Our guest blog today comes from our awesome Legal Counsellor and Non-Executive Director of EdgePetrol Laurence Cohen.
Starting a company can be a minefield for any founder and not having access to correct legal advice from the very beginning can be detrimental.
So we cannot stress enough how grateful we are to Laurence for helping us out in the early days and for his continued support (often at a drop of a hat, wherever he is in the world!) …. we truly would not be EdgePetrol without him!
Now over to Larry....
About three years ago, Gideon Carroll (EdgePetrol CEO) and Neil Daniels visited me at home and we sat in my garden kicking the tyres of what would become EdgePetrol.
The sun was shining - a good omen!
Within six months the dream had become a reality and I found myself as a Director of EdgePetrol.
In two years, I had gone from a partner in one of the world’s largest and most profitable law firms to a start-up with no employees and no premises. What had I let myself in for?
Most of the challenges were legal; getting the governance right and advising on all of the agreements that a company needs to survive in the modern environment; premises license, employment,consultancy, statement of works, data protection, non-disclosure, terms and conditions, employee share options, investment agreements and many others.
EdgePetrol was born and now had a full set of contracts. Indeed, the only missing piece was my own contract, but they do say that a person who does his own legal work has a fool for a client!
I am amazed, given the regulatory framework, that any new business gets started.
The most exciting part was that Gideon thought big from the start. He wanted a world beating product. He surrounded himself only with the best. We pursued a technological solution to a commercial problem and as we proceeded, the parameters changed.
Initially, EdgePetrol was about managing the pump price. It quickly became about much more…petrol station profitability.
One issue we had to tackle early was how to handle Intellectual Property. If Edge was to be a serious player, it had to have some serious IP. That is more than just the copyright in its codes, but something to impede me-too copycats. Off we went to a patent attorney. And three months later EdgePetrol had filed a patent application.
Gideon and Neil found themselves held out as inventors - no one was more surprised than they were! Edge was able to say from the outset that it has a unique product offering. Edge now has two patent applications, and two registered trademarks. That shows serious intent, and will stand the company well in the future.
EdgePetrol has grown. The first contracts were for one and two station owners. Now we are looking at contracting with owners of 500 to 1000 petrol stations. That has different challenges, not least on-boarding and from my perspective as legal advisor, managing the associated risks.
The triumph of the last two years has been to build a scalable model, and that has nearly been achieved. Whether an owner has 1 or 1000 petrol filling stations, they have the same challenges of maintaining profitability, but chains have additional challenges from their size and management requirements.
Getting EdgePetrol to that next level remains a work in progress, but we are not far from that goal. My challenge remains ensuring that we can look the large scale owner in the eye that we know how to conduct business properly, and that starts with a proper contractual framework, as well as a good product, while remaining nimble enough to upgrade the Edge platform to its customers needs in real-time.