The Startup Journey

1. Idea

  1. The first step in you journey is to find the right idea.
  2. Once you figured out what you want to do, research the market and the opportunities for growth.
  3. The next step is to validate your idea – test your assumptions
  4. Depending on the validation results – either continue in the same direction, or pivot (pivoting means changing your plan and focusing on different goals).

Consider signing a NDA with anyone with whom you share information about your company.

Legal work needed: NDA Get feedback from potential customers.

2. Come up with a name and product

Check whether your company name can be registered and trademarked. Make sure you do this in advance and not when it is too late.

Legal work needed: Get in touch with a trademark attorney to carry one the necessary checks on the availability of the trademarks you plan to register.

3. Register your domain

Make sure you own your domain rights.

4. Legal work needed: If the domain is owned by someone else, consider signing Assignment of Rights Agreement. Alternatively you can contest domain ownership.

  • Find co-founders if needed

If you work with co-founders, make sure you sign a Shareholders Agreement.

Legal work needed: Shareholder’s Agreement.

5. Set up your business structure

  1. Consider the most appropriate business structure. Have a look at our guide to compare the different options.
  2. Open a bank account.
  3. Make sure you research the sector and choose the best plan to match your business and legal needs.
  4. Accounting is crucial so hiring an accountant from the beginning is really useful.
  5. You may also need to register for VAT. Check this link for more information.

Legal work needed: Director’s Service Agreement; Consultation with a legal advisor as to the most appropriate legal structure for the business.

6. Determine the necessary finance / Make business plan

Besides your purely business needs, plan also a budget for legal expenses.

Legal work needed: Terms and Conditions for provision of services or sale of goods.

7. Protect your ideas – Intellectual Property Protection

  1. Patents – if you have an invention consider registering a patent
  2. Trademark – protect your company’s logo and name
  3. Copyright – your original content automatically qualifies as copyright protected
  4. Design – protect your design rights

Legal work needed. Consider signing a Copyright Assignment Agreement. Trademark your name and logo. Consult a trademark attorney. Also consider whether you want to register a national or European trademark. Patent registration. Consultation with an IP lawyer.

8. Build MVP

If some or all of the work is carried out by external workforce (be it freelancers or consultants), make sure you sign Assignment Agreements and that your are the owner of all IP that is created during the assignment.

Patent your invention – if your product is innovative and patentable, you can benefit greatly from registering it as a patent.
Website – If you’re tech startup, your MVP will likely be your website/app.

If you are a hardware business, you will likely still build a website.

Legal work needed: Web pack.

9. Start operating / selling

In order to start selling your products or services to the public, you need to have Terms and Conditions for Sale, in case you do not negotiate every single contract separately. If you sell to large numbers of consumers, T&Cs are the best way to protect both your business and your customers.

Legal work needed: Terms and Conditions for Sale of Goods and/or Provision of Services.

  1. Measure response and learn from it

Adapt all your contracts to the changes you’ve made.

Legal work needed: Periodical consultations with a lawyer to review your contracts.

10. Attract investment if needed

Consider consulting a legal adviser on the legal implications of attracting funding.

Make sure you comply with all legal requirements before applying for funding. If based in the UK, consider the SEIS and EIS schemes, which provide tax incentives for investors. If you are eligible for either scheme, you increase your chances of attracting investment.

Legal work needed: Consult a lawyer specialised in investment issues. SEIS and EIS scheme preparation and application. Consult a lawyer to perform due diligence.

11. Build your workforce

You need to sign Employment Contracts with all your employees. As an employer, you have a number or responsibilities and requirements you need to meet in order not to get sanctioned. You also need agreements with people who are not employed on full-time basis, such as consultants and freelancers.

Legal work needed: Employment contracts, Consultancy agreements and Staff Handbook

12. Build your working space

Renting office space is related to signing Lease Agreements. You will also most probably need to use the services of a surveyor. Purchase equipment

You can benefit from certain VAT and tax returns of the items you buy for work. Make sure you discuss this with your accountant in order to benefit.

Legal work needed: Drafting and/or review of lease agreements.

13. Find partners

When discussing your ideas or business model, make sure you sign NDAs. Also make sure you formalise your partnership by signing a Partnership Agreement.

Legal work needed: Partnership agreements.
14. Scale

Your business is growing. Consider expanding to new countries or worldwide, or do an IPO.

Legal Work needed: Lawyer consultation.

15. Exit

There are a number of exit options for a startup. They all require compliant legal framework as well as careful due diligence procedures to be executed. Exit options include acquisitions, Mergers, sale of all or part of your shares of the company to a new owner (investor).

Legal work needed: Overall legal compliance, as well as due diligence – consult a law firm.