Bas Kohnke, co-founder at Impraise says:

 “It can take a great deal of time to find the right candidates once you need them, so make sure you start looking for new talent way ahead. Developers especially can be hard to find, so ideally keep a watch list of talent that you can approach later.”

Whilst putting so much thought into a start-up recruitment campaign may seem daunting, these steps are the foundation of the recruitment process which will stay with the company throughout its growth and expansion. Even when you have grown to the point where you can justify an HR department, these guidelines can still be used to hire the best talent for your business.

‘Proposition Q’ and CSR: We’re Better Than This

This week a story I saw in The Guardian, TechCrunch and others really fired up my jets. Basically a few highly influential tech entrepreneurs and investors are funding a proposal that gives SFPD the power to remove homeless tents from the sidewalks of SanFrancisco. Officially called ‘Proposition Q’, to date it has principally been funded by Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital), Ron Conway (a tech Angel Investor), William Oberndorf (SPO Partners) and Zachary Bogue (Mr Marisa Mayer) who between them have donated more than $150,000 to the Proposition Q campaign (the majority of the current $270,000 campaign fund).

Proposition Q is being sold as an attempt to help the homeless, but in reality they just want to hide the problem: the visible evidence of homelessness. It doesn’t address the issue of homelessness, nor does it provide any alternative accommodation for those who have the only shelter available to them, forcibly taken. There has to be a better way of dealing with the problem than this.

Entrepreneurial Responsibility 

It’s great that these individuals want to do something about an issue that is on their doorstep. Personally, I believe that it’s really important for Entrepreneurs (well all individuals, really) to support causes that are close to their hearts. For example, I am actively involved in the UAE with a charity that rescues abandoned cats and ensures they are cared for and re-homed.

At the other end of the spectrum, high profile tech entrepreneurs and UHNW individuals – Zuckerberg; Gates; Buffett – are committing large amounts to solving some huge social, environmental, education and medical issues. Consider the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which offers grants to causes who apply and has a website full of great statements, such as

We believe that by giving people the tools to lead healthy, productive lives, we can help them lift themselves out of poverty.”

In contrast to spending money to hide a problem, The Gates Foundation works to address the root causes and find sustainable solutions to the problems facing some of the most disadvantaged groups and locations.

The guys funding Proposition Q should be ashamed of themselves. They are not funding a coherent plan to help the homeless, they’re just removing the only shelter they have in a massively insensitive way. Entrepreneurs, especially those who are successful on the scale of Moritz (net worth $3.1bn), have a responsibility to deliver on their platitudes that they want to “make the world a better place”. Homelessness has long been an issue in San Francisco, so why can’t these guys work together with the other Silicon Valley heroes and use their technology and influence to incentivise, fund, sponsor or create shelters and programs that provide a step to permanent accommodation for homeless individuals? I’m thinking along the lines of an X Prize  – get some great entrepreneurial minds to address the root causes of the problem, rather than attempting to hide the evidence of a broken system out of view. In this connected world, if we have the means, we should all work together for the greater good.

CSR = Win Win

In addition to the greater social benefit that CSR provides to the world at large, it also has an extremely positive impact on brand image, making you more appealing to investors and boosting the morale of both employees and stakeholders. The three main wins for enterprises generated by developing socially responsible practices are:

 

1. Morale & Recruitment

Employees want to feel like they are part of something more than a profit-turning machine, and a socially responsible company attracts higher standard of candidates when it comes to recruitment, as well as improving the morale of both existing employees and managements – the feeling of making the world a better place can work wonders for motivation.

2. Cost Saving

Committing to improving your companies’ stance on environment causes, such as cutting down on paper usage, waste or increasing recycling can help businesses – by reducing overheads.

3. Brand Value

Social entrepreneurship is important in the modern climate – especially when the general public – also known as your customers and clients – are becoming more and more socially aware and starting to base their decisions on charitable and socially responsible actions made by companies. Socially responsible companies are a more favourable option for cause-conscious consumers.

I’m reminded of a Steve Jobs Quote:

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them the tools they’ll do wonderful things with them”

In an increasingly socially aware world it’s time for all of us to take responsibility for our actions and make smarter choices.

Apple And The Innovation Paradox

I noticed that the recent batch of updates and launches from Apple have been met with more muted applause in the media than in previous years. I admit I was also initially underwhelmed by what they announced. Among the shiny new hardware (that looks almost exactly the same as the shiny old hardware) the updates seemed pretty trivial. Removal of the headphone jack; improved AI (Siri) capability; more emoji’s ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; faster processor speeds; better cameras; waterproofing  and GPS-ing the Apple Watch (why didn’t they do this when they launched it?). They don’t really set the heart racing, until you take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Headphone Jack-gate

The biggest controversy was the removal of headphone jack – paving the way for wireless earbuds, the (instal-lose) Airpods. This is a long overdue move – there are now many other branded wireless headphones on the market and Apple have a history of getting in when the time is right and they can own it . Nilay Patel, for The Verge, says;

“Removing the headphone jack is an act of pure confidence from Apple, which is the only company in tech that can set off a sea changes in the industry by aggressively dropping various technologies from its products” 

But as they are also accelerating the rollout of Apple Pay, this move is also a big block to the current batch of plug-in contactless payment devices, from the likes of iZettle; Square, etc. A shrewd strategic move as this immediately grabs market share and provides an additional layer of protection for Apple Pay.

