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Sarus Lifting: Developing an IP Strategy from the Ground Up

by Patents Integrated
November 3rd 2021

Boulder-based Sarus Lifting is empowering the heavy lifting industry through intelligent planning tools. Because lifting via cranes and other machinery doesn't just happen. It takes planning, manag... More

Hello and welcome to the novel and non obvious podcast where we discuss the intellectual property issues impacting the startup world. My name is Yuri Komori to the host of this podcast and founder of patents integrated today. We welcome linda place Ceos, Rivera Dustin Ramsey and Satyam Shukla. Co founders of Cyrus lifting their website is Cyrus lifting dot com. That spelled S. A. R. U. S. L. I F T. I N G dot com. So we'll be discussing I. P. Issues related to starting up a new company and we're gonna do this a little bit differently today when potential new clients come to patents integrated we always do a half hour free consultation usually over zoom or sometimes by phone where we kind of explore non confidentially the kinds of I. P. Issues that a particular founder might be facing that I might be able to help with. So we're gonna do a similar thing with the SARS team today.

So they are a fairly new company. I'm gonna ask them to talk about their founding story but we're gonna make it like they are entrepreneurs coming to patents integrated for the first time and then we'll explore some I. P. Issues that they may be facing? Well welcome to the show. So the three of you have been working on this company for almost a year but I know you met before that. Can you tell us about sort of your I guess your origin stories? Yeah so we met back at the beginning of 2021st Saturday and I met through both seeing the same poster in the engineering center looking for help on a robotics project that was essentially building an automated fire truck ladder. Um, so these are the big rescue aerials in the back of fire trucks that they deployed to rescue people from burning buildings or get cats out of trees, that sort of thing. And it was a mechanical engineer on the project and I was the computer engineer on the project.

And we started working on this and you know, through this project, both realized we had this, you know, chemistry and this attitude for entrepreneurship that we wanted to explore more because that wasn't our background coming into it. And that's when linda got involved. We took the project to linda and I's senior design coursework. We were both going into our senior year of our bachelors and Electrical and Computer Engineering, so we said, hey, let's let's rebuild all of the hardware, all of the electoral hardware for this system. That was one of the technical challenges we were facing building on a raspberry pi and and that's kind of how we all started working together. And you know, linda also realized that she worked really well with us and we, we all had this shared passion for engineers, kind of throwing themselves into the business world and that was kind of the origin of saris and you know, we eventually pivoted to construction, but that's how we met.

Okay, so I I love the fact that you are such a diverse team and you have diverse backgrounds that you're coming in with. So maybe start with safety. Um and then we'll go to linda of what in your background interested you in starting a business like SARS. I'm from India and my background interestingly is in Air force so I did my Bachelor's in mechanical engineering, wanted to be a pilot, got into the indian Air Force trained for a couple of times and then my left I gave out on me so you cannot fly and then I was like I want to do something messy so I decided to come here for my masters. So for me personally it's the people that drive me and working with Dustin and linda. It's the, it's the connection and the reliability that we have with each other. You know the concept of brotherhood that's pretty important to me. That's one of the principles for me working forward on it and as far as Sarah's goes it's been a process.

We knew that we all wanted to work together and it's been like hitting, running in one direction, starting with fire drugs as Dustin mentioned then building it too. And then we're like you know what, we can work on tele handlers because it has booms so running in that direction hitting stone walls in there and then finally working with greens and then finally we were like okay this makes sense, this is a product, this is a need. So yeah okay and linda you know I love the fact that you are also a graduate of the electrical and computer engineering department right? I was an ec grad too so I I love seeing women graduate out of that program. So what's your background when I was little? So I'm from El Salvador and my dad had two different companies while I was growing up and just seeing him like being able to go through that whole process over there and he is really good at like just fixing machines and like taking care of all of that stuff.

