How NOT to start your sabbatical

August 1st marked the first day of my sabbatical. Yes, I am leaving EY and moving on to other adventures. But starting my sabbatical was different than expected. The photo below is not my own, I’m not on leave yet…

Photo by Matt Flores on Unsplash

For two months I’ve been planning to get everything finished before August 1st. I imagined waking up that day would be a strange – yet exciting – feeling, for the first time in over a decade no work related items on my todo list. A feeling of freedom and liberation was expected but as the day approached it became clear that I could not finalise everything I had committed to. It felt like a first day of regular annual leave except for that I didn’t have a flight booked so no pressure to cross these last items off my list.

On the second day of my leave I did a 7km run during midday. It felt miserable. Instead of the energetic feeling I normally have after a run I felt guilty that I wasn’t at work. Even though it is the peak of the holiday season, the only people out and about are retired couples and lonely men fishing. Lesson learned, running ought to be done first thing in the morning or in the evening. Result: the 11km morning run yesterday was a great and I was full of energy.

Slowly I’m working my way through my remaining work items and adjusting to a productive leave rhythm. Frequent blogging is going to be part of that rhythm.


Ridiculously easy test to see if you like your job

The 1 minute test to see if you love what you’re doing is asking yourself the following question:

Would you do it even if you’re not paid for it, if you had to work another job in the evening hours and weekends to make a living?

Particularly useful if you need to decide between alternatives and a good question to ask yourself a couple of times a year.

Source: Paul Graham

Working concentrated (c) Tim Gouw Unsplash
(c) Tim Gouw, Unsplash

Branding IP basics for your startup or corporate venture [free checklist]

Too often I’ve seen founders lost for words when asked by potential investors on ‘whether that trademark is still available?’. Whether you’re a startup or a corporate venture, you will need to have your brand related intellectual property sorted out. For many teams their intellectual property is their most important asset and branding properties are no different. Too many teams make mistakes in this or don’t give it the thought required. Doing your research and spending a bit of money saves you major headaches later on. This does not only help you protect your brand it will also help you find out whether you’re infringing on someone else’s brand. Follow these 5 easy steps to make sure you have the basics covered.

  1. Name your startup. Naming your startup is a science and art in its own and a topic of a future blogpost (for now try a google search). For the sake of this article I presume you’ve come up with a name within your team, tried it with a few close friends you can trust and move on to the next step.
  2. Check available domain names. A simple, fast and easy way to find out if your name is still available is to search for its domain name. If the domain name is still available chances are you can start using that name as your brand. Good places to start are NameCheap or as they allow you to search numerous extensions at the same time.
  3. Check trademark availability in relevant markets. Having a domain name available does not mean that the trademark is also available and that you can freely use that name. For this you need to do some research. Trademark registrations are organized on a geographic basis so you need to search your country’s register. All the European registers are combined so you can use this search form for Europe and this form for the US. Important to know is that a trademark is registered for a certain ‘class’ of goods or services. If someone registered your name as a trademark for pet food, chances are you can still use it for your online platform (probably as long as it is not a pet food platform). Not only search for exactly the name you have in mind but also search for similar (sounding) names. You notice that things are already becoming a bit more tricky at this step so if you have any doubts or you want more certainty on availability consult a specialised trademark lawyer, they can conduct an availability search for you as well.
  4. Register your domain names. Before you use your potential name in public or start discussing it with people that you’re not 100% sure you can fully trust, register your domain name. Registering a domain name takes a few minutes and costs less than a cheap meal so there is no excuse not to register your name for the most important and relevant extensions (such as .com, .net, .co .us, your country’s extension and the relevant other more topic based extensions such as .photography or .xyz). You are building some serious intellectual property here and it’s much cheaper to register yourself directly than later buying the domain from someone else. You can compare prices at domcomp. If your budget allows also register adjacent domain names for common typing or spelling errors (this can wait until you’ve secured funding).
  5. Have a logo designed. Sometimes it is necessary to have a logo designed to be able to register your trademark so this is a good time to commision you logo design work. Make sure that when you engage a logo designer that you agree with her that the full copyright of the design transfers ownership to you or your legal entity. Logo design, which is just a small part of the development of your brand, is also the subjects of entire books and websites and likely a future post.
  6. Register your trademark in relevant markets. Registering your trademark makes sure you have the right to use it and the ability to protect it if others infringe on your rights. It is highly recommended that you get the support of a specialised trademark lawyer but you can do it yourself if you’re strapped for cash. Having seen startups fail to obtain the trademark for the name they were using, I would recommend to do this asap (before funding) but if you can take the risk and wait until the funding is in. You can register the trademark for the Benelux, for Europe or Globally (on a country-by-country basis).
  7. Keep monitoring your trademark. After you’ve registered your trademark it’s important to monitor it frequently. This has several advantages. If you notice new applications that might infringe your registration you can prevent that trademark from being registered. And if others are using your trademark without permission you can take steps to stop them from doing so. And last but not least you can extend your registration in case the registration period ends in a certain jurisdiction.

The above 7 steps show that it’s really easy to get the branding IP basics right. It should not take you too much time and money and it will save you trouble later on. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments.