Legal Documents for Startups

Legal Documents for Startups

Out of all the risks that entrepreneurs take, perhaps the biggest is failing to establish a solid legal foundation for their startup. Legal documents for startups include protecting a startup’s inventions, or the rules which define each leader’s position in the company. Without them, the startup is no more reputable or organized than a scam.

Don’t make that same mistake. Start with the most important legal documents for the formation of your business. You may just avoid several headaches down the line.

Here are a few legal documents to get you started.

 

Articles of Incorporation

One of the first legal documents a startup has to concern itself with is the articles of incorporation. Although entrepreneurs have the option of foregoing incorporation in favor of sole proprietorship, this usually results in some major tax consequences later on. Incorporation is also ideal if you plan on attracting outside funding in the future.

Each state has their own unique laws regarding incorporation. For example, in Illinois, incorporation must involve a registered agent and include certain abbreviations.

 

Intellectual Property (IP) Assignment Agreement

Have you ever seen Shark Tank? The most commonly asked questions on the popular startup funding show almost always have to do with intellectual property. These IPs typically include software licenses, invention patents, secret recipes, and other proprietary knowledge. IP assignment agreements ensure the company has the sole rights over the intellectual property.

For instance, you may hire a graphic designer to create your brand’s first logo and other branding material. But without an IP assignment agreement, they may be able to walk away with the rights to that material- even if you paid them! Make sure any technology, design, or information unique to your brand has a corresponding IP assignment agreement to avoid any future disputes.

Pandadoc has an example of what an IP assignment agreement looks like here.

 

Founder’s Agreement

Also known as an operating agreement, this document prevents any sort of disagreement between the founding parties and co-founders. This document sets out to define the basic roles, rights, and responsibilities that each of the founders have in relation to the company.

Starting out, agreements may be informal and spoken, but without having them in writing, conflict can quickly arise. Arguments may break out, but without any evidence, it essentially becomes one person’s word over another. Protect everyone involved by hashing out the initial founder’s agreement early on.

 

Bylaws

Similar to the Founder’s Agreement, bylaws dictate the business’s internal rules, leadership roles, and shareholders’ rights. Bylaws also clarify the voting requirements for introducing new laws, electing new board members, or raising topics for discussion.

 

Nondisclosure Agreements (NDA)

An NDA is a contract signed by individuals protecting confidential information in your startup. For example, startups may ask contractors to sign NDAs when they are shown an unreleased or unannounced product, or when a vendor is asked to review a marketing plan for the following year.

NDAs typically define:

  • The information considered confidential or not for disclosure
  • The manner in which confidential information is meant to be handled
  • The owner of the information
  • The time period for confidentiality

 

Employee contracts and offer letters

Companies that plan on hiring new employees need to have clear documentation on the nature of the business relationship. Employment contracts and offer letters clearly communicate the following:

  • Compensation
  • Responsibilities (from daily tasks and monthly goals)
  • Ownership of IP (graphics/ written content)
  • Best practices/ expectations (how one is supposed to conduct their job)
  • Company policies (working hours, dress code, office conduct)

 

Shareholder agreements

Shareholder agreements define how among shareholders how a company should be operated as well as shareholder rights and duties. It ensures shareholders are protected.

Creating a startup and seeing it to fruition can be one of the most rewarding feelings. But far too often, entrepreneurs and founders forget to take basic but important steps in protecting their future. As a result, competitors manage to steal proprietary software, founders bicker over profits, and new hires may cost the business a fortune.

Take the long route and seek professional counsel. It may seem tedious, and even overwhelming at first. That’s natural. But by establishing these six legal documents at the onset of your startup, you can safeguard your business from years worth of financial and legal chaos. In fact, these initial steps can make all the difference between an amateur startup and a long-lasting business.

What is a unicorn startup?

What is a unicorn startup?

You may have heard the term “unicorn startup” thrown around by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, or business publications. It’s been used to refer to companies like Snapchat and Uber. But what exactly does it mean? How does a unicorn startup differ from a traditional startup?

 

What is a Unicorn Startup?

