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How critical is a user agreement at an early stage?

I'm getting ready to beta test my web app for the first time. How critical is it that I have user agreement, privacy policy, and other such legal documents in place at this stage? When should I have these things done? I am bootstrapping right now and half very limited resources. For anyone who has been in a similar position, is there just like a boilerplate version of these, or do you think it's possible to put these Agreements together by using pieces of other websites user agreements? Or is that just asking for trouble?

7 Replies

Jessica Alter
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Jessica Alter Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur & Advisor

You could do these agreements for pretty cheap on upcounsel.com. If you want to make it less money, I'd fine similar sites and go through theirs so you can give the lawyer examples of what you think you want/need.
Dagur Eyjolfsson
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Dagur Eyjolfsson Entrepreneur
Business & Finance Manager > e-Commerce | e-Business Strategy | Business Solutions | Product Development
I recommend having the terms and privacy policy ready at launch. Just so users are agreeing to some policy during signup.
You can start with a basic version from a generator online, and then just update it later as you grow.
You are not required to email or notify users every time you make a small adjustment to your policies, but it is of course recommended if you are deviating a lot from your current policy.

Sikender Singh
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Sikender Singh Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at Catalyst, Senior Consultant at EY
Great. Thank you both so much for the advice. Dagur, I agree that it probably doesn't need to be too extensive at this point. Just something to cover all my bases. Jessica, I think this is a great place to start, thanks for the direction! Would still definitely welcome more suggestions if anyone has any.
Brenton Webster
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Brenton Webster Entrepreneur
CEO & Founder at FastBar Technologies Inc
Getting terms of service, privacy policy etc... in place is obviously a good thing and the previous comments in this thread provide some ways to get this done pretty inexpensively.

Having said that, if you have to make a choice, launching should be your priority. A great terms of service and privacy policy with no product doesn't help you. If you launch your product and gain traction, you can always add the terms of service and privacy policy later (and of course, you should add them at some point).
Alex Kouznetsov
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Alex Kouznetsov Advisor
CTO at Startup-Genius
In some states the Privacy policy for web site may be required by law. But I have not heard this causing problems for any startup not having it.

You can just launch as limited or private beta - and worry about privacy policy after launch. Also, as I recall - there are free privacy policy makers/generators on-line. Or just find similar public documents and modify as needed.

Mark Silva
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Mark Silva Entrepreneur
Finance & Operations at KITE
You invite unnecessary complexity and risk to your startup if you don't get your legal house in order. This extends to all areas from company structure and operating agreements, contractor agreements and of course website privacy and T&Cs. Privacy Policy can become a real liability if not addressed.

In addition to the sources recommended I like Alex's approach of finding terms you admire from a similar product/service and replicate.
Alexandra Savas
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Alexandra Savas Entrepreneur
Product Marketing Manager at Hired, Inc.
Great question Sikender! Many entrepreneurs find themselves in your same position when they're just starting out. There's no upside in not having those legal protections in place -- just increased risk of loss to you, your family and your business. Luckily, there are many ways to access affordable online legal services that won't infringe upon your limited resources.

I encourage you to check out Rocket Lawyer for your documentation needs as you grow your app. With our enhanced, patented Ask A Lawyer feature, you can create a customizable agreement for your needs and submit any questions you may have to a vetted attorney along the way. The best part: You can do it all on any device, anywhere, any time.
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