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Silicon Valley Law Firm Visits Northwestern University for Day-Long Entrepreneur Boot Camp

Lawyers can offer entrepreneurs step-by-step advice for forming and protecting a business. One of the biggest startup law firms in Silicon Valley, California, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), visited Northwestern University in late April to do just that. 

On Saturday, April 22nd, Northwestern and Evanston entrepreneurs filled Pancoe Auditorium for WSGR’s annual, day-long Entrepreneur Boot Camp. Many of the attendees were Northwestern graduate students looking for legal advice on how to start their venture. Others, including local angel investors, attended the yearly event (supported by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and The Garage), to learn from WSGR’s startup expertise.  

Since it’s founding in 1961, WSGR’s glowing reputation has allowed it to work with West-Coast behemoths like Tesla, Google, Twitter, Spotify, and Snapchat. But in staying true to its mantra of helping all types of entrepreneurs, WSGR continues to work with companies that are at any stage in their evolution, including startups, IPO-stage ventures, and multi-billion dollar enterprises. WSGR has since begun touring the nation and visiting various higher-education universities to help budding entrepreneurs like those who attend Northwestern.

Here are WSGR’s top suggestions on how to start a business that the firm shared at this year’s Boot Camp:

Step One: Talk to a lawyer! Choosing the right entity, organizing founder’s documents, and patent law are complicated topics that are best left to the experts. Entrepreneurs are masters of learning new skills and solving new problems, but some problems are better left for lawyers to help with.

Step Two: Choose an entity. There are many options out there, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Examples of these options are LLC, S corp, and C corp entities. Choosing the location to form an entity is also a critical decision. Over 90% of companies represented by WSGR choose to incorporate in Delaware because of the state’s well-established laws and venture capital familiarity.  

Step Three: Organize founder’s documents and incentive structure. As with choosing an entity, there are lots of ways to organize founder’s documents and incentives. But, according to WSGR, a four-year vesting period with a one year cliff is common for most startups.

Step Four: Protect your ideas. Your team might not start off with a patentable idea, but intellectual property is likely to be generated later on. Lawyers can help you draft your patent application and develop a sustainable IP strategy with your team from the early stages of your company’s existence.

Step Five: Fund your business after building a valuation and term sheet. Don’t have your valuation or term sheet ready? WSGR has an online Term Sheet Generator to help you get started.

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