Whether you’re an experienced businessperson or a first-time entrepreneur, the startup world is filled with legal land mines. There are many support organisations – incubators, accelerators, associations – specifically created to help startups grow and scale. However, nothing will quite protect your business like a legal expert. This is why our startup legal team has held several pan-Baltic free startup legal clinics.
If you’re a bootstrapping startup, you may be used to applying the do-it-yourself attitude to various business aspects. When it comes to legal matters, we strongly advise you to ditch ChatGPT and internet searches. Instead, consult a legal professional. We’ve compiled a few startup legal tips from our latest clinic to get you started on your legal journey.
Get your IP in order
For most startups, your most valuable asset is going to be your intellectual property (IP). As this is the asset you’ll build your business around, make sure that it’s protected from day one. Whether you’re dealing with hardware or software, seek a legal expert consultation before drafting IP assignment or licensing agreements. If your company doesn’t own or have the rights to use your IP, then your company can’t legally function. Take this five-minute quiz to check the IP health of your company.
Manage your data
There are a wide variety of legal risks associated with data protection, especially if you’re working with financial or health data, or your target demographic is minors. Ignorance of the law doesn’t absolve you from the consequences, so it’s important to have a data protection policy from day one. The national and regional regulations governing data privacy and management vary greatly and can be updated regularly. It’s crucial to have a solid legal advisor when it comes to changes in regulations or changes in your business operations.
Make smart money moves
Whether your startup is fundraising, monitoring cash-flow, going public or making an exit – a legal expert is there to help you make the most of your money. Most startups operate outside the borders of one country or region. This means different tax structures and complicates the movement of money. Startup legal experts will help you know how best (and legally) to get money from your customers and move your investment and revenue between countries and regions.
Protect your secrets
Transparency is often one of the main differences that set startups apart from legacy companies and corporations. Despite this, every startup will have some sort of client lists, business processes or tricks of the trade that create your competitive advantage. A good lawyer will help you draft the perfect employment contract or non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for your company. An NDA for employees and partners is there to protect your trade secrets, while every employment contract should have an industry-appropriate non-compete clause.
Attract the best talent
Every country or region has specific laws and requirements when it comes to employment. Some areas may have carved out specific exceptions for startups to promote their development, but you may want to go further to attract talent. The concept of employment is constantly changing. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of independent contractors, remote work, and some companies have experimented with four-day work weeks. Whichever model you decide on for your startup, it’s important to consult an expert so that you can legally define what you expect from your employees and what they can expect from you.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all have national startup associations that are ready to offer guidance and document templates for startups. However, if you want to spend less time worrying if you’ve done it right, let the lawyers worry about legal issues. Your main priority should always be running your company. Get advice early by participating in our next Startup Legal Clinic or contact one of our Baltic startup experts to avoid IP breaches and become more confident in engaging with investors.
Mirell Prosa leads our Startup sector group in Estonia. She has extensive experience in the sector and can also advise clients on M&A and IP matters. Oliver Kuusk is part of our Competition & Regulatory practice group. He is the go-to specialist for start-ups operating in media and telecommunications, or those looking to tackle intellectual property matters. Vladislav Leiri is also part of our Competition & Regulatory practice group. He deals with a diverse spectrum of matters ranging from drafting sector-specific agreements to helping clients remain in compliance with local legislation. Vladislav is also ready to advise startups on Estonian and European Union company law and corporate governance.
The head of our Latvian Startup sector group is Jūlija Terjuhana. In addition to being a certified data protection officer, Jūlija specialises in legal issues related to information technology, data protection, and intellectual property rights. Finance & Insurance practice group member and senior associate Agneta Rumpa combines transactional work with participation in dispute resolution. She’s also interested in the sustainable finance aspect of ESG and will be more than happy to advise regarding ESG reporting requirements.
Sector guru and senior associate Matas Mačiulaitis is head of our Startup sector group. He specialises in M&A transactions. Matas can also answer any questions regarding private equity and venture capital investment in start-ups and technology companies. Our associate Raminta Matulytė specialises in data protection law and advises on intellectual property and state-regulated matters. As a tech business enthusiast, she dedicates her skills to developing the startup sector.