Siri-ously

Siri, the iPhone’s AI and personal assistant can now communicate with other apps. You can now ask her to book you an Uber, WhatsApp your missus and find a decent restaurant for your date night. I called this back in the summer in a post about the how brands were ramping up their AI development and the opportunity for consumers. This just Apple setting out their stall and ensuring app developers and brands develop into their ecosystem. Strategically, another strong move.

iMessage update & Emoji-plus

Whilst this may seem underwhelming, to say the least, there are logical reasons behind competing against standalone messaging apps and keep iMessage relevant. They are consolidating their use of their message tool, developing new features to appeal to the Snapchat generation.

But where was the innovation?

Lets flip this around: why do they need to? They own the premium handset market globally with a devices that arguably have the best hardware and software design. If it ain’t broke…

They’ve upgraded the processors in the iPhone 7 and added market-beating camera technology. They’ve done enough to keep themselves on top. Innovation isn’t need when the product is right – why take a big risk now when they don’t need to. Is this necessarily a good thing for the consumer, though? Marketing guru Seth Godin says

“The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.”

I think this is partly true with the iPhone, they don’t yet need to find a new path. However a company the size of Apple has the resources to research and develop big, innovative leaps in tech. We need to see more of this. There have been discussions for some time around Apple’s entry into new product markets. Cars and TV’s have been rumoured to be getting the Apple treatment (though they’re clearly having a re-think about the former if they’re laying off a bunch of the Project Titan team). I’d like to see them betting a bit bigger on some of these, and other, tech projects. The risk of not doing this is that they are more likely to miss out on the next big feature that’ll take their business to the next level.

My verdict – Apple have done just enough for now to keep their smartphone hardware and software at the top of the market, and delivered some strategically important updates to protect their proprietary features. This time next year I hope to be talking about how the iPhone 8 also doubles as a hoverboard.

151020-hover

IFA Berlin – Why Crazy Tech Is Great News For Everyone

I love Berlin – it’s got a rich history, gothic charm and baroque tradition; and, as one of Europe’s top tech startup hubs, also has it’s eyes firmly fixed on the future. It’s architecture is a mash-up of new and old with a strong creative edge. It is therefore somewhat fitting that this week ,rolling into Berlin, came the IFA Global Innovations Show, which heralded a slew of new, risky and innovative tech from some of the world’s leading consumer brands.

 

Innovation (However Left-field And Crazy) Should Be Encouraged

What I found exciting about this year’s batch of IFA product announcements was a return to pushing the boundaries of what is expected from new technology. Stepping away from “conventional” tech, some brands – Lenovo, Acer, HP – are taking risks with their products, both to stand out from competitors and also to engage their consumers. By way of comparison, Wednesday’s Apple event – announcing the iPhone 7’s and Apple Watch 2 (plus a Pokemon app and some insta-lose ‘Airpods’…) – seemed like a bit of a snooze-fest in comparison. Slimmer, lighter, whatever!

A particular highlight for me was a new laptop from ACER. They seem to have listened to their niche gamer audience and announced one of the talking points of the show with their Predator 21 X laptop – a step into the future of gaming and full of design quirks: fully customisable mechanical keyboard, customisable backlight settings per key (!), built-in wrist supports, a curved screen and clamshell case… It’s a product unashamedly for the hardcore gamer. At an unwieldy 8kg it is also not for the faint hearted, but the sheer amount of tech inside makes it both ludicrous and groundbreaking, both in it’s field and if you were to drop it!

Likewise the Lenovo Yoga Book with its innovative halo keyboard and built in stylus, 3-axis hinge, lightweight design and beautiful aesthetic means has marked it as true original in a market full of Macbook-a-likes. The ‘Halo’ keyboard alone makes this a product miles ahead of the competition. Essentially this is a laptop with two screens, that can utilised as a tablet, laptop and an artists pad all in one. A true leap into the future.

 

Elsewhere, we have the HP Pavilion Wave, which has a dual functionality as a high-end Desktop computer tower and a speaker unit. Utilising a unique textile approach, the entire device is wrapped in a lush fabric coat. Where the dressing adds nothing to the tech, it certainly lends the whole package a pretty design quirk, and stands it out from the crowd.

Finally, the Botvac Connected from Neato is a nifty innovation in vacuuming that is internet connected, can laser scan a room to map its path and route and has a handy homing beacon and “find me” function if it gets lost around the house (yes, really) that be activated via your smartphone. You can also plot its routine and course on your smartphone via the app. Add a GoPro and you could have hours of fun chasing your cat around the house.

