University of Wisconsin–Madison

L&E Clinic helps local start-up take advantage of Wisconsin's new 'benefit corporation' option

With help from UW Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, an area start-up will become one of the first Wisconsin companies to take advantage of a legal tool known as a “benefit corporation.”

Cliff Bartholomew is a law student in the L&E Clinic, where early stage companies can receive free legal services to get their businesses off to the right start.

Working under the supervision of clinic faculty, Bartholomew recently helped a new Virocqua-based company—called SeedLinked—file its state incorporation papers. He says the benefit corporation model suits SeedLinked well, because it enables the company to align its financial and non-financial goals, or in other words, to make a profit while making a difference.

Cliff Bartholomew

The idea behind SeedLinked is to connect farmers with plant breeders to create a healthier, more sustainable agricultural system, says Bartholomew: “SeedLinked is based on the belief that our food system benefits from a decentralized, participatory and transparent seed network, evolved to meet global changes.”

The company puts agricultural data from breeders into the hands of farmers, enabling them to select the plant varieties best suited to their needs and environmental conditions. Breeders can also access data, crowd-sourced from farmers, to help them adapt better regional varieties.

For SeedLinked, the benefit corporation option means that its future leadership will remain legally committed to its public mission. It also meets a growing consumer demand for responsible and transparent business practices.

And the benefit corporation movement is growing. Wisconsin’s benefit corporation statute took effect in February, making it one of 34 states currently enacting similar options. At least six more states are working on benefit corporation legislation.

As for Bartholomew, he gained hands-on transactional legal experience while setting up a business under the new statute. The second-year law student says representing SeedLinked has also given him a greater appreciation for the various roles businesses play in their communities.

“I had to balance the purely legal aspects of drafting the incorporation documents while keeping the statute’s purpose in mind,” he adds. “For me, it represented a balancing act that is crucial to being successful when advising entrepreneurial clients.”


Submitted by Tammy Kempfert on March 29, 2018

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