Startup Cross-Border Legal Issues: 3 Areas to Watch

1.  Securities Law:  If your startup is selling shares or other forms of investment, securities law applies.  In the cross-border context, you may need to comply with the securities laws of your jurisdiction AND those of the purchaser’s jurisdiction.  For example, if a B.C. company sells shares to a U.S. investor, both B.C. and U.S. securities law applies.

Ultimately, as a startup founder, your role is to understand that the securities laws of multiple jurisdictions may apply to a transaction and ensure that your legal advisors address these laws.

2.  Privacy Law:  The privacy laws of every jurisdiction in which your startup has users (theoretically) apply.  In this respect, every startup has cross-border privacy law issues.  Nonetheless, to comply with the privacy laws of every  jurisdiction from which your users originate is, for an early-stage startup, incredibly expensive and time-consuming.

In my opinion, it makes financial sense to comply with the privacy laws of your startup’s jurisdiction and, as your company grows, the privacy laws of each jurisdiction in which you gain traction.  The basis for this approach being the assumption that a company may only face privacy law issues when it achieves traction in a particular market.

3.  Tax:  Need I say more?  Cross-border taxation issues are always a concern when your startup is doing business outside its home jurisdiction.  Tax is far too complex for a brief blog post – simply put, always keep tax in mind.

In sum, all startups face cross-border legal issues, if only due to the borderless nature of the Internet.  At a minimum, it’s important for startups to recognize the potential for the laws of other jurisdictions to impact their company and to plan compliance with these laws.

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