The Innovation Clinic enjoyed a very successful and productive year despite pandemic-related challenges, representing startup and venture capital clients in a broad array of industries on an even broader array of matters. The 11 Innovation Clinic students completed approximately 35 projects and represented clients in the following industries: medical devices, campaign finance reform, recycling technology, content creation and management, streaming, sexual assault evidence collection reform, quantum computing, consumer products, insurance, SaaS platforms, artificial intelligence, traditional software, telehealth, fashion technology, cannabis, biotech, and personal services, among others. While the Innovation Clinic’s engagements are highly confidential and so we cannot describe them in detail, a high-level description of a representative sample of projects undertaken by the Innovation Clinic this year includes:
- Represented a quantum computing startup negotiating its first six-figure customer contract with a Fortune 500 company.
- Represented an insurance company marketing a first-of-its-kind insurance product in obtaining $500,000 in seed funding.
- Negotiated equity arrangements amongst founders, employees and advisors of, and prepared all other closing deliverables required to form entities for, a biotech startup developing a novel method of removing certain substances from the bloodstream and another biotech startup developing a novel approach to treating autoimmune disease.
- Drafted and negotiated software licenses, SaaS agreements, terms of service and privacy policies for various startups, including a new streaming platform for independent content creators and a platform for potential clinical trial participants to find relevant clinical trials.
- Drafted a library of forms of NDAs for general use by startups at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
- Spun out a line of business for a startup making adaptive clothing for pregnant women and people who are injured, disabled, or chronically ill.
- Prepared all documentation to form a non-profit foundation and apply for 501(c)(3) status on behalf of several University of Chicago Law professors raising awareness of poverty in India.
Regulatory Research and Advice
- Advised venture capital client as to whether portfolio company’s proposed use of untraditional payment mechanisms to mitigate worker misclassification risk could form a basis for industry disruption.
- Researched New York Bottle Bill rules and regulations to determine whether a startup pioneering a program to incentivize New York residents to recycle more would be subject to such rules and regulations and if so, how.
- Conducted an assessment of the relevant regulatory climate for a venture capital firm on behalf of one of its portfolio companies to design a response to efforts to ban the product in certain jurisdictions.
- Developed training materials for a telehealth startup to coach its providers on the distinction between coaching and medical advice, and advised other telehealth startups on structuring matters relevant to companies employing doctors and nurses and operating in multiple states.
- Presented at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, mHub and the Chicago Bar Association on topics such as entity formation, intellectual property considerations for startups, artificial intelligence, employment law matters and negotiation basics.
- Enabled one of our clients to attain Qualified New Business Venture status in Illinois, making the client more attractive to investors in the state.
In addition to the impactful and meaningful work that the Innovation Clinic performs for its clients, we also enjoy a highly beneficial relationship with alumni who are willing to share their time and experience with current students. This year, although we could not travel to our clients’ offices or have speakers in person, we had guests join us remotely from across the country to impart their wisdom. We heard from partners and associates at law firms specializing in startup and venture capital matters, the founder of gener8tor (one of the country’s largest accelerators), a lifelong founder and venture capital investor who is also an alumnus of the Law School, and held a general counsel roundtable featuring folks working at companies ranging from a local startup that just raised a Series A round of financing to Facebook.
The Innovation Clinic also strove to stay relevant to the most pressing matters of the day. When it became clear that the pandemic was not going to end after a two-week lockdown, our students quickly became telehealth experts and advised startups around temporary suspensions of licensure requirements, telehealth specific informed consent, structuring considerations for non-doctor owned telehealth startups, providing hybrid telehealth and at-home healthcare services, and many more questions that required fast, actionable responses so that these startups could take advantage of this sudden market expansion. Although our work has always served the needs of founders from all backgrounds, we also strove to make ourselves more readily available to those historically underrepresented in the startup and venture capital community. This year, startups whose leadership teams had more women than men comprised 45% of our clients, and startups where people of color represented at least half of the leadership team comprised 45% of our clients. Finally, while the Innovation Clinic has not traditionally done any work for non-profits, we built out this capability earlier this year to enable us to take more engagements in the social new venture space.
Perhaps the most telling fact of the Innovation Clinic’s success is the feedback we receive from clients. One client that has received $7 million in venture capital funding despite consistent regulatory challenges, including legislative initiatives to ban her product in several states, said that “without your help, we would have been dead in month 2 of the company.” Another client called the Innovation Clinic “a saving grace for us” and said that they “literally had zero worries since the [Innovation Clinic] stepped in.” Our talented, hard-working, thoughtful students enable us to serve our clients at the highest levels while catalyzing regulatory change necessitated by the current innovation ecosystem in the United States.
The Innovation Clinic is grateful to all of its clients for continuing to provide its students with challenging, high-quality legal work. Our clients are breaking the mold and bringing innovations to market that will improve the lives of people around the world in numerous ways, including underserved populations. We are glad to aid in their success in any way that we can. We look forward to another productive year in 2021-2022! Look out for a big announcement from us later this year.