Vancouver's cash-strapped startups urged to consider costly legal mistakes

It was at a Vancouver hackathon when a tech entrepreneur asked lawyer Luca Citton a question seemingly inspired by the history of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB): should the startup founder settle his legal issues up front or focus on getting his product to market as quickly as possible?

“As a lawyer, this just scares you because what someone is telling you is, ‘I’m going to build my house on a sandy beach knowing that waves are going to come in and take the sand back out to the ocean,” said Citton, who specializes in corporate and commercial law at Vancouver’s Boughton Law.

While he appreciates costs can be an issue for any startup, he said too many are falling into the trap of using “one-size-fits-all” online legal services that don’t always reflect B.C. laws.

If the founders have a falling out, the legal repercussions could be far costlier than any upfront costs, according to Citton.

As Vancouver Startup Week kicks off Monday (September 26), tech entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to mull over the potential legal consequences of building their own companies on a foundation of sand.

One seminar offers tips to founders on how to develop “prenups” for startups that require splitting job responsibilities and equity among the core team.

Meanwhile, McCarthy Tétrault LLP has partnered with Toronto’s MaRS LegalX cluster to bring the half-day LexTech West conference to Vancouver during startup week.

Lawyer Matt Peters, McCarthy Tétrault’s national innovation leader, said advancements in artificial intelligence have the potential to greatly impact the legal business.

“Our job as lawyers (is) to be able to identify some of those tools and help clients really get, for example, faster deals done because we can do due diligence in a more technology-augmented way that will speed things up,” he said.

More information about Vancouver Startup Week can be found here.

torton@biv.com

@reporton