Assaf Ben-DavidEntrepreneur, Lawyer, Negotiator & Public Speaker

Experienced commercial lawyer - with expertise in startups and commercial negotiations. Lecturer & public speaker. I've worked with over 300 entrepreneurs and over 100 startups. I've taught tens of courses and given hundreds of talks. I established and directed the Legal Clinic for Startups.

Recent Answers

First of all, the fact that you are talking about market validation is great. I've seen so many startups invest time and money, only to find that no ones wants/needs their product, or that they only want a certain aspect of it, or they aren't willing to pay the requested price. So you're already one step ahead.
Answer: the sooner you validate your product, the better! That said, the version you are validating needs to be representative of the end product, or else the validation isn't reliable. So in your case, I would:
1. create a business model canvas (which is what all startups should start with before creating a business plan),
2. Setup a Wix or Wordpress website (this can be done for free / very low costs). On the website, include the price of the product, and enable people to order it (even if it doesn't exist!). I am happy to explain how this can be done even though you don't yet have the final product and by still being fair to the people who click the "buy/order" button.
3. Spend a small amount (say $100 - but depends on your budget) validating the idea.
This way, after only spending a very small amount, you will be able to know (if done right):
a. Do people like your product.
b. Do people want/need your product (not the same as 'a').
c. Are people willing to pay for your product?
d. How much are they willing to pay? (you can check this by having 2 landing pages for payment - each with a different price).
I'm happy to help you with this matter further, as this is a critical stage.
Best of luck!

I know this sounds over simplified, but I would work with both (assuming your budget allows this) as each has their own expertise. I would start with the food scientist, and then have the baker play around with the ingredients and cooking methods to check taste, texture and quality.
I can connect you with a good food scientist if you like. The fee for this will be a 'thank you' and a smile (you have to do both, otherwise no deal) :-)

1. Train your agents well and often.
2. Reward your agents for solving issues quickly, but mainly for good customer reviews - you don't want the speed affecting quality, which will cause a loss of clients.
3. Analyze the calls to see which issues take the longest and then either train your agents to deal with this issues as best possible, or create a smaller unit of agents who only deal with these issues (which will make them more professional = quicker turn-around times).
4. Ask your agents what would help them improve the speed - they know best + answer some calls yourself, to see what takes the longest and why.
5. If your system supports this, include an option for customers to select a 'call back' within x hours for cases which are less urgent (this will reduce the pressure during the peak hours and allow better service).
I'm happy to help you through the process if you like.

I completely understand how you're feeling. A friend of mine and I created a website that brought in nice profits for a while, but the busier we got the less time we had to work on it, and the profits started going down. We hated the fact that the website had such potential that wasn't being utilized fully.
I'm happy to see if I can help and won't charge for an initial introduction call ( I've always been pretty good at monetizing existing businesses, so I see this as a nice challenge. Of course, I would need to know more about the app.
Good luck and well done for creating something that generates a profit - this in itself isn't always an easy feat.

I'll divide your question into 2 questions, because I am not sure which one you're really asking :-)
1. Should I hire him despite the costs involved? You seem to already agree to this, based on what you wrote ("I am willing to set aside...assuming I see some ROI...").
2. How to I justify his high salary to other employees?
A few options:
a. You don't tell them.
b. The CEO's compensation can be structured in a way that his 'salary' isn't that high (and this is what the other employees will see - so no problems), and he gets a large bonus based on results (which could be measured within 6 months and then 12 months). This is also better for you seeing that you don't know how good is will be. Additionally, if he is so confident he can do the job, he shouldn't object to that structure.
c. Make it clear to your employees, that if he manages to generate more income for the company, they too will benefit from it (end of the year bonus/increased salaries/holiday gifts?).
d. the tough option: tell them that if you don't make some hard choices, there won't be a company for them to work at down the line (due to the yearly decrease in profits)
It's your company (which you seem to have managed successfully), so I am sure that you know what would work best with your employees.
I'm happy to help you construct the employment contract with the potential adviser.
Good luck
p.s.: let me know how things turned out. I'm curious :-)

