In a series of articles published in partnership with MacDonnells Law, we talk to the firm's clients about solutions to business problems.
Solve a problem. Don’t assume anything. Ensure your IP and trademarks are in order. And get good legal advice.
Those are the top tips for entrepreneurs from a man who has seen just about every twist and turn of the startup journey over recent years. In his role as managing director of theSPACE, Troy Haines works closely with innovators and future tycoons to turn ideas into reality.
Two factors collide at theSPACE to make that happen. Bright sparks of inspiration are matched with the advice and expertise of professional firms. This meeting of the minds between experienced professionals and eager entrepreneurs at theSPACE is crucial to the success of startups and, indeed, the future economy of the Tropical North.
One such supporter of theSPACE is MacDonnells Law, a key contributor and participant since the very beginning.
Or as Troy likes to put it:
“The team at MacDonnells Law have been supporting theSPACE, our clients and more importantly the entire startup ecosystem before most people even understood what a startup was.”
“At theSPACE we’ve been learning around the concept of ‘turning ideas into reality’ for the past six years and early on we recognised the importance of having a support structure, an ‘ecosystem’ to support the development of not just our ideas, but the ideas of anyone who wants to join our community,” Troy told TropicNow.
“Having partners like MacDonnells Law has been the difference for theSPACE, and for a generation of new businesses in our region. They’ve helped so many people get started in business by investing in our community with their time and resources to ensure we all know what our legal obligations are in business.”
Troy has seen first-hand how business ideas can be derailed because certain legal bases weren’t covered.
“Startups need to ensure they have their legals in place early so they can get on with doing what they do best,” Troy said.
“MacDonnells Law has helped our clients with shareholder agreements, supplier agreements, contracts, non-disclosure agreements, IP registrations like trademarks and patents, MOU’s, service agreements, employment contracts, terms and conditions on websites, general legal advice and more that I’ve probably overlooked.
“Education is also a big one. Over the years, MacDonnells Law has supported entrepreneurs to get the advice they need through offering free 20-minute legal consultations over the phone to all members of theSPACE, presenting at events like Startup Weekends, being a presenter in key programs like our 8-week pre-accelerator programs. At other times they’ve had one of their team co-work at theSPACE and take meetings with members of the startup community.
“Whilst there has never been a better time to start a business, it’s still hard and there will be times when even the toughest entrepreneurs of us all will need support.
“Having the right advice up front and affordable solutions is as important as selling product.”
Troy’s top four tips for startups
1. Ensure that your idea or business actually solves a problem for your chosen customer. One of the classic mistakes we see entrepreneurs make is that they “build something that no one wants”. Be super clear on the problem that you are solving (your offering) and who you are solving that problem for (customer). If you are not solving a problem for someone or offering significant value then no-one will buy what you have. This seems simple, but it’s a mistake we see over and over again.
2. Another key mistake we see entrepreneurs make is that they build their business based on assumptions. What happens is they spend their resources (time, money and energy) getting all set up and then often when their resources are getting low they go out and try to figure out how to get customers to buy. In general, more often than not we get our offering wrong. It becomes hard to change our offering when we’ve invested our resources, so it’s important to get out and talk with your customers early and ask them to buy. This is what we support you with at theSPACE
3. When choosing a name for your business, do your due diligence to ensure you are not crossing any boundaries in using someone else’s IP. I’ve seen many times in business, entrepreneurs super-keen to get started, register a version of a domain name and business name, only to find out later that there is a trademark registration that prevents the entrepreneur from operating under that name. Trademarks trump everything and aren’t that expensive to secure. It will ensure you have the right to trade with the name you have chosen, plus block any other people from using it. It’s important to do this early on
4. Have the appropriate agreements in place. In working with others, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is an important tool initially to ensure everyone is on the same page. Non-disclosure agreements will ensure sensitive information isn’t compromised and shareholder agreements are as critical as selling product. It’s important to have your agreement with your partners documented early when everyone is on the same page, because things change, founders’ lives change and then everyone has a different recollection of what was agreed on. Getting the right documents sorted early is critical.
To find out how MacDonnells Law can help your startup and deliver solutions for business problems, click here.