Our lawyers in Lisbon for Web Summit

Arjun Ahluwalia, co-founder of Argentum Law with Brad Smith, President of Microsoft

Arjun Ahluwalia, co-founder of Argentum Law with Brad Smith, President of Microsoft

Web Summit brings together the people and companies redefining the global tech industry.

After an evening spent listening to inspirational Jaden Pinkett-Smith on his clean water initiatives JUST water and 501CTHREE.org, our lawyers were back at what The Guardian calls “Glastonbury for Geeks”. Some snippets from Day 2:

1. Founder of healthcare startup L-Nutra riffed on how to harvest and leverage user data to unlock secrets to longevity and analyze true “health intelligence” using AI;

2. Porsche’s sleek pavilion hosted Porsche Ventures’ ambitions to move beyond investing in sensor technologies and autonomous vehicles;

3. Canva’s founder Melanie Perkins, a college dropout at 19, inspired the crowd with her journey starting with bootstrapping from her mother’s living room to winning local innovation prizes and dealing with rejection in Silicon Valley as a non-US based pre-launch seed stage company. However 5 years post-launch Canva is now a 700 person company hosting 139 million designs creations per month and 20 million people monthly;

4. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, described key elements of the UK’s withdrawal agreement and the importance of how data would be treated as it crosses from the EU to the UK and the EU’s priority to be at the forefront of data privacy. On Brexit itself, Barnier pulled no punches saying “to date no one has demonstrated what added value Brexit brings”, as he spoke of the importance of the EU standing united to protect Ireland’s interests and the Good Friday Agreement to promote peace and security in the Irish isle. “Brexit is a school of patience, Brexit is a school of tenacity” he cautioned as he explained the agreement is just a framework and the hard work for Brexit actually lays ahead;

5. Vladimir Klitschko (12 year world reigning champion boxer and now venture capital investor) described how the death of his training coach drove him to find a lasting legacy to prove how boxing has wider lessons for startup founders - focus, agility and endurance, and like boxing needing to plan your roadmap and know your allies to reach goals;

6. Former Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal was in combative form with his views that Trump would not be on the 2020 ballot, confident of Trump’s impeachment and removal. Big Tech’s responsibility for veracity and truthfulness of content was debated as the 2020 US election looms ahead; and finally

7. We had a brief moment with the indefatigable President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, a lawyer by training and Microsoft’s longest serving President, and CEO Nadella’s chief lieutenant to spread Microsoft’s reach globally. Smith’s book “Tools and Weapons - The Promise and The Peril of the Digital Age” urges awareness of the double-edged nature of technology and how great responsibility lies with the tech giants in shaping our shared future. Given the critical role technology today influences public opinion, elections and social justice we could not agree more.

How To Avoid Five Common Start-Up Mistakes

by Faraz Siddiqui & Arjun Ahluwalia

Common Start-Up Mistakes

Diving into entrepreneurship is an exciting time for start-up founders.  Amidst the whirl of hiring like-minded, talented employees, building an awesome product and targeting the right market, founders find themselves inundated with an avalanche of tasks to build a stable foundation for their company from which to grow. In those early days, every aspect of your start-up's business requires focused attention and understandably, founders often unintentionally neglect or are unaware of critical legal and corporate issues that every business, big or small, must take care of to ensure good long-term health of their company and its business. More often than not, founders adopt a reactive approach which then leads to unnecessarily high costs down the road that could have been avoided with a more cost-effective proactive approach.

At Argentum Law, we want to ensure that you and your company are well-prepared and on a clear path to success. Based on decades of shared experience advising corporate clients, we identify common mistakes founders make so that you and your team implement a proactive legal strategy and build a truly stable foundation for your company to do great things.

Mistake 1 - Operating without a written clear shareholders' agreement

Start-ups are often cofounded by a team who have built trust amongst each other and find it uncomfortable to discuss the possibility of a fallout that could be fatal to their company. Founders may be unable to separate their personal and professional relationships and often forego setting up a solid foundation by formalizing their business relationship with each other through a shareholder's agreement. The shareholder's agreement is one of the most critically important documents for your company and its operations – it allows founders to deal with each other in a clear and precise manner and decide critical issues such as contributions, equity allocations, vesting, roles and responsibilities, day to day decision making, compensation and salaries, roles of advisors as well as the much awaited exit such as through a strategic share sale or an initial public offering.  In many ways, a shareholder’s agreement makes disputes less likely, as it provides a clear framework and outlet for the company to operate efficiently.  

Mistake 2: Relying on standard contracts and templates

Founders have limited resources and often times scarce funding so there is a tendency to adopt a do-it-yourself approach and use templates or standard contracts found via a quick Google search. Such templated documents can be a great resource as a starting point, however, they must be tailored to your start-up's specific needs, especially when it comes to relationships with employees and counterparties such as vendors, strategic partners and customers. As a founder, you must ensure good contracting health of your start-up through written agreements using simple and plain, easy-to-understand language drafted specifically for your business.  Email us for our quick and dirty Contract Health checklist that can identify quickly whether your contract is fit-for-purpose. 

Mistake 3: Inadequate strategy to protect assets

One of the most valuable assets a company owns is its intellectual property (IP) including trademarks, tradenames, trade secrets, know-how, copyrights and patents as well as software code, prototypes, designs, process diagrams and even social media handles. Operating without a well-planned IP strategy can be perilous for a start-up down the road. Besides IP registration, protect your start-up by evaluating and identifying valuable intellectual property and putting in place IP and invention assignment agreements as well as non-disclosure and non-compete agreements with employees, consultants and vendors. Another valuable asset of your start-up is your team – make sure that you retain employees through non-solicitation agreements with counterparties.