So um it was like really interesting for me, he wanted to start one here in the United States but I was in high school at that time and we didn't really know how to do it so that um doesn't reach out to me and he said well this might be an opportunity to make a company out of it so that I got my interest in. Yeah it's definitely been a process um not having any knowledge on business or like I. P. Or anything like that. It's been it's been interesting but also like we can do this like the three of us are a good group and we can definitely make this company a good thing. So the first time that I think I saw you guys pitch was at the NBC the new venture challenge finals and then I saw you at demo day of the catalyzed C. U. And things had changed, you kind of shifted your focus a little bit between that time of the NBC back in was in May and then catalyzed in august right.

How did those programs influence the way that you've structured your company? So I guess it started for us A little previously then that was um, we were doing research to market, that was one of the biggest discovery factors for us working towards. So we were the only team in the cohort that did the sprint of 30 interviews, but by the end of it we were dejected like, oh man, this is no one. Okay, so, so that was an interesting, but all the learning through our um, and we were lucky enough to get into the stage group as well, based out in Boulder. So we have had some really good advice and one of the biggest advice that you keep hearing when you're in the startup world is go out and keep talking. You will not find results right in the first go, you won't be able to, you, it's not going to be like you sit one day and this idea will manifest itself, you need to keep working on it, happening upon it. So our um, was one of the biggest factors going through then we went into NBC and you know, clearing out that value proposition, How does it become into something that you can bitch.

That helped a lot. And catalyze finally brought all of that cohort together with all the teams working, bringing all of that home with business model coupled with product working with different channels in the industry. How does that look like for us? For example insurance is one big thing in construction so getting the idea of all of that. So it's it's been all those like stock. It's where we just talk to people and we get some really great advice and yeah we just keep rolling with it. Yeah so initially we had hardware. We're so excited to do that if that happen. But um it wasn't feasible at that time. So we had to start with the software and that's what we're working on at this moment but still in the back of our minds. So yeah like I'm the mechanic means I'm the helmet and Neil guy. And these guys are also like let us plug something and do a.

P. C. Well it's good to have all of those different perspectives coming in I think because one of the things that I do ask any company that that approaches me is, have you talked to customers? Have you validated product customer fit? Are you building something that once you start selling customers are going to want to buy? And it sounds like you guys have have really been going through the wringer just trying to get that information and get some validation? So that's great. Is there anything surprising on the business side that you found so far? Like you said no said to me, you said some of those conversations were were hard and maybe a little disappointing sometimes. Obviously you kept going and you found some good things to build on. Were any of those conversations surprising to you? Yeah, particularly all these facts, especially because none of us have a construction background per se. So a lot of that because we went in with an open mind, we went in with every conversation that they had at hand to stay.

Um so all of those conversations were enlightening one big one I guess. So this is what we did. It was hard to get interviews. So one day we decided, you know, we're gonna just go drive through and see whatever sites and that's what we still do. We see a clean up there and then let's just drop by the so that's the beauty of it. But but one of the interesting things and this is the interesting part about construction is that it's very safety or ended and everyone talks about safety but you cannot easily quantify safety. Like how do you quantify when someone is not dying or there's no accident happening? There's no no one with a stop going on because there's a good fact is going on. So the quantification of safety is one of those things which we found out, okay that's a that's an important part because we want to present our business case as well as like okay you use our product, you create a nice plan and that will help you and make your job site safe.

So that has been one of the important parts. Okay. Like we need to quantify safety, we need to understand that better universities, resources has been have been really helpful on that and we have been working on that as well. That idea of how do you quantify safety? That has been one big one and an interesting stat that we found out was The maximum number of fatalities uh in a job site are due to falls less than three ft. Right? Which is when you think about it like, wow. Because That's like three ft. Like you would imagine with everything moving around, everything's swinging around in tons, there would be something else. But it's like four little less like three ft. So wow, that's like falling off of my standing desk here, wow. So that's an interesting factoid. So then can you tell me about your product, what is the product that you landed on after all of these customer discovery and why are you going with that product? I know linda you mentioned hardware, you started with hardware but you're gonna start with software.

