By Onyedikachi Ahunanya
As Nigeria’s oil revenues continue to dwindle, the tech boom is only getting started. Somehow, Tech Startups are defying the high mortality rate that tends to befall most new businesses in Nigeria. From Fintech to Insurtech, technology is providing access to “elite” services to millions of Nigerians wherever they are. One hidden secret is that these high-growth emerging companies are magnets for venture capital investors from around the world.
According to Timothy Obiezu of Voice of America, Nigeria has become a destination for Africa’s promising Tech StartUps; perhaps something good can come out of Nazareth. In any event, this increased global attention in Nigerian Start Ups has significant implications for Start Up
Lawyers. The average Startup Lawyer in the United States earns approximately $84,516 per annually. That is N49,000,000 (Forty-Nine Million Naira) only!
Tech Startups are companies or organizations that provide new technology products and services to the market. This may involve inventing new technology products or services such as Ryval, a Startup that allows people to place bets on the outcomes of civil lawsuits. Startups can
also adapt technology to simplify existing products or services in new ways, think of AbokiFX etc.
Startup Lawyers provide business, administrative, legal, compliance and regulatory services to Founders, Innovators and Venture Capital Investors. The Startup environment is a delicate
balance of a solid administrative structure with a reasonable degree of flexibility required for creativity to thrive. As most new businesses discover, Nigeria’s rapidly changing regulatory landscape is not for the fainthearted.
A Startup lawyer can provide the compass needed to navigate this difficult terrain
and avoid attendant booby-traps and risks. I have compiled a list of 4 core skills every Startup Lawyer should have.
Legal Drafting is a key skill for any Startup Lawyer. Nigerian Startups operate in a constantly changing and evolving regulatory landscape where key sector regulators have been known to change major policies overnight- Literally.
The Drafting function is important because it lays the foundation for several things including the equitable distribution of rights, responsibilities and royalties. Founders, Staff and other stakeholders need to feel a sense of belonging when terms of engagement are spelled out in
detail. You must learn to read widely and don’t forget that the Internet is always a ready tool for instruction.
The Digital Economy is built on the foundation of intellectual property. The importance of this can never be over-emphasized because Startups are innovation centers. It therefore behooves
on the Startup Lawyer to understand the nuances of the various IP rights locally and internationally. Startups need to understand the dynamics of intellectual property protection, assignment and ownership.
According to Statista.com, more than 70% of the Startup’s assets are intangible. Processes, Code and Brands are a few examples of intellectual products created by Startups. The Startup Lawyer helps the company determine what form of protection is ideal to protect the Startup’s
In the Beatitudes, Jesus declared “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God”. Disputes are an essential part of our daily lives and the bread-and-butter of many Lawyers Startup Lawyer must develop a keen reflex for alternative dispute resolution for
resolving internal disputes. Litigation has been used to stall innovation or the release of certain inventions and as such is often reserved for adverse proceedings within the international tech ecosystem.
Arbitration and Mediation save the parties the cost and time of lengthy litigation
and also provide a win-win outcome for disputing parties.
The Startup Lawyer must be familiar with the intricacies and inner workings of Boardroom and Company Secretarial work. Startups are often more concerned with the Technical/Operational aspects of their service and as such the Startup Lawyer needs to understand how to balance the competing responsibilities and interests of the various stakeholders: Directors, Venture Capitalists, Investors, Creditors, Employees and Shareholders.
If you found these tips helpful, please reach out.
Onyedikachi “Qhaycee” Ahunanya, a Legal Practitioner, is based in the FCT Abuja and can be
reached at 08135268147