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Business Formation

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Austin Food and Beverage Start-Ups Attract Venture Capital


Start-ups based in Austin, Texas have faced some headwinds in the past year, with reports showing a decline in new venture capital investment. In the first quarter of 2016, Austin start-ups suffered a 49% decline in investment. Experts say venture capitalists lost enthusiasm because of economic unease and high valuations on untested start-ups.

But there has been at least one bright spot: the food and beverage industry. Start-ups offering consumer packaged goods ranging from healthy snacks to gourmet cider have attracted new investment interest even as others have suffered setbacks.


Read more . . .


Monday, May 2, 2016

Partnership Dispute Over YouTube Channel Offers Lessons for Start-Ups


What basic mistakes should entrepreneurs avoid when seeking investors?

A recent case decided in a Dallas, Texas courtroom shows that YouTube videos can be big business — and that traditional legal rules still apply to an area of the web that may seem like a free-for-all. The losing parties' response to the case also suggests that conduct that is commonplace online may not play well in court.

Avoid making unrealistic contractual commitments

The litigation centered on a partnership between two outside investors, David T. Moss and Brandon Keating, and YouTube channel owner/operators Brian Martin and Marko Princip, who were seeking funding for their videogaming channel. The outside investors signed a contract agreeing to put up $1500 in exchange for 30% ownership and 30% of the profits of the partnership for each of them.


Read more . . .


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Reasons for Employee Handbooks

According to the Small Business Administration, what topics should employee handbooks cover?

While it is not legally required that every small business have an employee handbook, it is highly recommended for companies with more than a few employees. Employee handbooks work to standardize expectations for both employers and employees, and offer the company legal protection. Since employee handbooks set forth company policies clearly in black and white, they can help to keep friction and disputes to a minimum.

What Your Employee Handbook Should Cover

So that everyone understands the rules of the road from the first day of employment, employee handbooks typically cover standards that must be met by both employees and employers, including:

  • Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and statements concerning conflict of interest
  • Anti-discrimination policies: compliance with equal opportunity laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act; information about discrimination and harassment
  • Compensation information: wages, overtime, performance reviews, raises, time-keeping records, breaks, bonuses and workers' compensation
  • Employee Benefits: including health insurance, retirement plans, wellness programs
  • Work schedules: work hours, attendance, punctuality, flexible hours and telecommuting
  • Leave Policies: vacation, sick leave, holiday, bereavement, family medical leave, jury duty, military leave, leave for voting and court cases
  • Conduct standards: code of dress, legal obligations, ethical behavior (avoiding harassment), privacy rules, particularly in activities under government regulation

In addition, employee handbooks should provide employees with an overview of the business and its general policies, including:

  • Hiring practices:  job postings and employment eligibility
  • Referrals, probationary periods, transfers, relocations, union information
  • Resignation and termination procedures

Safety and Security

As the owner of the company, you are responsible for creating a safe and secure workplace for your employees, meaning the premises should comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws. Your employee handbook, therefore, should state clearly that all accidents, injuries, safety hazards and safety suggestions should be promptly reported to management.

In addition, the employee handbook should make abundantly clear that employees also have a responsibility to maintain a safe and secure work environment -- keeping pathways unobstructed, turning off appliances when not in use, and being committed to securing electronic information on their computers.

If you are starting up a new business or taking over an established one, you should consult with a firm of skilled and experienced business attorneys to make sure that you proceed in a legal, ethical, and efficient manner.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Insurance That Can Protect Your Small Business

What types of insurance do I need to protect my business?

In addition to choosing the right business organization, starting a small business requires obtaining the maximum protection for your company. By having the following types of insurance, your business will have maximum protection from a variety of situations that can lead to lawsuits.

Property Insurance

 

 

Obtaining property insurance should be a primary consideration for protecting your tangible investment, including essential merchandise, equipment, tools, and buildings. It is critical to protect your business property from the potential for loss and damage from a number of events, including fires, vandalism, theft and storms. In addition to protecting the actual building, furnishings, inventory and equipment, business property insurance may also cover other costs such as equipment breakdowns or the cost of clean up after a covered loss like a fire or storm.

General Liability Insurance

Regardless of the size or type of business, it is critical to obtain general liability insurance. This type of insurance protects you in the event you are faced with a lawsuit arising from accidents, injuries or claims of negligence. General liability insurance coverage protects you if your products, services or employees cause property damage or bodily injury to a third party. For example, if someone is injured on the premises of your business and files a lawsuit against you, general liability insurance may help to recover some of the costs, depending on the situation.