Is there gonna be a hardware component eventually. So tell me about your current product and your product development plan. Yeah. So right now we are streaming the process of doing a left plan for cranes. So estimators and with planners they have all different types of software to create a life plan. So we're bringing all that into one software that they can use and it's offered in multiple platforms. That means that you can be on the job side and you can enter the data that you need. So the left planner can use it and finalize that left. And also the communication is a big issue um they go back and forth using phones or emails and we are adding a feature that allows better communication between the general contractor and the crane rental company. We are still exploring how are we gonna incorporate hardware into it and we do have like a couple of ideas that we will be exploring next year.

Okay so then with these lift plans, can you tell me about who is involved in creating a lift plan that makes it so difficult to put together. There's a ton of different parties on a construction site and the nature of the crane is that everybody has to touch it in some way it sits in the middle of the job site and you know the cement crew is going to use it for cement. The steel crew is going to use it to erect the steel and you know the roofing company is going to use it to put on the final roofing material on the top of the building. So you have all these different subcontractors that need to make use of this piece of equipment and they all have different requirements and then you have the general contractor who is overseeing everything. It needs to ensure that nobody makes a mistake, nobody gets hurt. And typically they'll have a safety supervisor who's responsible for that. So the lift plan gets passed around.

Typically it starts with a crane company who is asked to do something and they put together a little and say, hey, like this is how we think it should go, this is the crane we're gonna use um this is how we're gonna set it up. This is how we're going to make sure that it goes safe. And then the subcontractor will review that and say, cool, that's gonna meet our needs from a functional perspective and then it has to be passed along to the general contractor who's going to take a look at and make sure that all the boxes in terms of safety are checked. And to even further complicated in some cases, there will be a 3rd party on a really big job site. There'll be a subcontractor specifically for safety audits and they'll want to take a look at that too. So this document can get passed around a lot and there's a lot of communication that happens outside of the document right now because there is no comprehensive standard for what these documents should look like. There's a lot of, you know phone calls, emails, that sort of thing where everybody tries to gets inked up and then if you look at the statistics when create accidents happen, it's when they're either wasn't a lift plan where there wasn't communication between the different parties involved in the crane operation.

And one of the things that um you mentioned right up front was the involvement of the insurance companies. How does insurance come into play with a product like this? Well one of the big idea for insurance, especially in terms of heavy equipment is in the whole construction actually is the transfer transfer of liability. Who is liable at what sense, who is responsible for what event. Uh and that sort of thing. So when you have something like a document that lays out this is how the operation is supposed to go. This is what you're supposed to pick up. This is where you will lay the groundwork at when it's all written and done then you have a clear chain of command that is laid out okay if you say that you know don't take it here, you know you're on the job site, I want to do something, push it forward or let it just slide. No I have a document that lays it out. So now what happens is like if there is any variation then a product like lift pro because it's using its leaning out like who all checked it, who all signed off on it.

It creates a lineage of who's responsible for what event, which is a big pain point for insurance industry because they want to make sure that the safety best practices are followed in the job site. But the supervision on it is pretty sketchy sometimes when there is nothing that you know, well put something, do it on the paper to say. So that's, that's one of the things where insurance comes into the picture. Okay, so the big question that a lot of times entrepreneurs can't answer for me is who is going to pay for your product and how big is the market? Oh, that's a great answer for you. At first, the crane rental companies are going to be our primary paying customer. You know, this is the vast majority of Trains are owned by 3rd Party rental companies that will rent them to a construction company. Uh, and they're the ones who started get the ball rolling with the left plan. Um, in some cases with really large construction companies, they own their own fleet of cranes, in which case, that's who's paying for the product because they're responsible for their lift planning needs.

That's who's going to pay for lift planning. And we estimate that to be about a $300 million dollar market annually, which is not massive, but it's, it's an excellent beachhead for us to get in tackling each problem that nobody is addressing right now and get some credibility in this industry that asks companies to earn its trust. Beyond that we want to pursue the vision of making safety easy on the construction site. It's a huge pain in the butt when OSHA shows up or the safety supervisor shows up in the white hard hat and wants to talk to everybody about okay did you do this inspection? That inspection? And it's frustrating and in this industry where time is money, there's a trade off there that is just super dangerous. And that's one of the reasons construction workers die at a rate three times higher than every other industry. So that that's what we want to address on a broader scale and when we get to that point um we know that there's a a metric in the insurance industry total cost of risk T.

