“Replate started with a simple idea of using technology for good. If you look around our communities in SF, the Silicon Valley, and the East Bay, there is an obvious and significant income gap,” Hooman Yavi (‘15) explains. “Having worked in the food industry, my cofounder and I realized that there are tons of surplus food that was untapped. We decided that we could bridge the gap between high income tech workers and low income communities by bringing them together with food.”
Today, Replate is a web service that connects communities to combat food insecurity in 3 major metropolitan areas. Through the app, drivers pick up surplus food from donors and donate it to recipients like Project Homeless Connect. Replate charges donors of surplus food a pickup fee to collect and divert their surplus food to communities in need using Replate’s cloud-based dashboard.
Starting a company can be both intimidating and overwhelming. The never-ending list of tasks to complete in order to take an idea from the “wet napkin” stage to a viable product is daunting, and founders need support in many areas to confront the many obstacles in their path to success. For example, in order to attract investors or grow their revenues, early-stage companies need to have a legal structure in place. The Startup Legal Garage is one of the resources many founders look to for free legal support.
In the Startup Legal Garage corporate module, startups are matched with a legal team comprised of UC Hastings students and supervising attorneys from IP law firms. These teams address issues ranging from drafting bylaws and entity formation to terms of service and vendor contracts.
Familiar with the Startup Legal Garage from his days at UC Hastings, Yavi knew that the corporate module would be the best place for Replate to address some of their pressing legal needs including contracts, privacy policies, and partnership agreements. Replate’s founders knew as soon as they started talking to stakeholders that adding more formal legal components to their business model would be necessary to grow.
The student-attorney team assigned to Replate played an instrumental role in establishing some of the most important foundational principles in the company.
“The startup legal garage provided us with the tools and connections we needed to organize our company so that interested foundations knew that we were committed, professional, and serious about achieving our mission,” Yavi said. “The work that the students did also helped us gain an advantage in our position within the market so that we could compete with the biggest companies in our industry.”
Founders don’t have the time to think of everything, and lawyers that pay attention to the details can truly be the difference between a damaging and beneficial contract. Yavi recalls one time in particular when Replate’s Startup Legal Garage team was especially astute.
“Once a vendor tried to squeeze something we had not agreed to into a footnote. A student caught it and we were able to bring it back to them and fix the contract,” Yavi said. “We had so much going on, we never would have caught it on our own.”
Since the end of their formal partnership with the Startup Legal Garage, Replate has grown from serving 1000 meals per week to now serving 10,000 people per week and growing 10% per month. The Bylaws their Startup Legal Garage team drafted has served as the fundamental guidelines that Replate uses to grow their nonprofit quickly, but most importantly, ethically.
“The Bylaws that the Startup Legal Garage established hold us to a higher standard in all our decision making,” Yavi said.
Ultimately, Yavi isn’t sold on the idea that there is a one-size-fits-all legal framework for any startup to achieve success. “The best advice I can give is to work with an attorney who can understand your company or nonprofit’s specific needs and synthesize a solution for your team based on them.”
The Startup Legal Garage is committed to helping early-stage companies set up the legal structures that will guide them through each specific and uniquely important stage of growth. From the beginning, Professors Alice Armitage and Drew Amerson take the time to match each accepted startup with a team of students and attorneys that will best fit that company’s legal needs.
Replate is looking to add new features to their user experience in the coming months, including impact reports for donors and clients. Learn more about Re-Plate and the team behind it at re-plate.org.
Applications are currently being evaluated for the Fall 2017 module, and applications will be open for the Spring Semester in late fall., with projects beginning in January of 2018.