 

It’s A Core Principle Of Entrepreneurial Enterprise To Test And Learn

It’s great to hear how some consumer brands are taking risks. It’s important for product innovation and for consumers. It’s a return to the test and learn, risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit that has been largely missing from the Samsung and Apple tit-for-tat product launches. Having over-engineered gaming laptops and a robot hoover with a location beacon gives me hope that manufacturers will once again push the envelope and deliver innovative new products.

Even in the face of fashionable trends and common sense amongst your peers – a daring new product can make your company for the next ten years – or end you in a heartbeat, and this is what innovation is all about.

In an earlier blog post I spoke about how it’s more important to listen your customers rather than your competitors. When developing my own services and brand, I made the conscious decision to stop watching my competitor’s every move to make sure that I was in line with them. I can see why people would ask how I could be sure that my business was relevant, if I didn’t know what my competitors were doing. To be honest, I didn’t know whether my products were on par with those of my biggest rivals, what I did know was that my products matched what my customers wanted and answered their needs.

More brands need to push the envelope with risky innovations, give their customers the excitement of trying new tech and listen to the feedback. It’s great that leading brands are taking these risk with design, aesthetic and the expectation of their consumer base – this variety of product, of design and of idea is good for the companies, the consumer and – most importantly – keeping the field interesting and moving forwards. The only way we’ll get to the future is by taking the big risks to get there.

What new tech is getting you excited? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital

5 Legal Tips That Can Save Your Startup

Startup entrepreneurs are rarely legal experts and as a result there is an inherent risk that the smallest contractual loophole or badly written IP clause can expose their entire enterprise. This was (and continues to be) perfectly demonstrated in popular TV show Silicon Valley, where cheap lawyers and poorly constructed contracts cause never-ending problems for the Pied Piper guys . Though obviously for comedic effect, it’s not so funny in the real world and this made me think about my own experiences leading up to, and during, the sale of E-Tale. For the small percentage of startups that successfully navigate the early years and scale to the point of sale, organising your legal documents in advance will save you a lot of time and stress  (and cost!) at the due-diligence stage.

 

5 things you can do now to get your legals on-point

1. Set up a ‘Deal Room’ 

Organising your documents in a tidy, cloud-based solution like Google Drive or Dropbox is a great way to start getting your house in order. It makes it easy to see what you’ve got, identify any gaps that need filling, and gives clarity when you come to reviewing and updating it all. The advantage of building out a ‘deal room’ early, is to avoid confusion later on in retrospectively trying to compile bundles of documents. Basically, when you begin looking for a buyer, or you’re approached about a buyout, you are hit with the realisation that you need to give the buyer access to ALL your contracts and legal documents. Storing these digitally would cut out a lot of manual search time, and you can update them easily. You can also share your confidential documents and data in real-time with the involved parties, whilst keeping them secure.

 

2. Don’t try to do legal documents on the cheap!

If you intend on selling your company, raising money or just want to have a well-run business, your legal docs need to be watertight! Downloading templates you find online puts you at high risk of getting it seriously wrong. I see them the same way as i see pre-built website themes – they look ok, but still require a lot of customisation to work to your specific requirements. The devil is in the detail. Some of the terms may not apply and you may not even be sure if it’s right for your business model. There is a reason people study law for years rather than just downloading generic templates and filling in the blanks. Try and work with a reputable law firm to create a template for your documents, contracts and shareholder agreements.

 

3. Get a standard commercial contract 

Come up with a great standard commercial contract in favour of your company. Every company should have a standard form contract when dealing with customers or clients. The paradox is, there really isn’t a “standard form contract,” as every contract can be tailored to be more favourable to one side or the other. The key is to start with YOUR form of contract, make sure it’s broad enough to cover all eventualities, and hope the other side doesn’t negotiate it too much. Your standard contract should outline all the key responsibilities undertaken by each employee, their conduct, as well as their stock options or salary. It should also highlight your company’s confidentiality and intellectual properties, along with any competition clauses, forbidding employees to discuss any of your companies details externally. Confidentiality is crucial to the success of your company and the protection of your USP

 

4. Chose a decent lawyer

If you have ever purchased a house you will know the quality and the services lawyer provide can vary wildly. Ideally you need a firm that is big enough to cope with complex scenarios and small enough to care about you. Meet them and get a feel for how proactive they will be. Cutting corners when choosing a legal representative may seem like a good idea to save a few hundred but can cost thousands in the long run, especially if they don’t have the level of expertise you require. Contact different lawyers, check out their portfolio of work, get recommendations from business associates and others that you trust. Think of it as a long-term relationship with someone – you need to know that you are compatible with them!

 

5. Get your employment contracts in order 

Startups often run into problems when they don’t maintain adequate employment documentation. You should prepare a core group of employment documents that each employee is required to sign. A starting list of employment documents for a new company would typically include Stock Option documents, confidentiality agreements and IP ownership clarity. There numerous examples of companies that almost tripped up over this – one of the biggest is Facebook and the confusion it caused around ownership with some of founding partners.

 

Don’t leave yourself contractually exposed – put these tips in place and you will avoid looking like Silicon Valley’s Gavin Belson, when you realise your employment contracts aren’t valid and you just lose a lawsuit you thought you were guaranteed to win…