Launching your own start-up is no easy feat, and, is likely to be one of the most daunting steps that you — and those on the roller-coaster with you — will ever take.
The value of tapping into the advice and experience of professionals with expertise in your area of need cannot be underestimated.
First off, it’s important to realise that there are huge benefits to having a firm grasp of the basics of the legal questions surrounding your venture, because these obligations apply — whether you know they do or not. Once you’ve registered a company, the first thing you ought to do is to procure customised founding documents.
The founding documents of your company are just that — the foundation of your company.
A customised Memorandum of Incorporation (usually referred to as an MOI) seeks to govern several relationships, including:
- Those between the individual shareholders of the company;
- Those between the shareholders as a group and their obligations to the company; and
- Those between the company and the outside world.
Your MOI is a public document which is lodged with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (the CIPC). The CIPC also provides a standardised MOI which operates unless your company adopts a new, custom MOI.
In most cases, the adoption of a custom MOI will suffice, but, in limited circumstances, your company may warrant a custom shareholders’ agreement. In this event, your legal expert will ensure that the agreement is consistent with both the company’s MOI and the Companies Act 71 of 2008. A shareholders’ agreement is, in essence, a private contract between the parties to the agreement.
Specifically, the Companies Act provides that if a shareholders’ agreement is not consistent with the company’s MOI or the Companies Act, the shareholders’ agreement is void to the extent of its inconsistency. What follows, serves as a starting point when constructing the brief to be presented to your legal professional.
A company’s board of directors governs the day-to-day operations of the company and the title carries significant responsibilities, both in terms of legislation and the common law.
Their management of your company regulates, among others, the agreements it enters into, its ability to loan money and the ability to encumber the assets of the business.
Further, it’s important to clearly delineate the voting powers of the board and, as a shareholder, you may wish to limit the powers of the board in certain circumstances — such as entering into an agreement for the disposal of a majority of the assets of the company or, at least, require special authorisation prior to taking actions with such significant impact on the business.
Although the distinction is sometimes ambiguous, especially where shareholders and directors are the same people, your founding documents need to define the roles of shareholders — both as between their fellow shareholders and as between the shareholders and the company.
Your agreement ought to regulate when, how and where shareholders meetings occur and how many shareholders are required in order for the meeting to be considered a valid meeting between shareholders of the company.
This is an area where a minority shareholder may be left out in the cold, unless particular safeguards are carved out for the shareholder.
Voting at a shareholder level also needs to be regulated, and requirements for ordinary resolutions (usually 50% plus one) and special resolutions (usually 75%) need to be provided for. Where the agreement between shareholders is not achieved, mechanisms need to be inserted to cater for such deadlock — whether by arbitration, mediation or otherwise.
Dividends and Repayments to Shareholders
This is one of the primary drivers behind getting involved in a business, so, where the payment of dividends to shareholders is concerned, special attention needs to be paid to ensure that everyone understands where they stand — before the chips are down, so to speak.
You need to carefully consider the circumstances under which a company will repay loans advanced to it by shareholder’s needs. This will also operate as a way to manage perceptions and ensure expectations are kept in check.
This fundamental provision caters for the maximum number of shares a company can issue to its shareholders and provides clarity to all shareholders about the extent of their ownership of the company. It ought to cater for the distinctions between any different classes of shares, where relevant.
Restricting the Transfer of Shares
Pre-emptive rights, or rights of first refusal, are characteristic of private companies and one of the obligations owed to your co-shareholders. In essence, once you form an intention to sell your shares, you are required to first offer them to your co-shareholders.
Where an offer is received from a third party, that shareholder is required to first offer the shares to the other shareholders on the same terms. In other words, he/she may not sell his shares to an outside third party on terms that are more favourable to the outsider.
A deemed offer — which arises in limited, pre-agreed circumstances — forces a shareholder to offer up his shares for purchase by the other shareholders, upon the occurence of a trigger event.
It’s important to ensure that you agree on the manner in which the purchase price of the shares in such a situation will be determined. A legal expert is able to cater for these circumstances within the specific framework of your business needs.
Related: Tax Basics For Business Owners
Come-Along & Tag-Along Provisions
Tag-along provisions cater for the event of a majority shareholder selling their shares to a third party and, rather than leave a dissatisfied minority shareholder behind, the sale of the majority shareholding is subject to the offer being extended to the minority shareholder on the same terms.
Closely related to these provisions are come-along provisions, which prevent a minority shareholder from blocking a sale of the majority shareholder’s interest in the company.
In essence, where one or more majority shareholders wish to sell their shares to a third party, the majority shareholders can force the minority shareholders to sell their shares on the same terms.
The above can, at best, only be regarded as a guideline, and if anything, serves to illustrate how template founding documents cannot be relied upon as a one-size-fits-all approach to fitting the unique needs of a company and its shareholders. Specifically, the contents of this article ought not to be relied upon as legal advice.
6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding
Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.
Anyone who has ever considered starting their own business, or is currently in the process of doing so, knows that every little bit helps when it comes to making ends meet. Part of the charm of start-up culture is the low-budget creative atmosphere that seems to continually fuel innovation. But, eventually you’re going to have to keep the lights on and water running, and you can’t do that with creativity alone.
Whether you are a business that is just starting out, or already well on your way, there are plenty of online platforms that offer start-ups advice and funding opportunities. Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.
At one point it seemed that anyone with a clever idea could make a video showing why the world should invest in the next big thing. While a lot of crazy projects have gotten funded over the years, utilising a crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter continues to be a viable way to get your project off the ground. Of course, if you want to reach your funding goals, it’s best that you have already done your market research, have a solid plan, and treat crowdfunding like a global VC.
Visit Kickstarter here.
Those who are new to the start-up world might not know exactly where to start when it comes to looking for funding. While the freelance economy has grown immensely in the last 5 years, it’s important to know where to look.
Platforms like Toptal offer a wide range of freelance professionals that specialise start-up funding. Start-ups seeking a consultant on Toptal can also rest easy knowing that they carefully screen each candidate, ensuring they have the necessary professional background and experience to guarantee a successful project.
Visit Toptal here.
If you couldn’t already tell by the name, appbacker is definitely worth checking out if you are a start-up working in app technology for both Android and Iphone. The platform helps people discover different apps through the crowdsourcing model. Investors can scroll through apps from around the world, and if they like what they see, they can choose to invest. Funding incentive is based on an investor’s ability to purchase an app at the wholesale price, eventually making a profit once the app starts flying off the shelves in the official app store.
Visit Appbackr here.
Investors are more likely to invest locally, which is why Gust is an attractive option for start-ups around the world, as they represent over eighty countries worldwide. Founded by a team of investors and lawyers, Gust knows their way around the start-up world.
With portals for both start-ups and investors, the platform seamlessly connects those seeking funds and those looking to invest. Start-ups can create a profile on Gust, and also have access to tools and tips to help them regulate finances and legal matters.
Visit Gust here.
Not just for investment, although that is a major part of the platform, AngelList is also a great place to find start-up jobs as well as recruitment. Those start-ups that are looking to expand can greatly benefit from this feature, while also getting their name out there to potential investors.
Their syndicate platform, led by technology experts make room for those who are looking to invest the chance to apply to a lead or directly invest in a fund.
Visit AngelList here.
From top corporations to big name accelerators, Seedrs aims to simplify the funding process for investors. Providing a vast network of investors from 48 different countries, who tap into an additionally impressive network of start-ups, there is plenty of room for collaboration on this platform. Seeders also encourages investors and start-ups to continue their relationship after the transaction is made. Their online and offline networks aim keep both start-ups and investors in the loop.
