More Money, Less Work: Discover, Protect & Monetize the Hidden Value in Your Business

“We all owe a fiduciary duty to the stakeholders of our companies to manage and harvest our intangible assets” – Andrew Sherman, Harvesting Intangible Assets

Rachel Rodgers, an intellectual property and business lawyer for digital entrepreneurs, visited Sloan to speak to students about protecting intellectual property and unleashing small business assets. Using Santiago from the Alchemist as an example, Rachel compared intellectual property as the hidden treasure that is right under your nose. In a world in which nearly 75% of business assets are intangible IP, it is more important than ever to uncover and capitalize on the intellectual property in your business.

Using a number of descriptive anecdotes, Rachel described four types of intellectual property and the way in which each can be protected.

  1. Trade Secrets – Using Carib Delights as an example, Rachel illustrated how a cheese spread recipe constitutes a trade secret. The issue that arises is if Carib Delights registers this recipe, it will then be public knowledge. Thus, they maintain their recipe as a trade secret, limiting the number of employees that know the complete recipe, and having all employees sign an NDA.
  2. Copyright © – All of us (artists, authors, architects, software developers and engineers) have works to copyright. In fact, 94% of small businesses use content marketing, meaning that thousands of hours and dollars creating content are at risk without IP protection.
  3. Trademarks – More obviously, brands with mass appeal such as Chanel and Apple need to protect their trademark to prevent copycats that capitalize on brand prestige and recognition.
  4. Patents – Lastly, Rachel used Dyson Vacuums as an example of the need for and exercising of patent protection for new, cutting-edge technology.

 

While this IP is truly valuable to small business owners, we live in a world where nearly $200-250 billion of IP is stolen per year in the US alone. Rachel then used five real-life examples to portray ways in which small businesses have or have not protected IP and the outcomes of each scenario. One of the most memorable success stories she described was Mixed Chicks, a hair product line for curly haired, biracial women. Unable to expand in time to meet the demands of Sally Beauty Supply, the small company was forced to turn down a large purchase agreement. Sally Beauty then launched a line of hair products with a similar chemical make-up and eerily similar packaging called Mixed Silk. Mixed Chicks took the case to court and was awarded a $8.1 million settlement for trademark infringements. On the flip side, Rachel also described another David and Goliath tale, but this time with Goliath (aka Burger King) winning. The “original” Burger King, was a small mom-and-pop burger restaurant. The now empire, Burger King, stole the name and immediately trademarked their name, restricting the expansion of the original Burger King, eventually putting the mom-and-pop store out of business.

While all these examples demonstrate that protecting IP is extremely important, the real question remains, how do small business owners go about protecting these valuable assets? Rachel went on to describe the process and benefits of:

  • Officially registering IP
  • Issuing DMCA Take Down Notices
  • Blacklisting IP infringers on Google
  • Sending a cease and desist order

With these simple and relatively cheap options, small business owners can avoid expensive lawsuits and prevent other companies profiting from your hard work. If protected correctly, your company’s IP can be an insurance policy,a retirement account, and a quality of life guarantee.

 

Rachel Rodgers is an intellectual property and business lawyer for digital entrepreneurs. Her one-of-a-kind practice, Rachel Rodgers Law Office, is run entirely online making her services accessible and convenient for small businesses with intellectual property and an online presence. Her secure online law office was one of the first of its kind. Rachel and her practice have been featured in Fast Company, MSNBC, The Washington Post, Forbes, and various other media outlets. Rachel co-wrote an entertaining business law guide for entrepreneurs called “Small Business Bodyguard: Cover Your Bases, Cover Your Assets, Cover Your Ass”.

 

Confide – The ‘off-the-record’ mobile messenger

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On Monday, April 8, the E&I Club and Tech club joined forces to host the leadership team at Confide. If you haven’t heard yet, Confide is an ‘off-the-record’ mobile messenger. They combine end-to-end encryption with disappearing messages to foster genuine and unfiltered online communication among professionals. They are referred as “One of the hottest start-ups in New York”, and quickly getting to the space in messaging industry. We had Jon Brod, Co-Founder & President, and Dan Sutera, Co-Founder & COO, visit us on April 8 when Confide app hit the 100 day mark! Jon and Dan demonstrated the functionality of Confide through a Trivia game, using Confide to submit answers of course, and gave out some awesome Confide swag and the self-proclaimed ‘best mug EVER.’