Professional liability Insurance

Errors and omissions (E&O) is insurance that typically covers doctors, accountants and lawyers. For medical professionals, E&O usually comes in the form of malpractice insurance. At the same time, lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers are covered by professional liability insurance. Moreover, even businesses like advertising agencies and commercial printers, in fact any business that provides a service to a client for a fee, needs E&O coverage.  In short, E&O coverage protects you from error or omission on your part that has caused a financial loss for your client.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

While the particular rules differ from state to state, employers are required to buy workers' compensation insurance. Generally, this type of insurance protects businesses from lawsuits arising from workplace accidents. Workers' compensation also covers medical bills and compensates lost income for employees injured on the job, whether on the premises or elsewhere, regardless of who was at fault. Workers' compensation also covers employees who are injured in auto accidents while on company business or who suffer work-related illnesses. It also provides death benefits to surviving spouses and defendants.

Business Interruption Insurance

Small business owners should consider how they would manage if a fire or other disaster damaged their business premises so that they were temporarily unusable. If you are conducting business in an area that has a high risk of natural disasters, investing in business interruption insurance will compensate you for lost income if your company has to vacate the business premises due to disaster-related damage.

The Bottom Line

Every business is different, and each faces a variety of risks; however, by investing is the right types of business insurance, a company can protect itself from a wide range of losses and liabilities. 


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why Branding is Essential for a Small Business

“Authentic brands don't emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does...” (Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks)

Whether you take coffee or not, most people are familiar with the Starbucks brand. Not every company is a renowned franchise like the international Barista. Branding , however, is essential for every small business. A brand helps customers identify a company's products and services and distinguish them from the competition.

Brands, Logos Trademarks

A company's brand stands for its reputation, and this is often a matter of customers' perceptions. Customers need to know who you are and a brand identity helps to clarify your target customers. Having an effective brand strategy allows a business to communicate with customers in a variety of ways.

Often, this starts with a logo or a trademark which serves as the basis for packaging, the domain name of a website, media communications, as well as advertising and promotional materials. Having a trademark, moreover, requires registering that mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. This is a complicated process that requires the advice of an attorney in order to prevent a trademark infringement lawsuit that could possibly damage your brand.

How to Develop a Brand

 There are a number of steps a small business needs to take in order to develop its brand. The first is to define the brand and its purpose so that you capture the interest of customers. One way to do this is with a "mission statement" that explains what your business stands for and what your products and services do.

Once your mission is established, the next step is to identify your target market. Not every customer will be drawn to your product or service. However, there is a customer base that is likely to buy from your business, especially those that identify with your brand. In the end, your target customers will decide whether or not your brand has value.

Lastly your brand must have a personality and represent your values. The values of your brand are the core principles that foster relationships with your employees, customers and vendors. Ideally, these values should be the foundation for a positive business culture. Put simply, a brand is important to a company and its products and services much like someone's personal or professional reputation is to him or her. 

The Bottom Line:

Your brand tells customers what to expect from your products and services and distinguishes you from the competition. Your brand strategy is essential for communicating and delivering your message which is really a promise to your customers. In other words, a brand flows from who you are, influences customers' perceptions and allows them to identify with you. Ultimately an effective brand strategy can give you an edge in the market place.

If you are considering starting a business or have already done so, an attorney can advise you on legal matters affecting your business.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Mark Cuban Says Texas is a Startup-Friendly State

Is Texas a good place to start a business?

When we think of new business startups, our minds wander to places like New York City, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. While these are great places for entrepreneurs to get started, are they any better than the state of Texas? Billionaire Mark Cuban doesn’t think so.

Cuban is a self-made billionaire who got started in the Lone Star State. Initially, he made his money by creating a streaming radio service, which was eventually bought by Yahoo! in 1999.  Now, he is a star of the hit TV show "Shark Tank." On this reality show, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pitch their companies to wealthy investors who might financially back them if they like what they hear. Cuban has now invested in over 100 companies as a result of his spot on the show. 

Cuban was asked to speak at the North Texas Commission annual meeting. His topic was “how to think beyond the pitch.” During his presentation, he explained to the audience that he thinks Texas is one of the best states in which to start a company. While places like Silicon Valley are known for billion dollar buyouts, Texas is a great place to grow a business into an empire.  He also mentioned that he is trying to move some of the manufacturing he does in China back into the United States, specifically to Deep Ellum, Texas. Some of Cuban’s companies had booths at the meeting and were selling products or handing out samples and coupons to attendees.

According to Mark Cuban, if you are an entrepreneur in Texas, you can rest assured that you are in one of the best locations in the country. Nonetheless, nothing does more for your business than the representation of a knowledgeable and experienced business law attorney.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Texas Ranked as Friendliest State for Small Businesses

What are the benefits of incorporating my small business in Texas versus other states?