The phrase was first used by Aileen Lee, a venture capital investor and founder of Cowboy Ventures. Back in 2013, Lee referred to 39 startups as “unicorns”, since they were valued at more than $1 billion, a rare occurrence in the industry.

Today, the definition remains the same: a unicorns startup is any privately held startup company with a valuation of more than $1 billion. The only thing that has changed is the rapid growth in the number of unicorns.

 

Traits of a Unicorn Company

Innovators – Unicorn companies are seismic industry shifts, not passing fads. They represent a complete disruption in the industry and a radical new technology or service. For example, SpaceX has revolutionized reusable rockets for space exploration, while DoorDash has simplified mobile food ordering.

B2C – Most unicorn companies tend to be consumer-facing. According to Visual Capitalist, 62% of unicorns are B2C. One startup called Robinhood, for example, makes it easier for average consumers to invest in popular stocks.

Privately held – Unicorns are usually for-profit and privately held. Their funding and valuation come from investors and private stakeholders.

Tech-based – Unicorns are almost always software companies, with a small few being hardware or traditional goods and services. There are a few exceptions, like popular streetwear clothing company Supreme (valued at $1 billion).

 

Unicorn company statistics

 

How many unicorn companies are there in 2019?

Based on estimates by CB Insights, there are a total of 348 unicorn companies in 2019, with a total cumulative valuation of $1.16 trillion.

 

Where are unicorn companies mostly located?

55% of unicorns are found in the United States, 25% are in China, while the rest are found in UK (5%), India (5%), and Germany (4%).

 

What is the average founding team size?

Unicorn startups often accomplish big things with small teams. 35% of founding teams had two members. The second most popular team size was one.

 

How long does it take for a company to become a unicorn?

On average, it takes about 5 years to reach $1 billion or more.

For more unicorn company statistics, check out this infographic from the FounderKit blog.

 

Examples of unicorn startups

Uber – Uber is perhaps the most popular and most successful American unicorn. Now valued at $72 billion, the company was one of the first to popularize the ridesharing model.

Toutiao (ByteDance) – ByteDance offers content platforms powered by AI technology, and is used for TikTok, Vigo, TopBuzz and more. It is currently the most valuable unicorn at $75 billion.

Airbnb – Just as Uber revolutionized ridesharing, Airbnb has transformed the hotel industry by allowing ordinary homeowners to rent out their space to guests. It is valued at $29.3 billion.

Stripe – Stripe allows merchants to accept credit cards or other online payments. Most importantly, they ensure financial transactions remain secure. Stripe is currently worth $22.5 billion.

SpaceX – Elon Musk is perhaps most well known for his Tesla line of cars, but SpaceX has gained steady recognition as the world’s most innovative spacecraft manufacturer. They are valued at $18.5 billion.

Epic Games – Epic Games is most well known for their video games Gears of War and Fortnite, but they also developed the Unreal Engine, software used to design and create popular video games today. Epic is worth at least $15 billion.

Slack Technologies – Slack has become a staple in office and team communication, even replacing regular email communications. The instant messaging business is worth $7.1 billion.

Vice Media – A global youth media company, Vice specializes in highlighting modern culture, news, and technology. Vice Media is worth $5.7 billion.

 

The Path to Unicorn

While many founders would like to establish a unicorn startup, the reality is that it is much more difficult and rare than people would like to believe. Not only do you need the right idea and mindset, but they also require the proper resources and timing. It’s equal parts luck, hard work, and originality.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try anyway! All the largest unicorns had humble beginnings and major ambition. Airbnb started when a group of friends rented an apartment out to visitors.

 

Want to get more news, tips or guides for the entrepreneurial world? Visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.

Starting a Business From the Ground Up

Starting a Business From the Ground Up

Getting off the ground

One of the most common concerns we’ve heard from students, aspiring entrepreneurs, and other professionals goes something like this:

“I want to start my own business, but I don’t know what to do.”

Or:

“What type of business should I start?”

