Got a job at a startup - not sure about fit - would appreciate advice

by NeverendingStudies30. Posted on Sep 13, 2020    2    13


So I've recently started work at a startup managing their legal (IP) function. I am experiencing some challenges so I was hoping to get the sub's advice on whether this is typical or maybe I am not a good fit with them.

The company is funded and post-revenue but still a young, small startup.

So in the first few weeks I have been enquiring about how IP fits into the overall company plans and what their goals are for the function. I am slightly concerned that the answers have been very unspecific, and not all mindful about why the function exists for them.

For example, it turns out that they've never looked at (or thought about) how much they're spending on IP. And when I put some current figures together with projections, they weren't able to give me any feedback about the figures in relation to a potential budget. Was it too much? More than they thought? Could we spend more? Nothing.

Also, it's hard for me at the moment to get any answers on why they have IP, and how they think it fits into the overall goals for the company. Do we want a defensive portfolio in case an incumbent sues? Do we want just as big a portfolio as possible for exit via sale to a larger company? Unclear.

It also means that it is really difficult to discuss what their goals were for the function and how to build towards them. Or what I should be doing, more than the day to day operational stuff that needs doing.

This makes me feel a bit lost. It feels like they genuinely don't know/care about why they're spending money on this function, or maybe they are deliberately not being forthcoming as I am new.

So - tell me: are my expectations out of line for a startup? Is it weird for me as a new IP manager to ask things like "what's my budget", "what are your aspirations for my function", and "why are you spending money on IP"?

Are they likely to be mostly indifferent but doing it because investors are saying that they need patents?

Thanks in advance.


squashhoover 1

Based on what you described, I'm guessing the startup leadership was told they need your role but they don't understand why. So they hired you and checked the checkbox. Asking the hard question (as was suggested earlier) - why/what did you hire me to do? - is probably the only way you get an answer. Then again, be prepared for the consequences.

neilyoungmoney 2

I’d recommend a frank conversation with your boss to answer the question - “why did you hire me / what job did you hire me to do?”. If the answer to that is vague, then I’d peace out. Small companies have to be extremely strategic with their hires, and so if they didn’t have a plan for you or your role, that’s a bigger red flag than your listed concerns.
If they did have a plan for you that makes sense, then I would say something like “ok, but I’m not going to be effective doing X for you until I get your feedback on Y, Z...”. If this is the case, then it’s pretty normal and the likely root cause is that they’ve never worked with an IP lawyer before so you have to do a lot of education about what you need in order for them / the organization to get value from your work. Definitely consider educating the founders / leadership team about your speciality to be a key part of your role at an early startup.

  NeverendingStudies30 1

Yeah good call. That point about the larger organisational direction is a concern for sure. But then I’m new and I don’t know that I can say that you know?

I think the previous person had the same title nominally but they had very little to no IP background. So they do need a lot of education about what I can do for them; and hopefully the previous experience hasn’t coloured their view too much.

Honestly I think I can do the current job in like 2 days’ a week so I might eventually suggest we change to like a consulting arrangement after I’ve set up some systems etc

deepneuralnetwork 2

Yeaaaah, that’s not great.

  NeverendingStudies30 1

No, it does not seem great. But you know, it’s hard for startups right? There are so many balls to keep in the air.

deepneuralnetwork 1

Yeah but some balls are a lot more important to keep in the air than others :-/

  NeverendingStudies30 2

True. Where do you think this ball is in the spectrum of importance between a chewed up tennis ball to a ball of VX Nerve gas from The Rock?

GaryARefuge 1

Haha, A The Rock reference. Nice.

deepneuralnetwork 2

Haha - pretty damn important. My CEO could answer each one of those questions with an astonishing degree of clarity - and it shows in the way we go after our market.

  NeverendingStudies30 1

Yeah okay. Well thank you for making me feel less insane!

Also let me know if you guys need an IP Consultant. 😇