Articles by Antone Johnson

Nickel-and-Dimed to Life: Franchise Tax, Registered Agents and Filing Fees

Early stage startups understandably seek to minimize corporate overhead and devote every penny to customer development, engineering, marketing and so forth.  Nevertheless, if you want or need the benefits of a business entity such as a corporation or LLC, there are some unavoidable expenses associated with their “care and feeding.”  (Legal expenses are outside the scope of this post; my “manifesto” on the subject can be found at Quora.)

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Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
February 23rd, 2012

Heart-Attack Tax Season for Delaware Startups

It’s that time of year again:  Tax season.  In addition to the headache of personal income taxes, entrepreneurs have to deal with business taxes.  Around this time each year, as sure as the sunrise, I get calls and messages from irate founders of new startups who received franchise tax bills from the State of Delaware for an insane amount like $75,000.  Why on earth would startup lawyers like me recommend that new companies incorporate in Delaware if they’re going to get fleeced by the tax collector? Read more

Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
February 15th, 2012

Veering Off the Beaten Path Into Murky Legal Waters

Path, a high-profile San Francisco social media startup, ignited a firestorm this week with the revelation that its mobile application uploads users’ entire iPhone address books to the company’s servers without their knowledge or permission.  The practice, discovered by Singapore developer Arun Thampi, provoked outrage within the user community and was broadly condemned by the tech business press.  Jon Mitchell at ReadWriteWeb wrote that the upshot of Path CEO Dave Morin’s initial response was We did it first, and we’ll ask you for permission in a little while.”  The company quickly apologized on its corporate blog and, as I write this, plans to push out an updated version of the iPhone app to quell users’ privacy concerns. Read more

Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
February 9th, 2012

Rookie Cookies: Owning the Batter But Not the Chips

I’ve gotten on my soapbox before about the importance of forming a business entity as soon as there’s a new product or business worth protecting.  The most common messes encountered in my startup law practice involve founding teams that somehow never got the formation done right, including the contributions and assignments of intellectual property to the new company and the related issuances of stock to founders and other contributors.  As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so let’s drill down and look at the places where things can go right or wrong. Read more

Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
February 2nd, 2012

Sisyph.us? Fighting an Unwinnable Domain War

One of the best values a young entrepreneur can absorb early on is the value of learning from mistakes, both your own and those of others.  I’m constantly amazed at the extent to which experienced entrepreneurs and angels are willing to share their accumulated knowledge and wisdom, including some painful battle scars, with others.  This bedrock of Silicon Valley culture is a prerequisite for the whole phenomenon of venture accelerators.  It’s the radical opposite of the prevailing culture in established or contracting industries, where all things proprietary or innovative are jealously guarded and information is shared on a “need-to-know” basis.  This spirit of “coopetition” is one of the things I truly love about the startup community. Read more

Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
January 17th, 2012

Intellectual Property for Startups in the Real World

Given that 2011 is already behind us, I’d like to take a brief time-out from the usual legal and financial wonkery to wish you and your loved ones a Happy New Year.  Many thanks to David Rose, Ilana Grossman, Justin Stanwix, and the whole Gust team for making the Gust Blog such a valuable platform and resource for entrepreneurs and angel investors.  I’m proud to contribute to the effort and always enjoy reading what the other authors have to say.

Last month we covered the basics of intellectual property (IP) for startups, including a simple taxonomy, some common issues and related documents for entrepreneurs to use when forming a new startup.  I’d like to take a step back and discuss the significance of IP as a component of the overall value that founders intend to create as they grow the company.  The questions that arise most with respect to any category of IP at the earliest stages include: Read more

Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
January 4th, 2012

Nuts & Bolts of Intellectual Property for New Startups

So you’ve chosen a name for your startup, product, or both. Having covered all the bases to ensure that your corporate name is available, the domain name can be acquired, and the name doesn’t infringe any existing trademarks (as we discussed last week), now is a good time to look at the categories of intellectual property (IP) that are relevant to most startups. Read more

Antone Johnson , Founding Principal, Bottom Line Law Group
December 22nd, 2011