C. R. And that's what it costs to ensure someone, one of the most expensive insurance claims is when a drop site gets shut down because somebody died if we can reduce that number through whatever means whatever sort of products we know there is a multi multi billion dollar industry there. Commercial insurance is in the hundreds of billions. So um that's kind of our our longer term angle and who we hope to pay for this ultimately. But yeah okay so I I got I understood your story through the crane up the I guess the crane owners that have the interest in using your lift pro product. I'm not quite understanding how that ties into the safety aspect. Is that gonna be a software that automates checkboxes for insurance or like such a mentioned earlier making that chain of I guess responsibilities of who is responsible for what and who checked off for what that sort of thing or I don't remember what you called that stadium chain of liability.

Okay so something like that. Where is that? What is that what your next product would be? I'm not quite understanding what that next product after the beachhead market is going to be. Um I think so as far as the that angle goes, I think so where Dustin was alluding to the beach had been uh lift pro product which goes directly and ties into the grain industry and using that data, what we get from that. What what we'll be able to use lift pro from for example you can use the data that we get from lift pro using that data to feed into the best practices in the insurance industry. So that that it's small because that's what software enables a student. That's one of the reasons that be pivoted from hardware as well. Was that data collection points. That's the big trend in understanding construction right now. It's like what are the best practices that we can use uh that we can collect and then we can direct towards.

Okay these are the best practices, this is what uh this is what needs to be done and if we can then the idea is what Dustin was talking about was feeding into insurance, you know, so insurance is like okay we need to collect these data points. What's happening on the job site? What are the trends that's happening? Who are the companies that we have to increase the premium for whatever that looks like the broader scale. But basically using that data, what we collect to lift pro or to other Softwares and then feeding into insurance. So that's the broader idea of using data to feed into insurance and that would serve as the bigger market on that. Okay, so then let me ask you another question that I ask a lot of potential clients is why don't other people do this? Why doesn't this product exist? So I think we're on the cusp of a wave of innovation and construction around data collection and data analysis and like I was saying there's a difference between the way a job should go In 1% of that is the lift plan.

The rest of it is everything else that happens on the job site and then there's the way it actually goes and the behaviors that actually happened. And measuring the delta between those two is where problems happen. And by collecting that data, we can have insights around where are the problems truly hiding on the job site, why our jobs running way over budget, way over time, why are people getting hurt? And the industry is just now starting to collect that, it's it's a tough thing in this industry because I think there's two reasons truly by nature, it's full of imperfections. A construction site is a messy, chaotic place. It's not like manufacturing where it's clean and repeatable and auditable, but it's moving that way. And then the second reason is is there's a big cultural boundary their construction historically. And I don't have an answer for why this is the culture of construction, but the culture of construction is a bunch of dudes out in a pile of dirt, building something and from a somebody who's been in that pile of dirt, like there's an ego, there's a pride and there's kind of an attitude that's you know, not saying it's good or bad, it's just there's this culture there that makes it really hard to accept change and accept these new sometimes technologies just hold on to what Dustin was saying because I understand the rigidness of particular industry, especially when you look at any of these industries like firefighting, defense or anything because lives are involved, They don't trust easy.

Um and that's what Dustin Dustin was talking about, he said that this serves as the beachhead to establish the credibility that required one big reason and this is my personal what I have seen till now happening is one big reason why there's not a lot happening is because construction is laid out while you are and when you're studying in university, construction is laid out in a certain way when you're looking at construction in terms of machine learning data analysis and all that stuff because there is this class wall in front of construction that we felt while we were entering it because there was this cultural barrier, the talent or the start of mind personally speaking, I don't think so directly permits to construction. It's very consumer market. So so there's this untapped market because of that initial heart that you need to get over. People are not trying as much. Big companies are pushing for it. But in terms of the startup section, I haven't seen that push under unless there is some huge packing coming into it.

