McKercher LLP ‘appealing’ to Cultivator startups through market-focused legal advice and scaleable legal solutions
McKercher LLP is using its ‘law-gic’ to support startups as they START, GROW, and SCALE their companies at Cultivator. We are so fortunate to have McKercher as our in-residence legal partner. This partnership allows Cultivator founders to access legal support throughout all stages of their company. There are many legal principles and practices associated with building a startup. We want to ensure the growth and scalability of our startups are not compromised by avoidable legal or structural errors.
McKercher has been one of the long-standing supporters of the tech community in Saskatchewan. Whether it’s attending conferences, presenting to founders, or supporting eco-system events… McKercher is always looking to connect with founders and contribute to building the tech ecosystem. Their ability to develop personal relationships with their clients is one of the many strengths of this team! They are always looking out for the betterment of the startups.
We could not be more proud of this team and the impact they are having on prairie tech! We wanted to showcase our appreciation and spotlight McKercher LLP in this Partner Feature. We had the chance to hit up Joe Gill, McKercher LLP Partner, and Annie B. Quangtakoune, McKercher LLP Associate, with some baseline questions to learn more about their role with Cultivator.
When did McKercher start their partnership with Cultivator?
We “officially” started in December 2020. However, we have followed Cultivator since its very early days in the old Gas Buddy offices at Innovation Place Regina. Our crew has been regular attendees at Cultivator events since the beginning. Going back further than that, Joe met Jordan at StartupFest 2018 when Jordan first started his journey into the tech startup world.
What services do you provide to Cultivator founders?
We provide ‘cradle-to-grave’ startup legal services that cover the entire founder journey. Starting with setting up startups and assisting with founder agreements. Next, moving to help with employee matters, options, and incentives. From there, we assist with customer procurement through documents like service terms or website terms. Then, it’s on to the fun business of helping startups through raise rounds. And then finally, to exit and acquisition transactions. If it’s a legal issue, we generally cover it.
What do you enjoy most about being a partner of Cultivator and working with founders?
Making a difference at the very beginning of the startup journey. It gives us immense satisfaction to be thought of as true advisors to founders, as opposed to simply “legal mercenaries”. We pride ourselves on not just providing legal advice, but also market and business advice to the startups we serve. It’s always been easier for advisors to care about startups when they are a “big deal”. But it is much harder to do good work for those startups when they are small, and nobody has heard about them. We work hard to help all founders and have been fortunate to have many long-term relationships.
What have you learned most from the startup community?
The power of storytelling. Founders pitch and tell their startup stories almost every day. But we, as advisors, also do the same every day when we work with founders. Whether seeking capital, or trying to explain how a SAFE (simple agreement for future equity) works — clear, concise, and engaging storytelling matters. So we pride ourselves on being excellent legal storytellers. And we have the startup community largely to thank for that mindset.
What is your team dynamic like, and how do you all assess the need of founders and how to best serve them? What are your strengths, and how do you leverage this for founders?
We operate very collaboratively and view all our startups as “firm clients”, not “Joe’s client” or “Annie’s client”. It also matters to us to involve our corporate team members and other legal assistants. While you don’t see them at events, they are a huge part of ensuring we deliver excellent results to our startups. It takes a whole village to meet the demands of the startup community, not just 1 guy with a questionable fashion sense.
But we also value relationships and know that some founders will jive better with certain firm members. That’s why we work hard to ensure that founders have direct relationships with our lawyers. We don’t want any founder to feel they can only reach out to some generic email address and hope they get an answer. It’s also a hell of a lot more fun to have that relationship as opposed to viewing startups as just numbers and workflows.
Our biggest strength as a team is that we work to instill the founder’s mindset and passion into our legal work. While we spend a lot of time behind a keyboard preparing documents, we also spend a lot of time talking about the stories playing out for startups. It’s a regular occurrence for an all-hands meeting to involve Joe getting into passionate theatrics about something happening with a startup. That helps keep the entire team engaged, interested, and crushing out the best work possible for startups.
A recent feature written by Joe Gill:
Startup Summit 2022 Recap: I got my community right behind me, if I fall, they got me.
“I can’t believe the energy here”
“This is tech in Saskatchewan?!?”
“I’m having so much fun”
I heard variations of those phrases during the 3 days I spent at Cultivator powered by Conexus 2022 Startup Summit last week. It’s hard to capture in words the energy and passion of the #founders last week. But here goes nothing.
My top 3:
(3) Authenticity ~ #SKTech isn’t startup theatre. We (thankfully) don’t have general bullshitters in our ranks. The founders, investors, and community supporters I met all expressed their authentic selves. In a situation where there was ample opportunity to play a part, they played the one part that matters: themselves.
(2) Focus ~ With all due respect, nobody wants to talk about the weather, the flavor of the week, or family updates. They want to talk about things that cut deeper. They want to talk about immediately useful tactical advice; they want to talk about what it means to lead people, and they want to talk about opportunities for personal growth. I loved the fact that I was never pulled into a 5+ minute superficial conversation. I loved the fact that the founders put up with me interrogating them on their hopes and fears. And I loved the fact that people pushed me to articulate my value so much better than the uninspiring tokenism of “Oh, I’m Joe, a lawyer and I do the following lawyer things….”.
(1) Community ~ Saskatchewan is the best. I have not lived and worked in other #startup communities. But I’ll stack ours up against another any day. Our community cares about better supporting founders, building bridges between stakeholders, and doing all we can to raise everyone up. More than that, they’re willing to take leaps of faith to learn and experience. Where else but in this wonderful place can I convince a group of founders, investors, and community partners to eat seafood hot pot at a dingy restaurant across from an adult entertainment store? I adore the spontaneity.
I’ll close with this: I’m eternally grateful for this community. This is my home. These are my people. Every single person I met (and all the ones who came out and I missed a chance to talk to) is so much more to me than “client 1234” or “referral source 5678”. You’re the reason I’m always engaging. You’re the reason I push myself to be the best startup lawyer not just in Saskatchewan, but in the entire country. And you’re the reason I’m up until the sun rises, whether to deliver quality legal goods, help founders through dark times, or to share a laugh over great food and drink.
As Hemingway put it: “the best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, [and] the capacity for sacrifice.”
Let’s all keep extolling the beauty in our #SKTech community, taking the risks that the ordinary won’t, not broking any bullshit, and unconditionally serving each other. You’re all the best. Don’t ever change.
Our Cultivator team had the opportunity to work closely with Joe and Annie to create a special networking experience for attendees at Startup Summit this year. We hosted the McKercher Patio Party in the Cultivator kitchen. Our goal was to provide a laid-back atmosphere with some upscale elements to elevate the experience. This included a local caesar bar by Last Mountian Distillery and a beer sampling station from Rebellion Brewery.
The patio party had a special networking game. Each attendee was handed a random card with a challenge on it. The challenges helped people step out of their comfort zone and find someone at the party who met the criteria on the card. Some examples were: “meet someone new who has had a failed business… meet someone new that had the same thing for breakfast as you… meet someone new who is from another province”. Attendees that completed their challenge were then entered to win a pair of Apple Airpod Pros. It’s events like this that showcase McKercher’s innovative nature and desire to help Saskatchewan tech take off!
To read a full recap of Startup Summit 2022, CLICK HERE or watch the video below…