Quality, Affordable Legal Advice for Startups

Venturous Counsel founder.

Startups need good legal counsel like any other company, but usually don’t have the funds to hire high-priced firms. Going with cut-rate attorneys presents obvious risks, so what’s a founder to do?

Venturous Counsel provides diverse early-stage startups and investors with excellent legal guidance, delivering advice that’s seasoned, practical, actionable, bottom-line-oriented, and mindful – all at a lower price than “Big Law.” This is its origin story.

Keen Interest in Startups

Aravinda Seshadr, Venturous Counsel’s founding partner, knew she wanted to work with startups in some capacity when she graduated from Stanford Law School. She got her first job at  a big firm that had some notable startups on its client list but wasn’t serving them particularly well.

“I quickly realized it’s very difficult to do a good job for small startups at a big firm,” she says. “Everybody’s really busy, so these smaller clients ended up getting the short stick – meaning working just with me, a very junior associate without a lot of experience or resources and who was also very busy. So I didn’t feel great about that experience.”

Aravinda left to join a boutique law firm with a colleague who had similar feelings, where she eventually became a partner. “It was very different, really focusing on early-stage companies,” she says. However, something was missing: diversity of clients.

“I was shocked, because our team was really diverse – even the partnership was,” she says. “I didn’t understand why we didn’t have more diverse-led startups, because I knew they were out there. And I then realized [that it was] a lean, mean boutique. We didn’t have marketing. We didn’t do outreach. It was all based on referrals.” That meant if you weren’t part of the referral network, you were essentially out of luck.

This, combined with other obstacles that startups face in obtaining good legal counsel – particularly from large firms – inspired her to start her own.

A Focus on Founders – and Diversity

Venturous Counsel works exclusively with diverse-led startups and startups that value diversity, as well as diverse emerging-fund managers and managers who seek to improve diversity in the tech sector.

Aravinda brings a large dose of compassion for founders to her work – those who “are just starting out and literally know nothing, because [it’s] very intimidating and expensive to ask all these questions from your big law counsel.”

“Every founder I know has a section of their brain that is just low-key freaking out about legal at all times, like a broken smoke detector that is just right here… and you can’t do anything about it,” she says. “But if you find a trusted legal advisor that you can give that piece to… you have so much more headspace and bandwidth, and it unlocks a lot of capability. I’ve seen that happen with certain clients, and I want that for more diverse-led businesses in particular.”

When Should You Find Legal Counsel? It Depends.

Aravinda says when it comes to security legal counsel for your startup, timing depends on your budget, your goals, and the type of company you’re running. 

“It depends a little bit on how much money you have on hand,” she says. “A lot of times getting legal counsel involved sooner will cost you more in the near term, but will save more money later. I would say if you’re creating an LLC… you’re probably not wanting to raise venture startup angel capital. You’re creating something just to shield yourself from liability, [so] it doesn’t really matter that much. You can probably avoid having a lawyer until you need to make contracts with people.” 

Companies that do plan to raise venture capital should consider finding an attorney earlier in the process, because legal situations can be much more complicated.

Invest Time in Relationships

Aravinda also advises early-stage entrepreneurs to spend significant time developing business relationships. Although the payoff might not be immediate, it will come eventually.

“Who are the people that are going to eventually be strategic partners or eventual acquirers? Do you want to make those relationships? Yes,” she says. “And those take forever to make. And you have to have multiple points of contact, because people leave big companies and you have to identify who those companies are, who those people are, and start making overtures. And that is a glacial process compared to the speed at which a startup works.”

To cope with this, start with a small investment of time and build from there. “Set aside a few hours on your calendar, maybe even just one hour initially, once a quarter,” she says. “Eventually, maybe it’s once a month and it’s more hours. But investing a little bit of time each over time into identifying who those people are, reaching out, using your networks, making connections… asking for feedback, letting them know when you’ve achieved objectives. This creates… so much value.”

Don’t forget your investors, either. “[Identify] the investors that you want to invest in your space and that would be helpful to you,” she says. “It’s so easy to forget that piece. I’ve seen really amazing companies end up with this amazing product, but the investors are tapped out. They can’t reinvest. [They] have six months of runway [and] need to sell this company, but [they’ve] done none of that work. And so [they’re] just flailing around with limited runway and they just sell for way less than their worth and it’s tragic. Think of it as like a retirement plan for the company, like something you invest in a little bit each month. It pays [off], let me tell you.”