What are the life skills a startup CEO must learn to rise to the top?

There are tons of business skills, but life skills translate into good decision making (not always, but most of the time).  Gratitude, humility, and ability to listen (as mentioned) are key, but the ability to take life as it comes and be accepting of those changes, but willing to adapt to survive.  Many CEOs are so convinced in their product/service, that they fail to see the big picture of life and business, which I feel should include acceptance of today, gratitude for tomorrow and doing what you love, and willingness to change, no matter what.

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What should I look for when signing an employee contract with a startup?

Critical to determine who owns what and to be sure that IP is protected.  That is where the EPIIA agreement discussed is useful.  There are other documents related to technology assignment that may need to be considered as well, but defining what IP is owned by who, who will own it in the future, and who owns the rights to derivative works (things developed that may be based on one person’s IP).

You can use standard forms, but the advice that goes along with forms and suggestions and strategies for protection can be worth the expense of an attorney.

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Is the traditional VC model broken?

Chris Barsness,

startup, finance, law, and tech nerd

Not broken, just needs to constantly adapt and change just like the start-ups and entrepreneurs they invest in.

Just as in any of the areas of finance, over time there are winners and losers for their return.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to all kinds of market forces, the economy, and what their LPs want.

Venture investing is a high risk and potentially high reward model.  There will continue to be changes necessary and challenges due to market forces (crowdfunding, online forums like AngelList, allowance of general advertising for certain fund raising under Reg D, etc.). 

At the end of the day, venture capital is a useful tool and is a necessary for the type of high risk investing used to start cutting edge new companies.

More on my take on the use and necessity at "Why Venture Capital is not Vulture Capital." 

http://siliconvalleystartupattor…

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How do I find a good startup lawyer and convince him to take equity instead of cash?

If you want to offer equity, consider the attorney like any other investor/shareholder, they need to believe you can execute on your idea so they will actually see any return on their “investment” of their time.   If you do some of it yourself, at least talk and get some quotes from reputable local startup firms/lawyer and you may see that they will give you some free guidance and often offer variable terms for payment including equity, flat fees, or other flexible payment terms.

I went over a few of the common issues for California lawyers and some options in my recent article at:  http://siliconvalleystartupattor…

Always remember, good early advice can save you tons down the road and good start-up lawyers can provide other valuable business advice and connections to add value to the other mere transactional needs you may have.

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Is it a good idea to publish a startup pitch deck online during or before the seed funding process?

Chris Barsness,

startup, finance, law, and tech nerd

One other issue people don't think about is the legality.  If you put something online to promote your company for the purpose of getting investors, that could be considered an general offer to sell a security through general advertising or solicitation, which is prohibited in most cases under federal and state securities laws.  That is especially the case if you put something like "our company is looking for $100,000 for 5% in the company" on the net.

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