women to women
4 corporate housekeeping tips for female founders from Houston experts
Laying the proper foundation of a startup might be one of the most important parts of starting a company — right behind the innovative solution your startup aims to provide.
At a female-founder focused panel at Baker Botts cohosted by The Artemis Fund earlier this month, a group of experts gave their advice from managing contracts and hiring to salary and investment.
The panel was moderated by Grace Rodriguez, CEO and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, and featured an investor, a founder, and a legal representative — Leslie Goldman, general partner and co-founder of The Artemis Fund; Emma Fauss, CEO of Medical Informatics Corp.; and Katie Belleville, associate at Baker Botts L.L.P, respectively.
If you missed the event, here are four pieces of advice from the panelists.
Be aware of an investor's founder red flags
When asked about what she looks for in a potential investment opportunity, Goldman, who's fund invests in female-led startups, looks at a myriad of things, but the big one is the founder herself.
"Ninety percent of it is about the founder," Goldman says on the panel. "The founder is key."
She goes on to say that her founder red flags include lack of transparency, not knowing her numbers, and not having the proper legal paperwork in order.
Representing the legal side, Belleville echoed the importance of getting the proper legal paperwork together from day one.
"It is important to get you organizational documents in order in the beginning to avoid a problem later down the line," Belleville says. "Going to a lawyer to help you set up your company and what documents you need."
She adds that startup founders can expect to pay lawyers by the hour like most legal exchanges, but a lot of legal professionals will offer a preliminary meeting to understand each other for free.
Be smart about who's giving you money
For Fauss, who closed an $11.9 million round in January, and most entrepreneurs, finding investors is a huge challenge and commitment.
"Raising money is probably my least favorite activity. It's a brutal process," Fauss tells the audience. "You are getting married to someone for 20-plus years. And it's easier to get a divorce from your husband than it is to get a divorce from your board members."
She explains how keeping that in mind really led her to be picky about her investors and find ones that were right for her and her company.
When it comes to hiring and salary — get it on paper
Every founder will eventually get to a point when they'll need to hire as their company grows. Fauss says she was fortunate to find her early team members organically — through networking opportunities. When it comes to listing jobs online, she recommends being specific to what expertise you're looking for.
In tandem with hiring, founders must decide how they plan to compensate their employees and whether they offer equity — something Goldman says impresses her.
"If a founder convinced other people to join their team based on a promise of getting a part of the company, it means that they are a charismatic entrepreneur and it means that the people who join them believe strongly and passionately about the company," Goldman says.
Belleville adds that founders should be aware of employment agreements, which she doesn't think is necessary in every situation, and confidentiality agreements, which she highly recommends when it comes to protecting the company's intellectual property.
"If you make it part of the [on boarding] process, then everyone has one and you've got that security at the point when they're leaving," Belleville says.
At one point in the panel, Fauss brings up a salary issue she's passionate about.
"Don't forget to budget in your own salary," Fauss says. "Your sweat equity, your worth does have a cost."
She adds that even if you're not getting paid a full salary when you're starting out, it's important to keep in the budget especially when factoring VC money.
Keep your paperwork in order
This might be a no-brainer, but the panelists all echoed the need for properly organized paperwork, especially when it comes to contracts and letters of intent with clients, for general bookkeeping reasons but also for review of potential investors.
"I'm going to want to see that there's actually a binding contract there," Goldman says, adding that the legality and terms of those types of agreements are crucial for her role as an investor.
Belleville says that one way for founders to keep track is by making a detailed spreadsheet with all that's in the contracts — terms, renewal, and termination details, for example.
The panelists — and even some founders in the audience — recommended digital filing systems like Carta, or its free version called captable.io. DocSend was also recommended for sharing your pitch deck because it offers stats so you can see how much time was spent on each page. At the very least, founders should keep files backed up online in Google Docs or DropBox.
When it comes to issuing contacts, Fauss recommends working with a legal team to streamline that process. Ninety percent of contracts will stay the same between clients, she says, so put together a playbook to know which variables to use and when.