We completely understand. At Novel Coworking, we’ve worked with a variety of different businesses, from tech to healthcare, startups to enterprises. Starting a business can seem like a daunting undertaking, and in many ways it is. But nothing seems more overwhelming than deciding on an initial business idea.

Why you need a business idea

Every business starts with a single idea. Even if you don’t have any employees, office space, or money, you cannot run a business without a good idea.

Consider this Twitter account, nomoneynoideas, who intended to write about his experience starting a business without any money or ideas. The account and website lasted about two months, before activity ceased completely.

You must start with an idea. Otherwise, you may end up working hours on countless tasks without any real idea of what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Entrepreneurs will always experience risk, but you have to find ways to mitigate it as much as possible.

Brainstorming business ideas

There are a few ways to go about this:

 

Find a problem to solve.

Maybe you don’t like how energy bars are branded. Or perhaps you want to create a more efficient way to travel. Rachael Chong was inspired to start Catchafire after a volunteering experience in which she was not able to utilize her financial skills.

 

Stay ahead of the industry.

Notice a new trend or technology taking off? Why not explore its capabilities and potential? Some of the strongest businesses today, like Cisco and Amazon, saw the cloud revolution and have organized their business to deliver on that front.

 

Create a better, cheaper product.

Not everything needs to be reinvented. Sometimes, you just need to take a product, put your own spin on it, or cut out some of the most costly steps. Skullcandy is known for making affordable, highly stylized headphones, but is by no means the first to invent the product.

These are just a few ways to get started. Check out Entrepreneur’s other suggestions, from asking shoppers to innovating in a stagnant field.

 

Developing business ideas

An idea is only the first step. The question becomes- how does one develop a business idea? Once you find a problem and come up with a solution, or once you find a unique niche to operate in, what comes next?

 

The importance of industry knowledge

It’s best to get in touch with professionals in your network- industry experts, mentors, professors, and other business owners. Especially if you’ve never started a business before, there’s only so much you can do with an idea. You need some feedback and guidance to bring it to life.

Contact these individuals on LinkedIn, Facebook, or at local networking events. You may even want to network in your own office or coworking space. Don’t just explain what you plan on doing, offer your help first. Business partnerships begin with the help you can offer others.

 

Set up a business plan and a timeline

What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? Two things: a plan and a timeline. Create a system of organization for clarifying your idea, the steps you will take to achieve it, and the deadlines and milestones to shoot toward.

Some initial things you’ll need to consider in your plan:

A description of your company
An analysis of the market
Your organization and management
Cost structures and revenue streams

To learn more about writing your own business plan, check out a few pointers and examples from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

 

Examples of successful business ideas

Digital Photo Mentor
Photography can be deceptively difficult. Some people think it’s as simple as pointing and shooting, but in reality, their photos always lack something. Few people understand this like Darlene Hildebrandt. She helps people learn how to use the camera, troubleshoot their problems, and reach the next phase in their photography career through workshops and photography tours.

ProBlogger
Darren Rowse read an article about blogging, and within 24 hours had decided to start his own personal blog. Over the next few years, his blog would explode in popularity, from hobby to a major business platform. Today, ProBlogger has offered invaluable resources for people looking to start making money through blogging.

Starting a business seems tough and complicated, but coming up with an idea to work on isn’t something that should turn you away. An idea is just the beginning- the initial spark or footstep. It’s by no means the final product. Even the best businesses today are nothing like their founders intended. They changed paths, narrowed their focus, or grew beyond that starting point.

 

Want to learn more about starting and running your own business? Visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.

5 Inspiring Books for Female Entrepreneurs

5 Inspiring Books for Female Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be daunting and there are endless learning opportunities involved with being the boss. Luckily, there are plenty of books, podcasts, and workshops to help entrepreneurs build their brand and reach their potential. But what about the unique challenges facing women in leadership positions?

Reading about successful women and their stories of triumph can help empower future leaders to pursue their goals. In this week’s blog post, Novel Coworking provides a list of inspiring stories by women who have paved the way in business and entrepreneurship. Here are 5 books by women that can take any business to the next level.

