It is essential for start-up companies to properly characterize their service providers who are individuals (i.e., natural persons) as either employees or independent contractors (i.e., consultants). Among other matters, a company is required to pay payroll taxes and comply with minimum wage and hour laws for its California-based employees but not its contractors.
Starting a company has many challenges—the biggest being how to attract top talent when you are cash-strapped. Many companies solve this by offering equity for services.
On April 5, 2012, President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (aka the JOBS Act), which included the cleverly titled Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure Act, or "CROWDFUND Act." The CROWDFUND Act established a securities law exemption (codified at Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act) allowing startups to raise funds under conditions that would have previously been considered a general solicitation.
There is no required minimum or maximum number of shares by law that must be issued to founders or reserved in the equity incentive (stock option) pool in a startup. Of course, what does matter is the percentage of the company each individual stockholding represents. A startup may issue 100 shares or 100 million shares at formation, and 50 shares in the former or 50 million shares in the latter still represents 50% of the equity of the startup. A typical equity pool is between 10% and 20% of the total number of shares issued and reserved for issuance.
Perhaps few times for an emerging growth company present more risk than the transition of a founder/CEO to "employee" status. This often happens later in the startup life cycle, when a company has funding and/or sales traction. The difference between a smooth and rocky transition can represent the difference between success and failure of the company.
If there are two or more founders in a startup, an important consideration regarding the initial issuance of equity to the team is vesting of the founders' equity.
It is important for founders and IP owners to be wary of the practice derogatorily referred to as “patent trolling.” This practice occurs when a company that has a patent right, either through development or acquisition, enforces those rights against other businesses in an opportunistic manner and typically without any intention to practice, manufacture or market the patented invention.
When writing your business plan, stay clear, concise and succinct. Follow these three simple guidelines to better make your point to your intended audience.
1. Cut pretense - and acronyms.
2. State your point in the first sentence.
3. Use easy to read formatting.
Raising capital for a new startup can be a daunting task for the founders. There are several types of investors and capital sources for startup projects, including friends and family members, angel investors (high net worth individuals), venture capital funds, corporate/strategic investors, and government grants. Each of these capital sources has different investment criteria and expectations.
To engage potential and current consumers in today's evolving online environment, it is necessary to build a web presence that communicates your company's message and vision in a compelling and effective way. Social media outlets, such as Twitter and other online relationship building tools, can help you develop a bond with your target audience that is built on mutual engagement.