Mistakes Technology Companies

1. Using a form license and/or services agreement that doesn’t fit your business model

Capturing exactly how you want to provide your product or services to your customer, allocating the risks, and creating each party’s obligations and rights, is not a simple or quick process. Replicating some other company’s form agreement not only exposes you to risks that you may not be aware of, but potentially violates the other company’s copyright in their agreement, and raises the risks outlined in the other points of this list. Having a customized agreement created for you that aligns with your business processes, mitigates your risks, and addresses the laws that apply in your jurisdiction for your industry is a key component in running a successful technology business.

2. Undervaluing technology

What is your technology worth? It’s a difficult question, and value can be measured and determined in many ways. Many new technology companies feel compelled to undercharge for their technology in an effort to break into the market. Although there is certainly some merit in that, I see vendors consistently undervaluing what their technology is worth, leaving significant revenue on the table. Understanding the impact and loss to the customer if they DON’T license your technology is the first key to pricing your product. Plus, under-pricing your product can create an impression that the technology is cheap not a label that will build a positive reputation of your company in the long run.

3. Offering liberal source code escrow release conditions

For software developers, you know that your source code is the crown jewels of your business. It is the core of your technology, representing months or years of your blood, sweat, and tears. Yet many software companies are willing to give it away, for free, to their customers. How? By entering into a source code escrow agreement with a customer and allowing it to be released to them in situations where the code still holds value for you. Many customers will demand the source code be released to them if you stop supporting the software, but the intellectual property in the code may still be used in your other products or technology, effectively giving your customer the tools it needs to duplicate your technology. Creating very narrow and specific source code release conditions can minimize this impact.

4. Using overly broad or subjective acceptance testing

It is not uncommon or unreasonable for customers to want to kick the tires of your technology before they pay for it. Problems arise when the customer has an unreasonable expectation of what the technology is supposed to achieve, and either want to withhold payment, or force you to provide extra services to meet that unreasonable expectation. This especially manifests itself when a customer includes acceptance testing language in a contract which is not tied to objective and realistic standards. Although it can be a laborious effort, taking the time to objectify these standards with the customer in the contract can save you significant time down the road, and get you paid faster.

5. Giving away intellectual property ownership too liberally

Many technology companies develop customized technology for their customers, or make customized modifications to their existing technology on behalf of a particular customer. And most customers argue that if they’re paying for it, they want to own it. But giving away your company’s intellectual property in these instances can prevent you from reusing it for other customers effectively shutting down a potential source of revenue in the future. And many times, your customers may not need to actually own the developments a license right can often do the trick.