So I think so that's one big reason and particularly talking about lift pro because the industry is niche and so the big companies like the big names are trembled protocol. So these companies, they have their hands on much bigger piles so they are not exactly focused on creating something for a very specific niche. So what I'm kind of hearing from you is that you're trying to create a product that will bring more discipline and more data gathering that can be fed into other things like insurance or safety analysis, those sorts of things. It goes back to what you said at the beginning that you were surprised that there weren't safety metrics that were commonly available in the industry. So that where do you think your protect a ble advantage is going to be, Is it going to be in the specific pieces of information that you collect the aggregation of the data that that you'll be collecting.

You know what are your thoughts on that? I would say it's the data that's going to be important for us and I mean like you guys do that on it but I think so one big aspect of what we are doing is understanding the trains and how all of this is acting out. How does personal actions of an operator affect everything in the jobs? Because make no mistake crane is the most dangerous equipment on the job site Irrespective of what the size if it's 100 and then done to like 350 tons it's the most dangerous equipment. But yeah, so I think so data collection is going to be one big aspect of us getting the next push from left pro. So one of the things that I am starting to see though is that in order to get to the size of database that you would need in order to perform these analysis. Have you thought of how many left sides you need to work on how many examples or how many actual data collection sites would you need to have in order to aggregate enough data?

Yeah. So we talked to a professor who does analysis on data and he said that if we can collect about 100 that will be enough for us to do research on that. Like how can we use that data into the bigger picture? Okay, so then I guess your challenge now is to get your product used at 100 construction sites. So then once you collect that data, so your data is it sounds like your data is going to be the most important nugget that you're gonna be able to have because obviously right now no one else has this information, right? No one else has collected this data before. How are you going to protect that? What are you thinking about that with your data collection? We haven't thought about that. How are we going to protect that data? One of the big things that uh and that's why it's it's like as soon as that counts, you like go to Yuriko well.

So, you know, one of the things that I that I'm kind of thinking of as you're going along in order to gain credibility both with the insurance industry and and even with I guess academics who are studying the construction industry, it sounds like, you know, as you collect data even from just a few sites you might want to consider publishing some of the results that you are starting to see. Right? So then there, I think things like minimizing the data and aggregating as much as you can and trying to draw conclusions from it and what methodologies that you are using to draw those conclusions and maybe even thinking of specific pieces of information that would be valuable for the industry, like the safety metric. So is there no safety metric that is used by either the insurance industry or construction industry other than like the number of deaths or injuries or maiming or whatever.

So there there's one it's called total recordable injury rate tr I. R. Um and this has been the gold standard for measuring safety for decades. However, it is total, it's not real. The statistical variability between different contractors, you know this is essentially defined as the amount of injuries her 100,000 full time equivalents I forget. But the statistic variability between contractors, they each have this number attached to their company is so great. Year to year that it doesn't matter if you hire a contractor a over contractor B because it's a coin flip of who is going to have a better safety record on your job. It's like a yelp rating that people can influence. Whatever. Can you create a product that can you standardize that? Yeah, we want to reinvent that metric entirely. We want to reinvent how we measure safety from that outdated method to a much more comprehensive and data informed.

You know, multi dimensional metric that actually translates to better performance in the field, not just with safety but with efficiency, cost, quality of the work being done. I think the data is out there. It's just a matter of how do we collect it, analyze it and draw good insights from it. And that's another key piece of I. P. That you could be creating there too. So you're essentially wanting to create a standard, a new standard which means that you will get to pick and choose what metrics or what parameters go into measuring those metrics and then how those things are analyzed. You know there I think you're gonna you're gonna have a trade off between how you validate some of those parameters that you want to measure to validate it for accuracy whether it's yeah for accuracy or for just everybody measuring it the same way kind of like you know measuring temperature there there's such a variability, different machines, you know those sorts of things.

