Monthly Archives: April 2013

Thoughts On Corporate Records Automation

Glider's Contract Management & Collaboration Workflow

Glider’s Contract Management & Collaboration Workflow

With the volume of start-up activity and number of individuals involved, founders would be smart to employ new services that use online work-flows and back-ups to manage various corporate transactions.

Two such services for corporate records automation have come to the market recently and I’d thought I ‘d mention them and also cite another area of innovation that the start-up community could benefit from.

The first to start-up with is Clerky.com: According to their website, they provide incorporation services, form corporation documents, and electronic signing. Limiting only to incorporation in Delaware.  Concerns are raised for other legal issues that may crop up regarding arbitration jurisdiction.

The second, recently announced, is Glider.com: Contract workflow processes. Whether this service handles contract generation or just document management,  if the service will eventually handle contract forms and use templates like the aforementioned Clerky.com – or strictly contract management and collaboration and electronic signatures remains to be seen. The space for business services with legal documents is certainly active.

The trend for online services to expand the scope of the successful Legalzoom.com reach, could ostensibly happen by including workflow and electronic signing.

Another area of innovation that founders would benefit: a corporate board minutes system, keeping track of notes, board resolutions, e-signature for each of the members, automatic shareholder ratifications. And most importantly, back-ups so that corporate records don’t go missing.

Gmail has had a discovery litigation back-up tool called Postini.com. No doubt that has been the main repository for corporate documents to date for those doing start-ups. Founders would be wise to be careful and diligent about backing up, and keeping strict records regarding corporate actions, lest dissenters take the lack of information to their advantage.

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‘Wish I Was There’…Zach Braff and Kickstarter

Zach Braff's Garden State

Zach Braff’s Garden State

The current Kickstarter campaign by Scrubs’ Zach Braff, Wish I Was Here, is a rocket success.  At the time of writing, it has hit $1.5 million and 20,000 backers. (http://kck.st/11F6V1Z).

They’ve reached their $2 million goal in a month, and it’s great! Great for customers, “friends and family” supporters, and also really great for Mr. Braff, allowing him to keep creative control of his work.

At the same time, though, this approach to fund raising and the JOBS Act  create various pros and cons for equity-based crowdsourcing.

The Kickstarter fund raising path is all about promising the customer a product both during and after the path of the project’s development.

The customers of Mr. Braff’s movie get value in a somewhat unconventional fashion but it is value that they willingly accepted, knowing the conditions of the product at the sale. Pledging $5,000 to attend the premiere and have Mr. Braff’s hand on your leg is a steal. Not including the t-shirt, art prints, sound track, weekly playlists, Production diary, and the script.

Purchasing equity, though, you might find yourself being more critical and somewhat more concerned with what Mr. Braff is going to do to manage the money. You start wondering, well, why should there be t-shirts at all? What is Mr. Braff doing at a Premiere, potentially creating a sexual harassment liability? Why is he not working on casting Batman and wowing Asian fans?

Purchase equity and you’ll also have full expectation of transparency and future returns. When there is any deviation from the plan, heads will roll. And that changes the project forever…even when you disclose to shareholders that you are absolutely maintaining complete creative control.

And right now, Mr. Braff certainly does have complete creative control, complete decision-making. It makes all the difference.

Since the passing of the JOBS Act, though, the SEC has been slow to sort out the rules. According to numerous articles (http://politi.co/10fl2Ha), the whole thing is a “giant mess” (actually, those were the words of a congressional aide, which says a lot in itself).

If the current SEC rules can’t spot fiduciary breaches, related party exchanges, or off-shore holdings, with the current regulations and reporting requirements, making crowd-sourcing a part of it, putting it under SEC scrutiny, would truly make an unbearable problem for the agency.

Watching Rumors…Predictions for the Future of the Smart Watch

MSN Direct Tissot SPOT Watch.

MSN Direct Tissot SPOT Watch.

The web has circulated a few rumors about possible digital watch initiatives recently. What a great starting point for my blog! I first got involved in the development of smart watches many  years ago but here is my run down of what’s going on at the moment.

First off, we know that Sony has shipped out their best effort to date (http://engt.co/13Jl02g). Samsung is rumored to be building its own watch (http://abcn.ws/12yYeYi), as are Apple and LG (http://bit.ly/17QXNec), and even Microsoft (http://bit.ly/120i8dy).

The Microsoft team that originally created the SPOT Watch back in 1999 laid the foundation for much of the subsequent innovation in smart watch designs. The recent Kickstarter campaign for the Pebble (http://kck.st/11BJkfK) caught everyone by surprise when it showed that there was actually a large consumer market (68,929 backers) willing to spend over $10 million to see the smart watch get where it needed to be. And all this started with the ground breaking 1990 Seiko Message Watch, using the so-called “FM subcarrier” network (Seiko HSDS Whitepaper). For a particularly cool overview of the development of the smart watch, checkout: http://ow.ly/kica6.

What is interesting about the smart watch, though, and what actually makes it smart?

Well, consumers haven’t generally taken to digital watches with all that much zeal. At least, that’s the historical trend. Watches are items of jewelry, first and foremost. People don’t buy them for the technology. Or they haven’t yet.

But the market is saturated with high-end jewelry watches. What’s out there now is high-end mostly in terms of the fine mechanics in the design and the precious stones and metals.

The digital watch is a whole different story.  You see calculator watches, sports watches. With the exception of Suunto GPS high-end watches, you don’t really see much else that is what you would call overly smart. When it comes to the smartness of that watch, nothing that will fit on your wrist will out compute your phone or a phone connected cloud app.

Technology companies love the smart watch, though. It’s thing to watch because your wrist is prime real estate in the technology world. Okay, Google Glass is going for your face. Apple and the Smart Phone industry are vying for your pocket. Nonetheless, everyone wants that spot on your wrist.

What should you expect a smart watch to do, though? What can it do to really stand out when you have your cell phone and iPad or tablet on hand as well?

Obviously, a watch is strapped to your wrist…but what are other similar trends in the wearable computing area? The fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike Fuel Band, and other wearable computing devices promise to track your every move and translate them to some digital calorie to burn or digital fitness score. This is the world of Digital Wellness. These devices have little to no interface, save one button and some feedback – blinking LED and a vibrator. And they differ in price considerably, based on whether they Bluetooth the data to your phone or plug into a headphone jack.

Should the smart watch be connected via FM Subcarrier, Bluetooth, or wifi? This decision directly impacts size of the battery and how often the device needs to be charged.  How often should the watch be charged? Once a day, once every 3 days, once a week? Is it possible not to charge the watch more than once every month?

Should the device have sensors GPS, accelerometers, humidity – like the exercise bracelets we mentioned? Or if it is connected, why not send the data to the watch, and just track local position?

Should the watch be an mp3 player and have a headphone jack like the Apple iPod shuffles?

What market should the watch focus on? High-end jewelry, extreme sports, technical geek?

A strangely popular trend in Fossil watches in the early 2000 was the dynamically changing LCD see http://bit.ly/13JnUE9. This really set the trend for digital Fossil watches. Not surprising they were first adopters in the Microsoft SPOT watch initiative.  What type of display should it have? High resolution full color or eInk? A few colors, perhaps, or an array of LEDs like the Nike Fuel band? How about touch screen or gesture control?

This is a market ripe for multiple configurations like the iPod, from no interface (Jawbone Up or original iPod shuffle) to the high resolution retina display, with storage in modest flash to massive HDD. The smart watch configurations may differ by connectivity, display, and memory types.

A couple of things are certain. A smart watch has to tell time, it has to fit on the wrist, and it has to be as close to jewelry as possible. People have got to value it. It has to be precious.

Any smart watch we see emerge in the next while is going to need a high resolution display, touch-gesture control, and Bluetooth connectivity to the phone. It’s basically a smart phone accessory; and the best smart watch will have the best set of apps that not only work on the watch, but the paired phone.