From start-up to scale-up perfectly describes our journey at Von Seidels.
With high hopes for the African continent and loads of energy, Von Seidels was established in 2007 as a boutique IP firm and has grown into the pan-African law firm that it is today.
We perfectly understand the journey from “start-up to scale-up” with all the highs and lows, effort, challenges and celebrations along the way. With that being the theme of the 2020 SA Innovation Summit, we are thrilled to be the IP partner of this huge African innovation event and community this year.
For those starting on this journey now, we have 8 practical tips to share.
- Be original
Before you start moving forward with your business idea, check that someone else is not already doing it for your target market and location. How? Google search your idea for the product or service as well as your ideas for a name and domain name.
- Test the water
Test your business name and product/service idea in the real world with your friends, family and would-be market. Listen to what they have to say to see if it has traction.
- Build your village
Like with raising a child, you need a village for support. Who? Your co-founders or partners to help you refine your strategy, mentors to share their experience in what does and does not work, and get to know other entrepreneurs to hear their stories and bounce ideas.
Networking, start-up and industry events give you opportunities to meet and socialise with entrepreneurs and experts, learn from them and get your name out there. Word of mouth is free and effective for growing your business. Having people meet you and know what you do is important exposure.
- Be happy public speaking
Sharing your business idea and purpose convincingly and comfortably is crucial. Think about and craft your ‘elevator pitch’ to explain your business in a nutshell to someone quickly, say, in a 30 second elevator ride.
If speaking to others fills you with dread, start small – practise on family, friends, small events and audiences. It will become easy and natural with practise.
- Go free
There are many free tools and services to use wherever you can in the early stages, for example, to check your company name is available, register your company and open your bank account.
Google’s range of apps is free including Gmail, spreadsheets, documents and slides. When you are ready to market your business, use free tools such as MailChimp for email marketing and Zoho, Hubspot and Insightly for customer relationship management. Wix is one of the most popular free website building tools and you can use Google Analytics to track website traffic. And of course, social media is free and effective for getting visibility to a massive online audience.
- Get scalable systems
Invest in reliable, scalable systems from the beginning as you will need these to expand with your business. Many systems and software tools have free or low cost versions for start-ups which you can easily upgrade and add functionality to as you grow.
- Get protected
Protecting your company’s IP is essential. Trade marks, copyrights, designs, patents, know-how, trade secrets, domain names, image rights, data and privacy policies are all forms of IP that can be protected.
There are simple and cost-effective techniques that will help protect your core IP assets.
Secure your crucial IP first – such as having a copyright assignment template for service providers and registering IP assets that are time sensitive. The rest you can acquire and tailor as your business evolves.
- Record agreements
Set up a clear, legally-sound agreement with your co-founders/partners first. Draw up confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and invention assignment agreements. Once you have employees or instruct freelancers, ensure they sign these.
Also remember that agreements can be contained in an email chain. It’s also wise to confirm your understanding of all conversations with a follow up email.
Need advice on any of these? We’d be happy to chat with you. Contact us at [email protected]
Von Seidels is an intellectual property law firm specialising in patents, trade marks, copyright, designs, trade secrets, licensing and related areas of IP throughout Africa. Based in South Africa, Von Seidels also has offices in ARIPO (Namibia), OAPI (Cameroon) and Nigeria.
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