Even as simple as as a temperature measurement it's it's really hard to standardize, right? So then if you're trying to make it a multi variant kind of a thing then you will need to you will likely need to get validation on each one of those and then get people to adopt each one of those parameter measurements, all of those things. You know I think you're creating something new right here and you're looking at creating a essentially a different culture in the construction industry all of that is going to be hard. Yeah that's a boiler, you just keep on hitting and hope something breaks. But I think we're a good time as well because the older generation is retiring and there's going to be a new wave and um new techniques, strategies will be adopted by um this new generation. Okay, so so far we've been hammering on the product in your business model and everything like that.

Tell me about how you're creating your brand, like start with your name. I know that it's, it has specific meeting in hindi. How are you creating your brand as a company within this sort of almost like a dinosaur of an industry. That's a that's a good question and I was hoping you'd ask it. Um because I just love this fact um and I have never been like we have never been all of us. We are so bad at doing stuff that you're supposed to do, which is cool. So we actually have a sheet that says we are fun and it lists all the things that we were supposed to do but we didn't, we were supposed to celebrate NBC but we ended up working. So we have a sheet and it's yeah, any future hires will be fun, we hope. But anyways, so this is the most fun thing solace actually means the bird crane in hindi the silent screen and because we work on clean, hence the void crane.

So there's a die joke. Yeah and our logo is an origami crane too. So Okay that, that that's yeah, so that's pretty cool. So then the brand is sort of the where you're trying to go with your product and your brand I think is sort of that sophistication. So I mean your your logo is cool looking, it's it's a cool looking bird there. So there's a level of sophistication that you are adding into this industry that you are trying to introduce and I think that will help you on both sides of trying to work with this. Like the insurance industry is it's a very state industry but they're trying to they're trying to, you know, reinvent themselves, right? So that's that's neat. Have you done anything to protect your brand so far? one of the questions that we wanted to ask you was because we came across this while we were in catalyzed how important it is for startup to protect their name and logo because we have like different answers and we never like got like a good and started that we can like, okay, this is something that we definitely need to look into.

Have you done any searching or anything for Sara's Sara's lifting? Well, Sarah's lifting is probably pretty unique. Yeah, we did a background search, there was this company in Germany that was doing biotech stuff which had the same name. I not sure what it means in german but I'm not interested. But yeah, so that there's one there's the that's the company start ups that they have uh we ourselves lifting. That's, that's actually the reason for us to add the word lifting at the end of it to get the name for us when we were registering ourselves. But yeah, that's the only company. Okay, well, so trademarks which would apply to company names and product names and that sort of thing. They are both regional and there are also specific to a particular class of use. So things like, you know, if Cyrus is being used in a biotech company, then it's probably available for use within the construction industry.

For example, that's something that you should definitely talk with a trademark specialist about sort of the, the standard that I use and deciding whether or not something should be filed as a trademark or not. Is how important is that name to you. So is this something that you're very attached to or if someone comes along and sends you a cease and desist? Are you willing to change it quickly? And it also has to do with how much investment you are being asked to make in order to establish that name. So when we met after catalyzed you gave me an origami crane, which is, it's kind of universal. I learned how to make it when I was a little girl. Um, so it's something that's unique to a construction company but really anybody can do that, right? But then your, you've got your sorrows lifting website and you also have business cards and and that kind of other collateral that you're making right and you're paying for the website and the registration and all of that.

So then beyond that, how much have you spent on items with the sarah's name on it? And are you willing to change that? Another one is your your lift pearl product. Have you looked at whether or not that is being used elsewhere? No, we that was kind of back of the napkin name speak. It was a last minute decision to call, we needed to call something one of our favorite industry partners is pro lift just switched it around. I think that's something that we're certainly not married to. So that's something that you might want to consider too. Is that when you're coming up with a product name? I think lift pro pro lift, that's pretty close. And since you're in the same industry, that's probably something that you may want to stay away from. But if you can come up with some some a new new product name then you might look into. Okay, how often are we going to be using this this name?