When starting a business, one of the first steps to consider is where to incorporate? Legally speaking, deciding where to incorporate is one of the most pivotal decisions an entrepreneur can make, as the company will be subject, as it grows, to the laws of not only the state(s) where it does business, but its state of incorporation as well. Accordingly, businesses should take into consideration the various tax, civil, procedural, and dispute resolution laws in place when making this decision – all of which will undoubtedly impact at some point during the life of the business.

In a recent survey conducted on thousands of small business owners in Texas, the Lone Star State ranked first as the friendliest small business state in the U.S. The survey reviewed several areas, including: ease of starting a business, state employment regulations, taxes, zoning, and environmental laws. Receiving an “A” in nearly every category, small business owners touted the relative ease with which a start-up in Texas can obtain the necessary licensing  as well as benefit from the overall unobtrusiveness of state environmental and zoning regulations. Small businesses also reported favorable tax treatment, including paying virtually no income taxes in most cases.

If you operate a start-up business and are considering incorporating in Texas, working with a reputable business attorney is one of the first steps to take to ensure a seamless transition. While the steps to incorporate and gain legal recognition of your business entity may seem straightforward, working through the state and federal hiring and employment regulations may not be as easy. An experienced Texas business attorney can help ensure that your enterprise meets applicable zoning and permit laws. This is especially important if your business is in the industrial or manufacturing sector.

If you are in need of assistance with your start-up business, please contact the Kumar Law Firm in Austin, Texas today: 512-323-6060.


Friday, July 10, 2015

New Provision Added to 2012 JOBS Act Designed to Make Crowdfunding Easier

What are the limitations on private equity funding, and how does this impact start-ups in need of capital? 

Start-ups are the cornerstone of American industry, particularly within the booming technology sector. As a business just starting out, one of the most difficult aspects of growth and development is finding the necessary capital and liquidity to get off the ground – which in turn requires sizable investments from willing venture capitalists. Over the past several years, several private equity companies have endorsed the concept of “crowdfunding,” which allows for contributions by several smaller investors as opposed to one or two large donors. Problem is, federal and state corporate laws have made crowdfunding an administrative nightmare, and start-ups are facing increasingly burdensome paperwork and reporting requirements that are often required within all 50 states as well as by the federal government. 

To alleviate the burden a little, in June, 2015, the federal government lightened this bureaucratic load by amending the 2012 JOBS Act to increase the amount of capital a business can raise from private individuals to $50 million under what is often called a Regulation A filing – which is a major jump from the former $5 million cap. Under the former rules, publicly-traded companies could not accept more than $5 million from individual corporate investors, which significantly dampened the available crowdfunding sources obtainable by blossoming start-ups. Now, this amount has been greatly expanded to allow companies the opportunity to accept offerings from anyone willing to pitch in. 

Also under the new rules, exhaustive paperwork requirements have been somewhat lessened, thereby allowing start-ups the opportunity to focus on business growth and expansion instead of concentrating on dozens of filings (and the associated fees). Previously, once a business hit $20 million in capital investments, it was required to adhere to the recording, filing, paperwork, and fee schedules of any state wherein an investor was located – along with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now, most companies can file a single report and audit with only the SEC, however additional oversight might be required in certain situations.

Despite these steps in the right direction to enable crowdfunding easier, the new amendments have specific requirements in the area of eligibility, disclosure, caps on amount as well as percentage of shares being offered to individual investors, etc. especially for offerings in excess of $20 million - being referred to by the new moniker of Tier 2 Regulation A filing.

If you have questions about starting a new business or would like to speak to a reputable business attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the Kumar Law Firm based in Austin, Texas today: (512)960-3808. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

4 Legal Lessons You Learn From Watching "Shark Tank"

Do I need a business plan?

If you did not know any better, you might guess that a show called “Shark Tank” is about lawyers. But fans of the hit reality show on ABC and CNBC know that the sharks on this series are venture capitalists, including Texas’s own Mark Cuban.

The premise of the show is that entrepreneurs pitch their business, inventions, and ideas to a panel of venture capitalists, a/k/a the sharks, in hopes of getting funding. As you might expect based on the name of the show, the investors are not there to make friends, they are there to make a deal.

There are several legal lessons to be learned from watching the show.

Do not expect your business to succeed if you do not have a business plan. All too often, entrepreneurs on the show are stumped when the sharks ask them very basic questions about their future plans. Sitting down and thinking through how you are going to get from point A to point B is something every business owner should do. 

Legal risks can make a business unappealing to investors. There are several episodes of "Shark Tank" where the sharks love the business or product being pitched to them, but decline to invest because the liability risk is just too great. Identifying your liability risks is a critical part of properly running and valuing your business. 