Mistake 4: Poor corporate housekeeping

Start-up founders are always on their toes solving problems and spending energy putting out fires that they often forget about the basics such as proper corporate housekeeping and governance. If you are looking to raise funds to take your start-up's business and operations to the next level, you must maintain timely and accurate records for investor diligence including financials, internal and external policies and contractual agreements. You must avoid co-mingling personal and corporate funds at all times and never sign contracts under your personal name as it can easily expose you to being personally responsible for the company's liabilities. 

Mistake 5: Using the same counsel for all founders and the company

At the beginning of your start-up’s lifecycle it may appear that all founders and the company's interests are aligned, however, nothing can be further from the truth. As a business grows, its operations’ scale and its valuation increases, it becomes more imperative that each stakeholder engage their own counsel. As a founder, your counsel can ensure that your interests are protected without any conflict with the interests of your co-founders, investors and the company.

Future-proof your company and give your startup an edge over the competition.  Argentum lawyers are on hand to help you get ahead of the curve!


Argentum Law Empowering Startups

Argentum Law empowers startups with their legal needs

Empowering startups and early stage ventures is central to Argentum Law’s DNA.  We love to work with entrepreneurs who need legal advisors who understand their business model, are sensitive to their cash constraints and can provide the support they need to grow from the embryonic stage of a business idea to a viable, well-funded and protected business that can change the world.

Having started out as an early stage venture ourselves and given how the lean startup model is deeply ingrained in our own founding philosophy, Argentum Law is uniquely placed to empower startups. We are keen to provide a strong level of support and attention to entrepreneurs when they need it most - when they are putting roots into the ground so that their ventures can be best placed to take off and scale.

Depending on our clients’ needs, Argentum Law can act as a dedicated in-house legal department and strategic advisor.  Our start up clients typically use Argentum’s legal support to assist with corporate structuring and licensing, drafting of various terms and conditions and online related policies, drafting and negotiation of software development agreements and general legal advice on an ad-hoc basis.

We also collaborate with startup hubs such as AstroLabs, a widely recognized organization in the UAE providing startups with licensing, work-spaces and access to relevant workshops and seminars.  We have been actively supporting AstroLab companies through Argentum’s Legal Labs where we offer workshops, mentorship and dedicate team members who act as general counsel, devoting time and attention to each businesses needs.  

In addition to AstroLabs, we have teamed up with WamdaX, a grant-based programme for motivated start up founders. We support their fellows by providing legal mentorship, access to our attorneys and subject matter experts globally.

If you are a startup looking for the right lawyers to take on the world with, contact us today.  We look forward to meeting you!

Argentum Law’s Irreverent Origins… A Reimagining of Legal Services

Argentum Law, Our Origins

This is an irreverent story… a bit like us at Argentum Law.  Like every great superhero, Argentum has an origin story.  In our version of the archetypal laboratory accident, take one part white shoe law firm practitioner and one part seasoned career general counsel, a perfect balance of East and West peppered with New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Mumbai and Dubai experiences all jammed into a test tube and...

Boom.

It grew from a meeting over coffee and eclairs in a cafe about what was wrong with the legal industry and how to be better and happier lawyers.  From there, we put ourselves to work on the best way to re-align interests in a broken and inherently unfair legal industry.

We went back to basics of what we loved about our work.  We loved feeling vested with our clients, and a part of their team and forming part of their "strategic mind”.  We crafted a fee structure that heavily emphasized the role of the working attorney, acknowledged the roles of originators and stripped fees down to the bare minimum.  

No frills lawyering.  
Passing on the savings to our clients.  
Being a part of their team.    
Focusing on quality.  

Central to our goal was truly loving what our clients do and being as enthusiastic as they are for their own success.  We have a practice at Argentum Law where we spend hours free of charge just learning the business model of our clients and understanding their pain points.  

From that coffee meeting in 2015, fast forward four years later.  We are now functioning in three continents.  We have lawyers and solo practitioners associated with us between Toronto, New York, Houston, London and the UAE.  No marketing budget - just pure, unadulterated organic growth and word of mouth of our clients.  Our clients now include internationally listed corporates to startups disrupting their industries and making headlines.  Our lawyers are internationally mobile, working out of co-working locations around the world for our clients, with the firm being accessible around the clock given our intercontinental reach.  

We are international general counsel supercharged with special expertise in various high growth sectors and regions of the world - a combination of the type of lawyer we believe will be the future “super-lawyers” of the world:  Commercially-minded, strategically driven lawyers that combine the broad issue-spotting superpowers of a seasoned general counsel as well as the piercing insight that can only come from the special expertise honed by each of our lawyers in their relevant industries, markets and regions.  

Ultimately, what started from riffing on how to be better and happier lawyers turned into a proven method to make our own clients better, happier and more successful.  

Not all heroes wear capes.  Some work out of a WeWork in Paris chugging jugs of coffee to keep up with a document deadline for a Phoenix-based client while balancing emergency calls with a Cape Town-based client for HR matters and overseeing local counsel in Singapore for a ground breaking M&A transaction.

This is an irreverent story, but for us a little irreverence is exactly what the global legal industry needs.