 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert may be best known for her novel Eat, Pray, Love, but in her latest book about personal growth, she explores how creative types can find their muse. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is perfect for the entrepreneur who is grappling with the realities of being a creator, producing quality work, and the fear of inadequacy. Get a preview of the book by viewing Gilbert’s TEDTalk in which she shares her own experiences and creative challenges.

 

Girl Code: Unlocking Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba

It’s no secret that female entrepreneurs are making waves, but Cara Alwill Leyba’s book Girl Code explores what powerful transformations can occur when women collaborate. She writes, “I’m convinced that there’s no reason to hoard information, connections, or insight. Wisdom is meant to be shared, so let’s start sharing what we’ve learned to make each other better. Let’s start building each other up. Let’s live up to our potential and start ruling the world.”

 

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Last year, Shonda Rhimes was named the highest-paid showrunner on television and she may be most commonly known for creating hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. In her memoir, Rhimes gives an honest portrayal of how she attained personal growth while saying yes to the things that scared her for an entire year. Read her journey of empowerment and self-love in Year of Yes.

“I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland.” – Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes

 

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

The NY Times bestselling how-to guide provides inspiration, insights, and humor for female entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid of strong language. Chapters such as “Fear is for Suckers” and “I Know You Are But What Am I?” are perfect for helping savvy business women reach their career goals. Read You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero to learn how to reach your full potential and have some fun in the process.

“The only failure is quitting. Everything else is just gathering information.” – Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass

 

This Is How We Rise: Reach Your Highest Potential, Empower Women, Lead Change in the World by Claudia Chan

Leadership expert and social entrepreneur Claudia Chan breaks down why people of all genders should work together for social change and follow a mission that’s bigger than personal success. In This is How We Rise, Chan advocates for entrepreneurs to become change makers while sharing insights from her own life. She also offers a blueprint that will help female entrepreneurs develop their purpose and start building a different world.

 

For more wisdom from female entrepreneurs, check out Novel Coworking’s previous blog post in which we share 5 Inspirational Quotes from Successful Women Entrepreneurs.

Dying to write your own entrepreneurial book? Check out Novel Client Holon Publishing, a book publishing company that works with brands and authors around the world to craft beautiful digital and printed media.

Follow Novel Coworking‘s blog for more resources for entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Business

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Business

As a society, we tend to fixate on each individual’s intelligence, showing off IQ numbers like scores on a final exam. But there is another, perhaps more accurate indicator of one’s success, particularly in business: emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), also known as emotional intelligence (EI).

 

What is Emotional Quotient (EQ)?

While IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is a standardized score that measures human intelligence, EQ measures:

  1. How well each individual can identify and understand different emotions (in the self and others)
  2. How one can best manage and control certain feelings and emotions
  3. How to use emotional information to lead, adapt, or affect certain situations for the optimal outcome.

Emotional quotient is less about knowing facts and statistics, or about keeping up with current news. Instead, EQ is all about our understanding emotion, the various ways it presents itself, and how it can be used as an important tool to achieve one’s goals.

 

Why is emotional intelligence important for success?

Everyone has their own image of what success means for them. For some startups, it might be national or international recognition after staying independent for so long. For entrepreneurs, it could be the satisfaction of introducing a unique solution to a market problem or just the sense of creating a coherent, well-supported team.

Although intelligence and high IQ are ingrained into our society’s mindset as the ultimate keys to success, for many personal and professional goals, emotional intelligence is a far more valuable asset. Here’s why:

  1. Emotional intelligence helps forge strong relationships. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s not always about what you know, but who you know. Even if your agency is only a year old and has very few experts on the team, you still have a major advantage over other startups if you have solid connections to clients, partners, mentors, and other people that can help. These relationships aren’t built on IQ, but an understanding of each other’s emotional habits and personality.
  2. Emotional intelligence affects your physical and mental wellness. Emotions aren’t just how we feel, they tend to manifest themselves both physically in our body and in our minds. When we’re frustrated and stressed out, our body feels tense, and our mind is clouded in judgment. When we master our emotions, we can take control of any situation.
  3. Emotional intelligence can resolve disputes and conflicts. As much as we try to keep business professional, as long as humans are involved, it will always be an emotional ordeal. Ego, greed, jealousy, and other dangerous mentalities can sometimes take over.

