Startup Strategy: Protecting IP

Here at The Cannon, we’re all about creatively intelligent people with the guts to chase their ideas. Ideas, especially the kind we witness in action on our campus, hold the power to change the world. That makes them pretty valuable. Whether founding the next Facebook or the next Snuggie, protecting your ideas (and your IP) is critical to retaining that value and your startup. Here are some things to think about to help you protect the things you dream about.

Software Selection

Apple doesn’t use a 4-digit passcode for its sensitive information – just your old iPhone. Make sure the software you’re using has appropriate encryption levels for the scale and scope of information you’re dealing with. You should also take caution in using open source software. While it may help speed up your process, some licenses are tricky. More than a few companies have lost their IP due to accidental licensing infractions, or worse, turning their work itself into open source software.

Go Home, Roger

Working on your own work after work – ambitious. Working on your own ideas at your current job – risky business. If your ideas are too private for a coffee shop, take them home! Better to find a way to work from the living room than risk IP by violating any employment obligations or agreements. If it’s worth working on this hard, it’s worth doing right.

Friends, right?

So many brilliant ideas develop organically in conversation between friends. While that informality provides the fertile creative foundation for the ideas themselves, it’s important to structure your company appropriately as that idea grows. Co-founders need founder agreements. Clearly laying out voting rights, percentages, roles and responsibilities enables you to act within plainly stated goals and boundaries. While founders agreements may seem stiff, even corporate, they exist to protect founders and friends, their relationships and ideas, and any company that may arise from their combination.

Look, ideas are fun. We see the joy chasing your brilliant mental machinations brings every day. Protecting your work isn’t a thrill ride, but it can be easy when you get in the habit. Early and often, think about what you’re creating and how you’re keeping it safe.

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