How recognizable does it need to be So Sarah's lifting right now. I think it's a great brand. I think it's, it has a great logo, it has a great story, it's very appropriate. Dead jokes aside, but I think it's it's a good name that you have and if you want to go with it that might be something you might want to protect and you might also because you're gonna lifting isn't the only thing that you're gonna do. You're gonna be going into other industries too. So you might look at different combinations of SARS and something else. Sarah's construction, Sarah's data analytics. So think about that and then talk with a trademark specialist who can help you navigate things like okay other people are using this that sort of thing and you usually if you do a google search you can come up with stuff. Another one is because you are an american company you can look at the U. S. Patent and trademark office. They have a trademark database that's searchable. So I would recommend that you do that as well.

Okay I know we've been talking together for a long time and I've been asking lots and lots of questions do you have other questions for me? One of the other questions that we had a while back was how to create or how to develop an I. P. Strategy. How do you start on that? So it goes back to the questions that I asked you earlier what is it about your business that no one else has. So one of the things that I think we agree on is that the data that you are going to collect. No one else is collecting the construction site data safety data or whatever else is involved in the way that you are. And even you know when you were talking about creating the lift plan and you mentioned that there are lots of people that contribute to different parts of the lift plan but not in that sort of a consolidated manner. So the consolidation of that data is something unique to you.

So think about things like that where you're either your product is collect is collecting information in a new way or that you are having to create a product to collect the particular piece of information that's not being collected right now. Um or like the the communication aspect that you mentioned allowing allowing better collaboration. So if that is something that is gonna be unique to your product in some way then that's that's that's intellectual property. So intellectual property is essentially defined as anything that that gives your company competitive advantage. So then think about what the unique problems your product addresses as well as the unique solutions that you are creating to solve those problems. I know that one of the questions that you asked me before linda was how do you protect software? Well there are various things that you can do.

For example if you're writing the software yourselves then you can protect the code by essentially just protecting it like password protection whatever. So using security methods you can also do things like file for copyrights. If you ever have to share your code with anybody. For example you can only share compiled code so that people can't see the source code and that's one that's one layer of protection. Um you can also do things like whenever you talk with potential investors that don't need to know the nitty gritty of what you're doing. But essentially just the basic flow only share the flow and you can have different, different levels of things that you share. Like you can have a super detailed here are the steps that we take in order to do our analysis that level that you only share under confidentiality. Or if you're gonna be doing a pitch, you can have a broader flow that shows here are the inputs that are coming in, here's input from general contractor, here's input from the crane operator and here's what the roofers want.

You know, those sorts of things have that more of like a generalized input. So then if you think of it, since you're all engineers, if you think of it as a linear system, the input goes into a black box and then stuff comes out. So then think about what of that input box and the output you would want to keep confidential. So then maybe it's the analytics that you do in the inside of the box. Maybe it's the aggregation of the specific data that you want to keep confidential. Maybe it's even like the um your partners, the specific construction companies that you're working with because you don't want to reveal to other companies that might come into your your industry space who you're working with. So maybe you get a nice contract with trimble and you want to keep that under wraps. That's a perfectly valid way of identifying a particular piece of confidential information. So then there to go back to your question linda about creating an I.

P. Strategy because you are starting with the software. So with the software think about what what what are you having to create as new? So you've got software code that you're gonna have to put together. You're gonna have different inputs into that code that you're gonna have to put together. Maybe you consider each one of those steps confidential and then have a and think of an overall product of here's what we are creating now, here are the confidential parts of that product that we are creating now and then where we want to go next to go to, you know what Dustin was talking about about like the next level of safety analysis. What are the parameters that you think are going to be important to analyze that? So maybe that sort of information can be considered confidential. So then overall what you want to balance is what is feasible for you, what is reasonable for you to try to protect versus what do people really care about?