When we approach problems with empathy and understanding, we’re in a better position to prevent arguments and conflicts in the workplace. Emotional intelligence is necessary in any leadership role.

 

EQ vs. IQ: The difference between emotional quotient and intelligence quotient

  1. Definition: IQ is a measure of intelligence. EQ measures one’s ability to identify, assess, and control emotions.
  2. Skills and Abilities: IQ measures how much one knows, and the application of knowledge in certain situations (like understanding math in accounting). EQ is the ability to recognize emotional reactions and understand how to best use emotional information in a given situation (such as negotiating a new deal).
  3. Application in business: IQ is useful in conducting research, analysis of large data sets, and objective tasks like managing finances. EQ is more subjective and involves human concerns, such as teamwork, leadership, and negotiation.
  4. Relevant traits: IQ emphasizes logic, knowledge, and memory. EQ emphasizes intuition, creativity, and empathy.
  5. Tests: IQ is often measured by the Mayer-Solvey-Caruso Test. EQ is measured by the Stanford-Binet test or the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities.

 

EQ or IQ: Which one is better?

With all this talk of EQ, one might get the idea that it’s substantially better or completely replaces IQ. That’s not the case. IQ still plays an important role in helping identify individuals who are able to use logic and reason to make vital decisions. But it’s not the only way to measure or evaluate one’s contributions. Think of EQ as the other side of the coin, or a different lens- it’s not necessarily better, it just evaluates completely different aspects of a person.

 

Can EQ be changed?

Absolutely. Just as we have learned to express ourselves in more nuanced ways since birth, we have also learned to analyze and interpret emotions in more detail. This skill is not something one is born with, it’s something that must be learned over time, through daily interactions, and through regular self-reflection. But first, people have to be open to the idea of improving their EQ.

 

Tips to work on your emotional intelligence

  1. Study your own emotions. If you want to get better at reading other people’s reactions and feelings, start with your own. Often, we aren’t aware of our feelings until they subside. Pay close attention to changes in your mood, and consider writing them in a journal or diary.
  2. Get some external feedback. As humans, we’re limited in our capacity for self-reflection. Sometimes, it’s just too difficult to accurately understand why we feel a certain way when we’re the ones experiencing it. Consider asking family, friends, mentors, or even professional counsel about your reactions and emotional states. You may find their feedback illuminating in your own progression.
  3. Analyze common triggers, patterns, and remedies. Over time, you’ll come to realize that certain personality types tend to follow emotional patterns, usually caused by common themes or concerns. Listen carefully to what others say, to how they behave, and you will soon be able to preemptively recognize similar patterns in other people’s behavior.
  4. Practice every day. Improving EQ is not a one-and-done deal. You need to work at it, making it a weekly priority. Consider reading The EQ Difference by Adele Lynn, Building Emotional Intelligence by Linda Lantieri, or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Check out Ramona Hacker’s TED Talk on improving emotional intelligence. Finally, apply these lessons in your own personal and professional life.
  5. Help others. The best way to put emotional intelligence into practice is to use your knowledge to help others. Find the team members struggling with their work and see if you can assist in any way. Empathy is at the core of EQ, and can only be truly demonstrated when you can help someone without getting something in return.

In a world where many of our communication is increasingly digitized and abbreviated for the Internet, true emotion can be difficult to identify and control. But the leaders who work on their EQ daily will find that they have more mastery and control over their situations than those who ignore EQ. How will you apply emotional intelligence in your business?

To learn more about becoming an effective entrepreneur or applying useful skills in the workplace, follow Novel Coworking’s blog today.

Social Entrepreneurship and Why It’s Important

Social Entrepreneurship and Why It’s Important

Businesses tend to be viewed as machines for money, serving only its stakeholders. But in recent years, there has been renewed interest in businesses that have greater motivations than profit. Whether it’s helping rebuild impoverished communities or preventing further deforestation, these companies are making a major difference in the world.

