Wednesday, June 5, 2024

“MoviePass, MovieCrash,” an Interesting Exploration of the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster

Stuck with a rainy Sunday afternoon this past weekend, I found myself landing on the just released HBO documentary “MoviePass, MovieCrash.” I didn’t really know much about the story in advance of my viewing, although I did recall a company that had launched a moviegoing subscription service about a decade ago. Maybe it’s my interest in the entrepreneurial experience, honed by a few decades of helping entrepreneurs build companies, but I found the movie quite interesting. Spoiler alert—if you want to watch the film (which I think it is worth your time), don’t read any further!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Farmers’ Market? More like Small Business Central

As the weather gets warmer and we emerge from our igloos here in Minnesota, one thing we are all looking forward to is being able to spend more time outside.

Whether you go for produce or local honey, to show off your newest cloth tote bag, or for just a sense of community, the local farmers’ market is the place to be. There is even a National Farmers’ Market Week (falling this year on August 4-10, 2024)! But what drives Americans to frequent farmers’ markets every summer without fail?

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Tourist’s Guide to the Corporate Transparency Act

If you’re involved in the legal or business world, it is likely that you have heard talk of the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) and the Beneficial Ownership Information Reports (“BOIRs”) the CTA requires.

The CTA was passed in 2021, and since that time the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) has been issuing regulations. Beginning January 1, 2024, millions of businesses are now required to report. In this post, I write about my personal experience with the CTA and filing BOIRs. I also include here a general update on the latest happenings related to the CTA.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Gender Diversity in Management. How? That’s the Question.

In a recent viral video, pedestrians were asked a simple yet telling question: name a female CEO. Astonishingly, most struggled to come up with an answer, a dilemma I, too, encountered. Only two names surfaced consistently: Whitney Wolfe Herd, co-founder of Bumble Inc., and Cathie Wood of ARK Investment Management.

As a female attorney deeply immersed in the entrepreneurial realm, this revelation stirred a mix of surprise and disappointment. It underscores a stark reality: women remain conspicuously underrepresented in upper echelons of corporate leadership worldwide. But amidst this sobering reality, there is a glimmer of hope. Consciousness regarding gender disparity in management is on the rise, prompting legislative action in certain jurisdictions aimed at fostering gender diversity on corporate boards, albeit with mixed outcomes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Artificial Intelligence Meets Elvis Presley

Broadly defined, Artificial Intelligence, or AI, refers to technology that can simulate human intelligence, particularly tasks generally thought of as requiring human or cognitive function, such as reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. We’re all familiar with the all-knowing “algorithm” on our phones and TVs that appears to hear and see all, and just generally know everything that is happening in our lives.

Obviously, AI can be tremendously productive, providing tools for increased efficiency, cost-savings, and the commodity we all could use more of – time! The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC) late last year released a report showing that 48% of small businesses used AI tools and applications in 2023, and that 93% of small business owners agree with that “AI tools offer cost-effective solutions that drive savings and improve profitability.” Other noteworthy stats from the report include high percentages of small businesses using AI for marketing and sales, drafting business plans, financial management and planning, human resources, and project management, among a myriad of other tasks.

AI also encompasses the ability to create a broad variety of content, from song lyrics to legal briefs, and to manipulate images, sound, and other materials – often without the consent of those whose images and voices have been doctored through the use of AI technology. A growing number of applications can generate content, create realistic images and videos from descriptions, and copy or clone images, sounds, and voices.

Of course, such use can infringe privacy and intellectual property rights, and raises a host of legal and ethical concerns. And so (and here I’d like to use AI to imitate your mother’s voice and image), this is why we can’t have nice things (or, in the legal context, regulation is here, and more is likely on the way).

Privacy and publicity laws have long protected the use of a person’s image, name, or likeness in commercial use. Tennessee – home of Music City, Nashville - has become the first state to protect vocal likenesses for both commercial and non-commercial use. The law, signed on March 21 and effective July 1, is called the Ensuring Likeness, Voice, and Image Security Act. The so-called ELVIS Act expands Tennessee’s Personal Rights Protection Act to cover any “sound in a medium that is readily identifiable and attributable to a particular individual, regardless of whether the sound contains the actual voice or a simulation.” Both using a voice simulation or creating an AI tool or engine for such purpose are grounds for a civil action and can also be punished as a misdemeanor with penalties including fines and jail time.

A number of states are proposing similar legislation, and more efforts will likely follow. Federal regulation and rulemaking are also underway, with the FTC recently seeking public comment on a proposed rule prohibiting impersonation of individuals generally, and the creation of technology that can facilitate such impersonation. The US Copyright Office is undertaking a study and initiative to examine the impact of generative AI on copyright law and policy.

AI tools clearly serve an important function and offer new tools to small businesses in the constant challenge to save time and money, particularly in the current labor market in which unemployment is low, skilled workers can be difficult to find, and remote work is still commonplace. Users should be mindful, however, of the evolving, and likely increasing, regulatory environment.

It may be true that you Can’t Help Falling in Love, but keep a Suspicious Mind, Don’t Be Cruel, and don’t let AI be the Devil in Disguise (thought up that last sentence all by myself with no AI assistance)!

Monday, April 8, 2024

Last Call for 2024 MN Cup Submissions

The MN Cup, a program of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, is the largest statewide startup competition in the country! Since its founding in 2005, it has served over 0,000 entrepreneurs and awarded over $5 million in cash prizes; in addition, MN Cup alumni have raised over $1 billion in capital.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Updated Resource for Entrepreneurs and their Lawyers

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) sets the standards, quite literally, on the forms used by most emerging businesses looking to raise capital. Founded in 1973, the NVCA is a research, advocacy, and professional development network—a non-profit organization supporting the venture capital industry and the various players that make up the community.