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IE University law students provide legal support to Venture Lab entrepreneurs

IE University law students provide legal support to Venture Lab entrepreneurs | IE Law School

LL.M. students, María Teresa Pérez y Noemí Seco de Herrera, gave legal advice to startups participating in IE’s Venture Lab. They tell us what they learned from the experience.

The Venture Lab is IE University’s startup incubator, designed for students and alumni to explore market opportunities, incubate ideas and accelerate business. There are currently 100 teams in multiple Venture Labs across undergraduate and master’s programs. The Venture Lab provides students across all disciplines with classes, workshops, mentors and investors.

IE University law students provide legal support to Venture Lab entrepreneurs | IE Law School

María Teresa Pérez & Noemí Seco de Herrera

Most of the startups come to the incubator lacking some of the necessary tools to succeed, such as legal knowledge. The aim of integrating the Venture Lab into the students extracurricular activity is to provide legal advice to those entrepreneurs who need it, and to allow law students to apply the legal knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom.

This year, law students had an enriching experience participating in the Venture Lab, advising entrepreneurs on legal matters. To better understand the projects that were developed, we spoke with two participating students from the Máster en Asesoría Jurídica de Empresas (LL.M), María Teresa Pérez and Noemi Seco de Herrera.

María Teresa Pérez is an expert in intellectual property. She worked in-house at Zinkia Entertainment, S.A. and also served as General Counsel for Xiaomi Technology Spain, S.L. “I signed up for the Venture Lab because I was aware of the need for legal consulting that every entrepreneur has, and I thought it was a great idea to carry out this type of activity in an educational institution,” Teresa explains.

For her part, Noemi Seco de Herrera has more than ten years’ experience under her belt as a lawyer specialized in the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sector, advising companies at Osborne Clarke and as a lawyer at Progenika Biopharma, S.A.

“I signed up for the Venture Lab program because I was excited to be able to help entrepreneurs execute their projects, providing the legal perspective necessary for their design and development.”
Noemi Seco de Herrera

What was the process like with each startup?

We asked them loads of questions with the goal of being able to give them a final product that was useful to them, and that could serve as a roadmap for them in the future. We didn’t really have enough information to prepare a report where we could develop their initial ideas, and that was the hardest part for us. We needed all of the relevant data in order to give them recommendations based on our experience—not only to give them the information they asked of us, but also to provide the information that we, as professionals, deem important for their businesses.

In the meetings, we noticed that all the participants seemed to think that the first step in establishing a business was relatively easy. I think they were a little disappointed when they realized it was not a question of simply filling out a document, but rather, predicting the relationship between founding partners, fiscal and accounting obligations, etc.

We thought, maybe due to experience, that the best thing to do was to deduce what kind of business they wanted to set up based on the questions they asked and the information they provided. We offered them additional advice that, in our opinion, is the real added value that we could provide them.

What were the major legal challenges facing the startups?

Definitely the bureaucracy, both for the creation of the business and to protect an idea, patent, or utility model (all of this has to do with intellectual and industrial property). We also noticed that, except for a few topics concerning patents, the participants didn’t give much weight to the protection of business information or processes, which they could have done with a simple confidentiality agreement. Entrepreneurs focus so much on designing and launching their business that they don’t think about protecting it from day one. It’s understandable, because it’s not easy to anticipate the weaknesses of a business when all of your efforts are focused on pushing forward its strengths.

“I recommend this experience of advising entrepreneurs to any lawyer. It’s very rewarding to help turn fantastic ideas into reality.”

 

What did you learn from advising startups? 

Teresa: It’s quite difficult for entrepreneurs to access all the information—both financial and legal—that they really need. They would need a multidisciplinary team to point them in the right direction as soon as possible. It’s not possible to properly advise startups by only responding to the specific questions they have. Rather, you should give them all the information they need in order to, at the very least, have a bird’s eye view of how they will have to operate in their economic sector in order for their project to be fruitful.

Noemi: I agree with Teresa. In addition to the need for legal support, we realized another key factor for entrepreneurs: the lack of financing opportunities to start a business, even from the very start, when they’re still defining and planning the project. There are projects that require a substantial investment just to get started, which is hard to obtain. Great projects often fail for this reason.

The startups advised

Reviewing all the questions that the startups had for Noemi and Teresa, there was one that kept cropping up: how they should operate, legally speaking. In general, the five startups advised had a very clear idea of what kind of business they wanted to develop. One had even started business activity already, so their doubts were more practical, having to do with the company’s day-to-day. The following are the dilemmas each young business encountered:

 

"This startup uses social media to revolutionize food culture, taking it one step further than pretty photos of unique dishes. The business offers restaurant and bar recommendations across Spain, with the added possibility of making a reservation or receiving discounts, for example.

Their main hurdle was figuring out how to register a company in Spain as a foreigner. They were confused as to whether the founding partners of a business could be considered simply employees and not partners, and whether it’s advisable to register a company in the US when the economic activity would be carried out in Spain."
"This startup has created a marketplace that brings talent to clients that need one-off support for their projects and businesses. We hope that Arthur Perissich, Félix Martí and PJ Chammas can bring digital flexibility and innovation to the HR sector. The industry is certainly buzzing with possibility right now!"
"This startup had the brilliant idea of making garden produce (grown organically using hydroponic robot technology) accessible to everyone living in big cities, eliminating its carbon footprint. They are great candidates for NextGen funding.

In Lazare’s case, their doubts were about the best type of business to start; the applicable legislation, permissions, licenses and authorizations; the protection their invention could receive, in terms of branding and patents; and the software protection involved. It’s a technologically complex, multidisciplinary, and certainly interesting business idea. Not to mention well thought out. Navin Sangtani and Gonzalo Novarturra met doing IE Business School’s MBA, and now they have a mature and well-developed project on their hands."
"This platform is a marketplace that matches English teachers with users according to their needs. In their case, they asked us for a software development contract as well as a way to protect their software.

The founder of SimplySay did an MBA at IE Business School and currently works at KPMG in London. We have no doubt they’ll be able to respond to the needs of the language market in Asia!"
"This startup has crafted a portable seatbelt for women that adapts to any car and any body. Founded by German students, they were looking for advice on how to establish a company in Germany while living in Spain. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible under current regulation. They also wanted to know if their invention could be protected if they registered it as industrial property; how much it would cost, in time and money, to get it registered; and what steps would be necessary when contacting an industrial property representative in Germany. Malte Frenzel, Maresa Vaitl and Pia Winthuis can count on us to be their first customers!"