Dan & Jon both shared their founding stories, since both are serial entrepreneurs, and talked about the guiding vision for Confide, which is to change the landscape of professional communication. Unlike SnapChat or other ‘disappearing’ apps, Confide is focused on communication between business professionals and making written communication more like language so people can be honest and share sensitive information, such as feedback on a job candidate. They gave an example of sending e-mails to ask for someone’s feedback, and getting a highly filtered, politically correct response that wasn’t valuable as a feedback mechanism. Confide provides professional users the ability to be frank and candid in a non-traceable manner, so none of your comments will ever reach HR or someone whom they’re not intended for!

On asking Dan about what makes him excited about his company, he mentioned that “[enabling] a new form of human communication is a great thing. On asking the question about product localization, Jon mentioned that Confide is now available in 14 languages, but they are still figuring out the problem of capturing market share in certain countries. One of the interesting lessons from the first 100 days was that Confide is currently only offered for iOS (Apple Phones), and as a result, Confide missed many opportunities in countries like Spain, where a large portion of people use Android rather than iOS. Although Confide is a young company, and has grown to 100 countries in the first 100 days – an impressive accomplishment. When we asked Jon how many active monthly active users are on Confide, Jon laughed and said, “Good try but there’s no way I’ll tell you!”

At the end, Jon congratulated Snapchat for bringing the trend of ephemerelity to the industry, which is also helping their company grow. In particular, Jon mentioned, “ Snapchat did a good job, in creating the user behavior.“We look forward to seeing what the Confide team does in the future!Thank you to Jon and Dan for coming all the way from NYC to visit our campus and meet with our students!

Check out Confide at https://getconfide.com/

 

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Steve Dupree and Arti Doshi of SoFi Host Lunch with Sloanies!

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In 2010, four students at the Stanford GSB founded a company to address one of the biggest issues facing graduate students today: student loans. Upon entering the MBA program, the founders immediately realized that there is a substantial dearth of affordable financing options for students and that credit-risk was not being assessed appropriately with blanket interest rates. Top schools across the country offered an amazing and accessible group of credit-worthy customers whose financial needs were simply not being met by the current the market. To solve this problem, the team set out to attract alumni to invest in current students by offering loans at risk-adjusted rates, which both undercut the current student loan rates available and provided investors with above-market returns. With this, SoFi was born.

Overtime, the business model shifted to a refinancing model. As SoFi approached potential alumni investors, they realized that the younger alumns did not want to lend, but rather refinance their own student loans. A lightbulb went off and the SoFi team realized the potential to refinance alumni loans. At the time, there was virtually no refinancing market for student loans, providing a great market opportunity for alumni and students to connect in a lending community.

At the lunch, Steve discussed with the challenges SoFi faced while creating a two-sided market, in which alumni contributed capital to students from their alma maters, building small, localized peer-to-peer lending networks. SoFi began by building a strong alumni base of investors and eventually secured institutional investing partners in order to scale the business and address the growing demand for the product. As more funds became available to lend, the company quickly expanded its reach from five academic institutions (including MIT Sloan) to seven then 12 then 30. They then scaled to include law schools, dental schools, nursing schools, etc. In summary, Steve believes that SoFi’s key to success was having a very specific and well-defined scope early-on in its development.

With over $450 million in loan originations, SoFi is now the third biggest player in the peer-to-peer lending community, next to only Lending Club and Prosper.  Yet, SoFi is still the only company addressing the education market. Additionally, SoFi has begun to expand its product offerings launching a mortgage product just this past February. This product was launched to address the needs to SoFi’s current borrower base, which tend to be well paid, young professionals in their late-20’s/early-30’s who are finding it very challenging to buy property in their expensive urban environments. Lastly, as entrepreneurs themselves, the SoFi team truly understands the financial woes of entrepreneurs. Thus, they’ve launched an entrepreneur program, in which SoFi offers loan deferment to borrower’s starting new companies.

In summary, SoFi is building a financial institution that is not tied to geography, but rather affinity, offering students a diverse range of financial products to help them manage the high cost of advanced education in an informed and pragmatic manner.

To learn more about SoFi and get a special deal on your loan refinancing visit www.SoFi.com/Spring!