Experience Series: Legal


This post is part of my Experience Series where I share opinions I have formed from building companies and running product. Each posting is a break down of a company function. This post focuses on legal specifically.

Standard disclaimer––These points are just my personal experience and the way I operate. It’s not intended to be a replacement for actual legal advice, nor does it represent any views but my own. I am not liable for the decisions you make.

If you are building out a company, register it and make it official. Having an entity afford you some small protections, gives a more professional look and allows you to begin splitting up your expenses.

Make sure you have an NDA drafted and definitely have NDAs and IP assignment agreements with employees and all contractors who could possibly touch your technology (no exceptions).

Preferably, have people sign your paper, but if you are forced to use someone else’s, spend the time to read it and note any weird clauses.

Always have a paper trail when working with partners, vendors, advisors or anyone else who could potentially bring you issues later on.

Lawyers are expensive, use them strategically. Try your best to read any paperwork you get yourself and highlight the areas where you think there is risk or have questions. Have the lawyers focus there. If it’s serious business, have them review the whole thing.

A good set of terms and conditions and privacy policy can go a long way on your application. If fleshed out well, you can drastically reduce the language in your master services agreement (MSA).

Keep your intellectual property clean. If you are going to moonlight, declare your work with your employer and have it exempt from your agreements. If you are leaving a position to create your product, make sure you aren’t risk of getting sued from your current employer. Hint, don’t be a jerk on the way out and wait a month.

A lawyer’s job is to point out risk, not tell you what to do. They should enable you to make intelligent, informed decisions. Learn to think like they do and play out every scenario you can. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. And by prepare, I mean have yourself covered via contract or something else.

Risk profiles increases once you start accepting money. Most people are reasonable, but if you breach your terms, expect that someone may want their money back. Don’t fight them, learn from your mistake.

Extending the risk profile into the current market––if you’re collecting personal data, understand what that means in the event of a breach. Could you be fined? Do you need to take certain steps to protect the data? Can you avoid the liability altogether? Data privacy laws are rapidly evolving in the technology world and if you intend to collect sensitive data, it’s on you to understand the risks and what you need to be doing.

Threats should be rare, but recognize they could occur. Like IR, a legal threat is extremely stressful and you may not be thinking straight during the process. Have details for a lawyer beforehand just in case. No need to retain, just have someone you can call.



Founder of @BlockadeIO, PDF X-RAY, and @PassiveTotal. Partner and developer for @TheNinjaJobs. VP of Strategy for @RiskIQ. Roaster at @SplitKeyCoffee.

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Brandon Dixon

Founder of @BlockadeIO, PDF X-RAY, and @PassiveTotal. Partner and developer for @TheNinjaJobs. VP of Strategy for @RiskIQ. Roaster at @SplitKeyCoffee.