So when I'm talking with an investor, can I get them interested. Can I get them hooked without revealing any confidential information. So then ultimately what you want is that one page slide the intellectual property strategy slide in your pitch deck that says here are the things that we consider confidential and here is how we are protecting them. So think about it that way. That's a great point. Yeah because the the engineer way of thinking is I. P. Means patent and that maximum it's like copyright. So that's a great point of how we should be looking at it. So yeah. So I guess that brings me to my last question. Um We do have independent contractors working for us. So how do you protect the code that they are developing? Have you had those contracts? I'm assuming there are consulting contracts and that consulting agreements that are that you're using. Have you had those analyzed by legal counsel by by an attorney to make sure that there are appropriate intellectual property clauses in those agreements.

For example, one of the things that I always look for in a software contractor or a software developer agreement is an I. P. Assignment clause that says I hereby assign all intellectual property rights two cyrus to the company because a lot of those things are considered work for hire. You're you're paying somebody to create something for you. You want to make sure that it is in the contract that that work for hire is indeed assigned to you, the paying entity the company. So you want to make sure that you have contractual protection. Yeah. We we we've had that and had it reviewed by an outside counsel. Great. Yeah. Another thing though, between the three of you, I know you you're great friends and you've been getting along really well for the last almost two years. Do you have a founder's agreement? Yes. Yeah. Do you? We have yeah. We have what we had to do for NBC which is a little nebulous.

It's kind of our values and our mission and the kind of place we want to work and what we, you know, kind of the things that we respect in other people and that we want to see from each other. Okay. No, that's not what I mean. What I mean is and and actually what I mean is an actual agreement that says here are what we bring to the company as founders and here if if something goes wrong here is how we will separate ourselves or like for example, if one of you decides that, you know what I'm going to start another company or some moonlighting with another company or if one of you gets another job then with those sorts of things, I would like to see essentially contributions. So how you like in terms of stocks and equity, How you split the company between the three of you. If there's any disagreements, how you will separate, you know, all of these scenarios and I know I know it's a risk thing that, that you, that everybody hates thinking about.

But I have seen more bad things happen because of the lack of a formal founders agreement. And the nice thing is just like writing a will or something like that. It does force you to consider all of the different possibilities and all of the different common things that happen within a company. So having that agreement can be sort of like a reassuring sort of a thing for all of you. Oh and one thing to always addressing the founder agreement to is the assignment or you can have it in the founder agreement or you can have it in a separate agreement. Have an intellectual property agreement that assigns everything that you develop on behalf of the company to the company. Okay. Excellent. Okay. Well, and especially since you guys have been winning money, right? So you have money in the company. So then just make sure that you are separating your personal assets from the company assets, those sorts of things.

If you haven't already talked to a startup attorney that can help you set all of that up and there are a number of startup attorneys in town. Even that will give you essentially the here's like the startup founder package here are the things that you need to have in your arsenal and that might, that might be something that you may want to interview some attorneys to work with you. Yeah, definitely. Okay, well, thanks for spending an hour with me. It's been it's been fun talking with you all and watching you develop over the last I guess five months that I've been watching your company grow. So congratulations on getting to this point and be in touch. And you know, I would love to to see where you go from here I was expecting. I try my best.

Thank you so much. Pleasure. You're very welcome. We hope you enjoyed this episode of the novel and non obvious podcast. Our guests today have been linda Palacios, Rivera Dustin Ramsey and SATyam Shukla. Co founders of Sarah's lifting. Their website is Sarah's lifting dot com. That is S A R U S L I F T I N G dot com. Feel free to send us comments or suggestions for startup and I p related topics you'd like us to discuss on this podcast at info at patents integrated dot com. Our producer is Joel Davis of analog digital. Our marketing specialist is Tim Sprinkle of Layup content. Our theme music used with permission is the Workday Takata from A Life In a Day, composed by Sherry's lighter and performed by Michelle Stanley and flute, Jeff like water on guitar and the Australian chill. Here's our obligatory disclaimer the content of this podcast is informational only and not intended to be legal advice. The novel and non obvious podcast is a production of patents integrated and all rights are reserved See you next time.

Sarus Lifting: Developing an IP Strategy from the Ground Up
Sarus Lifting: Developing an IP Strategy from the Ground Up
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