Sounds wonderful. Well done.
In order to find commercial viability (or a business model), it would be best to try answer the following question: which 'pain' / problem does your solution solve for people (or can solve for them with certain changes).
For example: if there is a known problem/pain of people who come to Nigeria and are then unable to communicate properly because of the language barrier, then this could be a wonderful tool (mobile app?) for them, which they would be willing to pay to use. Or maybe vice versa: many Nigerians have difficulty speaking English to people who come to Nigeria (although you need to be sure that they would be willing / able to pay for your service).
I think that there are many other options and would be happy to help you discuss them (free of charge - with the intention of 'partnering' with you if it looks to be profitable) -
Good luck

This is a very broad question on: 'what makes someone a successful entrepreneur?' and 'how to raise seed funding?'
Entire books have been written on how this is done, so any attempt to give you a professional answer in just a few lines would be unprofessional. Nevertheless, I will say that there are numerous factors that affect an entrepreneurs ability to raise early stage funding, among them are (in order of importance):
1. The team (how long they've been together, their skills, their past experience, their passion)/
2. existing customers / practical market research: how many existing users/clients are there. If your product/service doesn't exist yet, then how many people showed that they would buy the product/pay for the service (you can check this without actually having the product/service). this information is very important to investors (just throwing out potential numbers doesn't cut it).
3. The idea - yes, the idea only comes 3rd, as in most cases you will pivot (change the idea) at least once or twice before reaching the final version of the product/service.
4. Your connections / the amount of investors you approach.
5. Timing / luck.
If you give me more specific information (such as the type of product/service, the market, the team etc..basically your 'deck'), I will be happy to try advise you on the best way to raise money. For example, for a product, you should try avoid crowdfunding platforms unless you already have the entire manufacturing process and selling/shipping process ready. If not, you will be seeing 'fake'/copied versions of your product even before you hit the market.
Good luck

Both a good and tough question. As someone who has heard this question hundreds of time before (from startups that I worked with), I think that I can help:
There are 2 options / solutions to calculate the value/equity: the financial solution (cold numbers) one, and the psychological one.
From a financial aspect, you can calculate the current value of the business (if need be, I'm happy to explain how this is commonly done). This is the value/worth of your hard work over the last 2 years. Once you've added a number to it, you can now know (more or less) how much equity/shares your new partner 'should' get in return for his/her investment.
The problem with this option, is that we are not robots - we have feelings, egos and independent thoughts. This means that no matter how accurate your calculations might be, your partner might still value the business differently (if higher - then no problem. If less = arguments arise). This leads me to the second option: the psychological calculation.
You are taking on board a partner. Assuming you're not only bringing this person into the business for his/her investment, this means that you have reached the conclusion that you want this person with you, and/or or that you need them for their skills. If so, this means that your future partner has value - in addition to the money he/she is bringing in. In which case, the best option is to decide with yourself how much you are willing to give for this 'value'. Then, invite the person for coffee, and ask them how much they would expect in return: if they say a lower number than you thought of - great (you'll both be happy). If they ask for more than you thought, explain and pursued why you are offering that specific amount. There are numerous methods to reaching 'middle ground' - usually through means of vesting. For example: your partner would get X% equity, and every Y months/years they would get Z% more (alternatively he/she could get more only if they achieve certain milestones or goals).
2 last tips:
1. It is better having 50% (for example) of a bigger cake, than having 100% of no cake (or 70% of a much smaller cake).
2. whatever you do, make sure that you have a decent founders agreement. Fall outs between founders/business partners is one of the top 3 reasons that startups/businesses fail.
I am happy to prepare you for the meeting, help you analyze the percentage you should offer, and/or draft the founders agreement should you need one.
Best of luck.

Not sure if your question is still relevant, but here goes:
My interpretation to "Pre-existing obligations" would be, for example: licenses that you've given to others, licenses that you've received, claims against you/your IP (for example, someone who has filed a claim/complaint/court case saying that they are in fact the owners).
Regarding section 5: they mean what do you plan to do with you IP, and/or if you don't already have a patent, are you planning on filing for one? If so, in which jurisdictions...etc...
Regarding section 3, and even though you didn't ask: I find it unlikely that you really do own 100% of your IP. I am not sure what your business is, but if it includes code/programming, then there is a 99% chance that you used open source code, in which you case you probably don't own ALL the IP.
I hope that you got the grant. good luck

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