In our experience, start-ups sometimes neglect or skimp important legal issues, such as IP protection or legal compliance. This may be due to lack of:
- awareness of why the issue is important
- interest in legal matters – getting the technology or product to market is much more interesting to the budding entrepreneur
This point has been made, in different ways, by many of the submissions to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property.
We recently submitted a bid, via UCL Advances, to the IPO’s Fast Forward Competition, that would have addressed this important issue. The bid was unsuccessful (do they ever provide feedback as to why?) but we believe the idea has strong legs. In essence, we would have provided a legal resource for graduates and undergraduates who want to start their own business, comprising:
- guidance notes on a wide range of issues, both large and small, including business plans, choice of corporate structure, IP protection, relationships with investors, staff, contractors, accounting packages, company secretarial duties, registering for VAT and NIC, commercial disputes, exit strategies, etc.
- a help-desk for brief queries in 15 minute “slots”.
- a blog for discussing issues of common concern to graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurs
- training courses
This Resource Cloud would have complemented the support already given to start-ups by UCL Advances. It would make it easy and inexpensive to access the information that start-ups require.
There is, of course, plenty of information on the internet about many of the issues mention above. But such information is not:
- targeted at the needs of graduate and undergraduate start-up businesses
- collated in a single place and in a consistent style and level of detail
- consistently reliable and up-to-date
The Resource Cloud would be different to traditional legal services in that it would avoid the need for the start-up to formally instruct solicitors, at least when getting initial information and advice. And it would be targeted at start-ups being formed by graduates and undergraduates of UK universities.In our view, these are the people that the IPO should be focussing on, when designing future services for SMEs.
Setting up this resource would require considerable investment, and yet would not provide a financial return, so it would need to be subsidised. Once set up, it could become self-sustaining from subscriptions.
We are hopeful that the proposal may be more successful in a future funding application.