 

What is social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship refers to a start-up or entrepreneur that aims to use their resources to create good for society or the environment. PBS describes a social entrepreneur as “a person or entity that takes a business approach to effectively solving a social problem.” The Institute for Social Entrepreneurs considers social entrepreneurship the “art of simultaneously pursuing both a financial and a social return on investment (the double bottom line).”

While individual definitions may vary, the common thread is that it involves a business venture motivated by supporting social change.

 

Why is social entrepreneurship important?

 

For the betterment of society

Social entrepreneurship isn’t concerned about the stock value or market share. It’s about working towards solutions to important problems in society. Small and medium sized companies are uniquely positioned to support their local communities and make a large impact.

 

Millennial and Gen Z workforce prioritize CSR

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) are two of the largest generations in the global workforce. Since both generations were raised in the Internet age, they share a few similarities, such as digital literacy and a more progressive social view. In terms of career opportunities, both millennials and Gen Zers tend to revere companies with a sense of social responsibility.

 

Businesses have a responsibility

Speaking of social responsibility, it’s important to remember that keyword: responsibility. Businesses have an elite status within our society: they command significant capital, advertise in major metro areas, and even receive certain tax benefits. They’re also one of the major contributors to pollution. It seems only fair that businesses give back to the communities that support them, either through charitable donations or by allocating resources to social causes.

 

What are the responsibilities of a social enterprise?

Social enterprises have several unique responsibilities tied to their industry. For one, they must be transparent about the company’s practices and finances. It’s not in the best interest of the community or the business when a company that claims to be socially responsible uses all of its resources for generating more profit.

When the social enterprise’s goals involve a particular community (for example, the LGBTQ community or the Latin American community), it’s important to include representatives from that group and provide fair compensation for their contributions. Too often, a company may claim to know what’s best for others without properly consulting the people who are directly impacted.

Depending on the organization’s mission, social enterprises may be responsible for allocating resources towards community outreach and education. Just as brands need to advertise to bring awareness to a new product or services, social enterprises need to raise attention to the issues that society would rather ignore.

Finally, socially aware businesses need to pave the way for pay equity and fair hiring practices. Social equity should start within the company itself, and that means ensuring that employees are not only hired from diverse backgrounds, but that they are also treated fairly and provided with a safe work environment. Having policies in place to ensure all voices are heard and that employees are paid appropriately is especially important for companies that want to create lasting change.

 

The impact of social entrepreneurship on society

Social entrepreneurship has radically transformed the fabric of society and the national economy. Some companies have contributed to an improvement in infrastructure, funding for various organizations, or supplies for the underprivileged.

 

Successful social enterprise examples

Many of the entrepreneurs who are part of the Novel Coworking community work hard to have a positive social impact. Here are a few examples of brands that serve:

After-School All-Stars – Founded in 1992, After-School All-Stars provides comprehensive after-school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and life. Learn more about the programs they offer to over 90,000 kids nationwide by visiting their website.

Greenprint Partners – This green infrastructure delivery partner helps cities achieve high-impact, community-driven stormwater solutions at scale. Their community-first approach enables them to co-design each project with residents to revitalize neighborhoods, increase public health and safety, and create job opportunities. Visit their website to learn more.

AIDS Walk South Dallas – The mission of AIDS Walk South Dallas is to empower all persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS through prevention, advocacy, education, peer support, and access to care and emergency financial assistance.

Speech IRL – These clinicians, coaches, and creators, help individuals and businesses change they way they communicate. Their speech therapy and communication skills training focuses on achieving real-world changes. Learn more about their speech therapy and business services here.

 

Social entrepreneurs and start-ups will continue to provide an invaluable service. These companies have found a larger purpose, beyond money, that makes all their struggles in work worthwhile. Even traditional businesses and entrepreneurs can learn something about using their capital and resources towards selfless pursuits.

Learn about the other common types of entrepreneur.

Change can also be started within the company. Learn the difference between an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur.