“- I am sorry but my lawyer has to be a man. – Absolutely no worries, my client has to be someone with EQ.”
The first part of this conversation actually happened once, at the beginning of my career as a lawyer entrepreneur. It was at a ‘smart casual’ startup event on a boat on the Danube one summer in the early 2010s. The answer also happened, however, for the sake of simplicity, only in my mind. I actually see this as a funny moment in my professional history. Okay, I admit I might have a strange sense of humor, but sometimes I was simply unable to keep a poker face on hearing these silly remarks and burst out laughing, which somehow always took the speaker by surprise (wonder why).
Obviously, in a perfect world, women should absolutely not be subject to comments like those but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Even though I personally do not encounter that attitude anymore, the problem is far from being resolved. I personally see the core of it more in the silent phenomena. Being the only woman with actual decision making power around the negotiation table. Being the only woman in an email thread about a $M financing round of a startup. Seeing one woman in a speaker pool of 21 at a VC event. When cases like those occur on a daily basis in 2020 in my field, I simply reject to consider the topic of diversity overemphasized or boring.
One of the most frequent comments I get from women who don’t work in tech is that the scene must feel more like a stag party than a work environment, and I must generally be the only woman in the room. I’m trying really hard to think about even just one time that this happened, but the truth is, despite having a flawless memory (occupational hazard, trust me, it’s not always a blessing), I can’t. I don’t want to lie, it is definitely true that the majority of the founders of tech startups I work with are men, and it is also true that the only place on Earth where the queue is not in front of the ladies’ room but in front of the gents’ instead is a tech conference. (For all the girls who are frustrated about having to spend ages in their lives waiting for bathrooms I recommend attending a tech conference purely for that satisfying moment.) Still, I feel like people in tech are actually open to having women on their teams or as their advisors, and there is a lot less resistance than one would think. Point proven, in the past few years, I’ve been approached by ever more women founders seeking advice, which I’m thrilled about.
The same can not be said of the legal field, however. Being a tech lawyer and business advisor, my job includes not only tech conferences, pitch training and legal drafting, but the contract and investment negotiations as well. That is, when you let the parties—and mostly their attorneys—talk through the points of a deal and come to an agreement. Well, at least that would be ideal.
I personally believe that in these situations, we’re all there to create something amazing together and come up with a deal that is beneficial for everyone. We are there to make the goal of the whole future cooperation become a reality. We’re there to build, not destroy.
But in my experience, frequently in these cases, I am indeed the only woman in the room. And even if I’m not, the woman on the other side is most likely just a silent sidekick of the male attorney actually leading the negotiations. Even though these women are just as qualified as their male counterparts, maybe just a couple of years younger (oh ageism, my friend), they’re usually only there to bring the coffee, handle the projector and look stern (definitely not smile, I assume their bonus would be revoked right then and there) as requested by the secret code of the tough-guys-around-the-table society.
As you can see, in my personal experience, it’s not the tech field, it’s the law, where the lack of appreciation of women professionals is still a noticeable trend, sometimes even evolving to hostility, and where gender discrimination is still a huge issue. Diversity is certainly a problem in tech too, but hostility is another level. And honestly, that is only one of the many problems of the whole profession. The core of which is the mentality, the mannerism and the fact that a huge majority of attorneys have the tendency to think that the whole world revolves around them. This atmosphere is super toxic and one of the main reasons why turning to a lawyer is one of the last things entrepreneurs want to do. We at KassaiLaw consider reckoning with these diverted socialization patterns, accompanied by entrepreneurial solution-oriented thinking instead of the traditional problem focus of lawyers to be matters of the utmost importance. While solving the seemingly unsolvable definitely takes longer than creating a list of reasons why it’s impossible, the latter is not how groundbreaking ideas and innovation happen.
Startups and entrepreneurship have brought together the three divergent fields of my interests: being a creative and constructive entrepreneurial lawyer in the field of technology. The perfect synergy.
Of all the compliments I have received “Wow, you are not a typical lawyer” is my favourite, and I hear it on a regular basis, basically from every new client we close. It is a firm reassurance that yes, we are indeed on the right path. One on which we are determined to serve a better future and work day by day for a more balanced and diverse legal and entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Exciting developments are underway at Kassailaw! Our team of legal and technology experts is hard at work, preparing to launch a new and innovative way to access information and knowledge. This interactive platform will provide an immersive and engaging experience and we’re eager to share it with you. Stay tuned! 🔥💡💻
“Is your team the dream team? How much percentage should each founder get?” One of the core ingredients to success is the right team with complementing skills and personalities: early stage investors (and business partners too, by the way) will invest in the team, not the idea. Our goal is to guide you in building a strong and well-functioning team, as well as help you uncover potential friction points or weaknesses in the team, so that you can address them in the very beginning. When it comes to the fair split with your co-founders, if you need a reference point, or just want reassurance, we have developed our own tool for equity split calculation. Hint: the one answer that’s certainly wrong is a hasty 50-50 split.
You have spotted a problem and found a viable solution – in other words, you have your idea. What’s the next step? You need to make sure that the problem your business is trying to solve is a valid problem for a wide enough group, and that
Are you sure that the problem your business is trying to solve is a valid problem for a wide enough group?
When you spot a problem and think you have found a viable solution to create a business around, it’s all too easy to get excited and jump straight into ideating a solution.
Avoid making something and then hoping people buy it when you could research what people need and then make that.
It doesn’t make any sense to make a key and then run around looking for a lock to open.
There are many ingredients in the recipe for creating a successful startup, but most certainly whatever you read and wherever you go, one of the first pieces of advice is going to be to do your homework properly regarding the validation. You have to validate both your problem and your solution to be able to define the perfect problem-solution and later on the product-market fit. If you manipulate your future customers into liking your solution or do not reveal all the aspects and layers of a problem you identified, your idea can easily lose its ground and with that the probability of it surviving and actually being turned into a prosperous business. Let us know if we can help at this initial but yet super-important stage.
Validation is the first step in moving towards learning more about the problem you are ultimately looking to solve.
Finding your unique value proposition is only possible if you take a thorough glance at your competitors. The world of tech is highly competitive, particularly so when you operate in a field with low entry barriers, you need to carefully examine and regularly update the news and developments of those companies who act in the same field and market. This might lead to several pivots for you if necessary, because you can significantly increase your chances of success if you can offer a—at least in some aspect—unique solution to your customers. The introduction as “we are like Uber/Snapchat/WeWork/Spotify, only better” is hardly sufficient in most cases. Unless you really are so much better, but then you need to know that too, so up the competitive analysis.