Depending at what stage of development your company has currently reached, exploring various funding options available to you is a worthwhile endeavour. Rather than blindly pitching investors, investigating each potential platform, whether it’s crowdfunding or a hiring a freelance funding expert, will save you time and resources so you can focus on the right type of investment based on your needs.
Visit Seedrs here.
Picking Your Lane: Maximising Your Chances Of Success And Happiness
How do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.
Most entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity. They do what they have to. They don’t think far ahead. They fight fires every day. They are the foundation of every economy all over the world. Some succeed, some fail, few shoot the lights out. Some are happy, some are not.
For me, there’s nothing more thrilling than building a business. Seeing your ideas turn into reality. Seeing your team exceed your expectations every day. Seeing your customers’ lives improved by your products.
But, entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. You pour blood and sweat and tears into your business. You get more than your fair share of punches in the nose. It’s hard, but if you’re lucky and you persevere, the rewards are great.
So, how do you maximise your chances of getting into the ‘happy and shooting the lights out’ club?
Picking the right lane – figuring out what you’re going to do – is probably the most important decision you’ll make. Once you’ve figured that out, you can get down to the nitty gritty of picking your team and building your business.
But, how do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.
The Sweet Spot Model, which has been drifting around the web for years, provides great guidance. If you do what you love, the hard yards won’t feel like work. If you do what you’re good at, you’ll beat or (even better) outstrip the competition. If you provide something the world needs, you’ll feel a sense of purpose. If someone will pay for it, you have a business.
When I co-founded Simply, I wanted to tick all 4 boxes AND work from Cape Town AND be extremely flexible (so I could prioritise family health).
I worked on three different ideas: A GIS-platform for solar and other utilities; a transaction platform for stokvels; and a cheeky online life insurance play.
The life insurance play quickly emerged as my best choice (it helped that my partners are top actuaries J):
- What I’m good at – doing start-ups, connecting people and teams, and using technology and data to solve business problems.
- What I love – working with people I like and trust to build businesses that solve hard problems and make the world a better place.
- What the world needs – most adult South Africans have one or more funeral policies. Few have life or disability cover and policies are often very expensive. There’s a clear need for simple, convenient, well-priced life, disability and funeral cover.
- What someone will pay for – the market we’re targeting is huge – nearly R7.5Bn of new premium is written annually.
With the stars lining up, we pressed the go button in early 2016. It’s now twelve months since we launched to market and early signs are good:
- Our innovative, online products – Family Cover, Domestic Cover and Group Cover – have been well received and are improving all the time.
- We have an amazing, engaged team – inspired by the purpose of protecting vulnerable people.
- We’ve sold more than 4 500 policies to date, providing more than R2.5Bn of cover to more than 20,000 people.
- We’re based in Cape Town, working hard and having fun, and I seldom miss a swimming gala, netball game or opportunity to go mountain biking.
While picking the right lane is no guarantee of success, it definitely helps stack the odds in your favour. You’re going to need all the help you can get. So, take the time to pick your lane. I bet it’ll be worth the effort.
9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By
Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.
Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.
There are great learning opportunities that present themselves when we fail, but we must be willing to continue on and try again in order to learn anything at all.
It can be quite an arduous task to strive for your own means, to create your own vision and to rally the support within yourself that starting and running your own business requires.
Thankfully, we’re not in it alone. The wisdom of others can greatly ameliorate the process learning from our missteps and hiccups.
Taking from sagacious investors, inventors and thinkers can help you pick yourself up and make something meaningful out of your quest to become a successful entrepreneur.
By studying the thought processes of other entrepreneurs, we can become more enriched and more aware of how to approach the challenges we face in business and in life.
Here are 9 quotes every entrepreneur should live by:
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- Develop Digital Marketing Competency In 3 Simple Steps
- How To Build Organisational Wealth Through Increased Efficiency
- The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition
- Successful People Always Chase the Impossible – Here’s Why
- A Top Lesson From Vinewave: Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight
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