Frontline Ventures built the Startup Navigation Manual to outline the major first steps founders take, and the pitfalls to be avoided — at the beginning of the long road from company formation to the ultimate mature stage as a large and free-standing company, active in global markets.
This manual is based on the commercial investing experience of the Frontline team and the legal experience of Síofra Flood (former COO of Swrve and Drop), who has had a long and successful career in early-stage tech.
There are better ways to share practical experience within the tech industry. Our communities are filled with people with amazing experience and insight; those insights should be shared, so that early-stage founders can start out on the right path, spend less time learning about legal issues from scratch, and focus on growing their businesses.
Frontline Ventures is Europe’s first community-focused venture fund, investing in early-stage, capital-efficient software/Internet companies. We back world-class tech entrepreneurs and support their journeys through our innovative platform. We are based in London and Dublin, but invest across Europe.
Frontline reviews 1000+ startup pitches every year and meets 150+ teams. These teams are all early-stage – yet, they vary hugely in their understanding of “the road ahead” in terms of company formation and development.
While each startup will have its own individual vision, there are steps along the way that every company will take. This manual will provide you with the “must do’s” in this journey of building your company, as well as the knowledge to avoid the common pitfalls we have seen in our years of backing tech founders.
Síofra started her career at IONA Technologies PLC in 1995, when the company had fewer than 50 employees. She was IONA’s first in-house counsel and worked there for 6 years, including through its IPO on NASDAQ in 1997. Síofra then moved to Havok, when it had about 20 employees, took the role of corporate counsel and was centrally involved it all of Havok’s VC investments as well as in its exit to Intel for US$110M in 2007. After consulting for 3-years for 25+ early and mid-stage tech companies, Síofra then joined Swrve as COO, taking on a broader role, including finance, HR and operations. Her most recent role was as interim COO of Frontline-investee company, Drop Kitchen. Síofra is also a mentor for the Going for Growth programme, a structured 6-month programme supporting female entrepreneurs in Ireland.
Who are you?
Before diving into the text, it is important to visualise what you might look like at this stage.
- You are a single founder or a set of multiple founders with an idea
- You believe that your company will have to raise capital from external investors at some stage
- You might have interested advisers/helpers
- You have not yet taken on external investment, but may have had initial discussions/may be considering applying to an incubator programme
What will you learn?
The scope of this manual is to cover what we believe are the major legal considerations relevant to start-up companies and founders from the pre-incorporation stage through to pre-seed / pre-incubator stage.
This manual will not overload you with long lists of things you “should” do, but rather will outline how to build your company’s legal and commercial infrastructure in order to protect value as it grows. Starting from the right place is always easier than having to fix something later down the line.
We will cover legal issues framed in relation to current Irish law. Different terms can apply in the US or even the UK. However, the manual has been written with internationalisation in mind; while additional terms may be required in other countries, following the advice in this guide is unlikely to do damage to your legal position elsewhere.
Where you see this symbol, we have included a “pitfall” story — a real-life example of what can happen if things go wrong.
This manual also provides a number of template agreements, and recommends additional documents. As with all templates and web-based material, review them thoroughly to assess whether they are appropriate for your circumstances. You are welcome to use them, but you do so at your own risk.
While we look at some of the down-the-line effects of legal missteps, this material does not cover legal issues applicable only, or largely, to more advanced companies, such as those considering raising a Series A funding and beyond.
This manual contains general information about legal matters. The information does not constitute legal advice, and should not be treated as such. Laws and practices may change, and the application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved.
The legal information in this manual is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. In no event will Frontline or Síofra be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information in this manual or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.
You must not rely on the information in this manual as an alternative to legal advice from a qualified professional.
Certain links in this site connect to other websites maintained by third parties, over whom Frontline has no control. Frontline makes no representations as to the accuracy or any other aspect of information contained in other websites.