If you have a good idea, patent it. Patents are like blood in the water to the sharks. Great ideas and inventions are worthless if they can be stolen by others, so do everything you can to protect your intellectual property.

Selling a stake in your business is often emotional. The sharks are obviously tough negotiators, but the business owners they are dealing with often need a reality check when it comes to valuing the company or the product up for sale. Separating the emotional value you put on your business from its market value is very difficult, and often requires outside advice, but it is important to do before you get to the negotiating table, or tank. 

Following these tips will not guarantee your success if you wind up in the shark tank, but they will ensure your business starts out on the right foot. 

If you are an entrepreneur in the Austin area looking for legal advice to help you grow your business, or an inventor needing help patenting your intellectual property, The Kumar Law Firm PLLC can help. Sanjeev Kumar was an engineer and entrepreneur before becoming a lawyer, so he has a unique understanding of what it is like to be in your shoes. Call him today at (512)960-3808 to schedule a consultation.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Austin Tech Company Sues Honeywell for IP Infringement

What litigation strategies should start-ups pursue to protect valuable intellectual property from rivals?


Austin, Texas-based start-up Allure Energy has sued Honeywell International in a case involving innovative thermostat technology.  Allure Energy's Eversense thermostat integrates location-based controls in mobile phones to allow users to control their home environment.  Allure alleges that Honeywell's Lyric thermostat infringes on two of its patents.

In its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Allure Energy seeks damages, profits, and an injunction against Honeywell's use of Allure's technology.  The litigation also alleges that Honeywell engaged in false advertising under the Lanham Act.

In 2012, at a trade show in San Antonio, Texas, Honeywell requested that Allure demonstrate the EverSense thermostat, which is designed to detect users' locations through their mobile devices and automatically adjust temperature settings depending on whether homeowners are going out or returning home.  Allure Energy owns several patents on the technology underlying the smart thermostat.  Honeywell ordered samples and Allure Energy's CEO, Kevin Imes, thought a business partnership might be in the offing.

Instead, says Allure Energy's complaint, Honeywell took the geolocation technology that Allure developed for EverSense and incorporated it into Lyric.  Honeywell has been marketing Lyric since August 2013, according to Imes. 

Imes was previously the founder of an Austin-based intellectual property services firm, Imes IP LLC, as well as 3Gfoto Inc., a mobile imaging software maker, also in Austin.


This is not Allure Energy's first lawsuit against a competitor for infringement of its IP.  The start-up previously sued Nest Labs, now part of Google, in a Texas federal court. 


Intellectual property is often a company's most valuable asset and the crown jewel of many start-ups and growing businesses.  Patent, copyright or trademark infringement by a large competitor can be devastating to a new enterprise, requiring a forceful legal response.

The expert business and intellectual property lawyers of the Kumar law firm in Austin, Texas, can help you protect your IP.  The firm’s expert business strategists can help you choose the best course of action to prevail against competitors and prevent or resolve disputes.  Call (512) 960-3808 for a consultation today. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Is a Joint Venture Right for My Business?

What factors should be covered in a joint venture agreement?

A joint venture with another company may be a way to grow your business. You may want to exploit a potential market for your products or services, but your business may not have the needed resources. Perhaps there is another company that complements what you do, and the two of you could work together to open up a new market so you can both profit.

That sounds good on paper, but in reality, it can be difficult to pull off. Properly drafted agreements are crucial to avert failure of joint ventures. Some common pitfalls to consider are:
• Rapid consumption of capital: Capital is often used much faster and much earlier than expected. Failure to plan for this may result in a struggle to find more capital and agreeing to a loan on unfavorable terms. The joint venture agreement may include the option of a loan from one of the partners, but the terms should be at least as favorable as a loan from a third party.
• Arguments over control: Each partner will be accustomed to his or her leadership style, and disagreements over management often occur. To manage conflicts in the future, if and when they arise, the joint venture agreement should spell out the management structure, how decisions are to be made and how are any disagreements to be resolved.
• Desire for assets: One partner may want to control the assets of the other party. A smaller company may be willing to give more control to a larger company in exchange for capital, which could result in loss of control over the project and failure in the long run. Assets that each party brings to the venture need to be properly valued and that value should be reflected in reasonable shares of ownership and control.
• Unrealistic profit expectations: Partners want to see profits, but how should they be distributed? An agreement could list priorities as to where profits should go, including paying off debt or investment back into the business.

If you are in the Austin, Texas area and think a joint venture is something that may be in your company’s future, call business and corporate law attorney Sanjeev Kumar at (512)960-3808 for a consultation today. With his successful business background, Sanjeev Kumar provides insightful and effective counsel to business owners and entrepreneurs.


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