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As a lawyer by trade, it would be remiss of me not to mention that the below is my personal view as a new founder and shouldn’t be considered legal advice….luckily, that is where the legalese ends!
As much as my prior experience has given me a healthy appreciation of ‘risk management’, it is that very instinct that has also deterred me from starting this journey much earlier on in life and moving past that mindset of always thinking about ‘what can go wrong’?!
Don’t be mistaken-
I think it’s important to be a grounded optimist, but it’s a balancing act, otherwise you end up grounding yourself, before giving any idea the room to grow.
Here are a few lessons that I have learnt along the way and hopefully it will help you find that balance in the early days of your entrepreneurship journey:
1. Your idea
You can get so tied up with trying to protect your idea, that it never gets past being that: a thought. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the jargon around trademarks, NDAs, patents, copyright; that it becomes all too hard. My experience is that ideas and thoughts need space to grow, which means sharing them and getting opinions and insights from others to refine them and make them real. It is the point where your idea becomes an identifiable product or service, that you can actually give it the right protections.
2. Setting up the ‘business’
I wish someone had told me earlier not to anguish over what business name to adopt or how best to structure the business (on day one!) The reality is, you cannot plan for all eventualities and whilst there are legal protections, rights and obligations that are important to understand with the different legal structures, it doesn’t add value to the equation when cultivating an idea into a business proposition. Unless there are significant investments and development costs, assets you want to protect or tax efficiencies that you want to benefit from, it’s probably better just to get started and really develop and test your idea, before wasting a lot of time, energies and potentially £££, trying to establish the perfect business, with the perfect name and business structure.
3. Documenting roles and responsibilities
This is one area where I feel proper consideration, time and effort will pay dividends, where there is more than just you in the business. Having recently experienced the negotiation of a founders’ agreement (for which many templates are freely available online!), I found it an invaluable tool, to enable the difficult conversations and to help me really understand the commitment and interests of who I was looking to work with. Beyond the legal jargon, it really helped me understand the potential co-founder and their aspirations, including the role they wanted to play, what responsibilities they were willing to take on and their expectations.
I hope these thoughts will help bring down some barriers to making your idea a reality and to borrow a quote from the late Steve Jobs:
“Ideas without action aren’t ideas. They’re regrets.”
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Amanda is an active member of Auxilia- a group of women, passionate about increasing funding to Female founders. She is the Founder of Pendulum Atelier Ltd, an experienced compliance and risk management consultant and a financial services lawyer.