Digital Fitness Startup Receives Valuable Legal Advice from Entrepreneurship Clinic
By Lori Atherton
June 19, 2013
Cavan Canavan, MBA '12, wanted an easy way to keep track of the lifting and strengthening exercises that were part of his conditioning routine. But in a fitness industry chock-full of gadgets and devices, he was surprised to discover there wasn't a product that met his needs.
Struck by the entrepreneurial spirit, Canavan decided to fill that void and, in 2012, developed Focus Solutions, a wearable device and app system that records, recommends, and coaches users during their workouts. The device automatically identifies the type of exercise being done, such as pushups, crunches, or squats; records the workout details including sets, repetitions, and rest periods; and provides real-time audio or visual feedback using a smartphone.
"We're using technology to put the power of a personal trainer in the palm of people's hands," said Grant Hughes, MBA/MS '13, who joined Canavan as co-founder of Focus last fall and also serves as chief marketing officer and head of business development.
Like the founders of many other startups, Hughes and Canavan were in need of legal advice to protect their venture but couldn't afford the services of a law firm. After winning the Michigan Business Challenge earlier this year, they learned about Michigan Law's Entrepreneurship Clinic—which provides no-cost legal assistance to U-M student startups—and were accepted as clients.
The clinic's student attorneys—Rob Couch, '13, and Daniel Zwick, 3L—advised the duo on various legal issues, including corporate and intellectual property matters.
"Working with an active and emerging company like Focus made for a great learning experience because it gave us the opportunity to apply and internalize what we learned in our doctrinal classes," Zwick said, "as well as exposed us to new areas of law. Advising an actual client makes you realize how many different factors are in play in any given business decision, and that legal issues are always intertwined with business and personal considerations."
Hughes said he's been impressed with the services the student attorneys provided, and would recommend the clinic to other entrepreneurs. "Rob and Dan did a great job of being thorough and inspiring confidence, and if they didn't know an answer to my question, they made sure to find the right answer before giving legal advice," he said. "Both of them were dependable, forthright, and knowledgeable, and understood our business and what we needed to do in order to execute it."
An added bonus, noted Hughes, was that the legal services were provided free of charge and were easily accessible. "We thought there was a cost involved with the clinic, so it was a bit of a revelation to get the quality of service we did without having to pay out of pocket for it. And we only had to walk two blocks from the Business School to receive great counsel."
Hughes and Canavan are in the process of moving Focus Solutions, now Focus Ventures Inc., to Los Angeles—"the epicenter of fitness"—this summer, where they will continue to refine their product and pitch it to angel investors with the goal of raising $1 million in seed funding. The final product is expected to begin selling in March or April 2014.
The pair is grateful for the valuable legal advice provided by the clinic, which helped to lay the foundation for Focus's success. "What I love about the clinic is that the law students and entrepreneurs are learning together," Hughes said, "and that the clinic is investing in U-M students in order to build businesses and advise entrepreneurs. I can't quantify how much it would have cost us to do what the clinic has done for us so far, but I know it's a substantial amount."
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