Verified Expert Lawyer: Sam Angus

Sam Angus has been a lawyer in Silicon Valley for the reason that 1990s. Right this moment, he represents a number of the greatest names within the startup world, from their earliest days by means of acquisitions and IPOs, and together with 4 acquisitions final yr: TSheets, GitHub, Glint and HelloSign.

However his startup expertise truly goes again to the 1980s, when he and a few mates constructed a booming calendar publishing enterprise out of their dorm room throughout school. Within the interview beneath, he tells us concerning the ups and downs of the tech trade over the a long time, how he helps shoppers by means of the great occasions and dangerous, and the way he works inside Fenwick & West, one of many main tech regulation companies in tech. We additionally focus on long-term tendencies, just like the shift in direction of founder-friendly phrases on this period versus previous a long time within the Valley.

On early-stage issues:

“I’ve represented a whole lot of early-stage corporations. It’s not unusual for corporations to have some current authorized subject that must be addressed, similar to capitalization, documentation and/or worker/IP points. It’s unlucky, however these points will regularly — particularly with early stage corporations — lie dormant and be found when the corporate is considering its first financing or a big transaction, and might take traders or patrons without warning.

“Sam is among the most trusted companions that I’ve ever had and some of the essential individuals to [the company’s] historical past.” — A cofounder and CEO of a giant unicorn firm

“A typical mistake is for a corporation to assume {that a} given subject won’t be a priority to an investor or patrons. In my expertise, points that come up on the eve of a financing or different transaction can create threat within the transaction and may be costly to handle shortly. For instance, one shopper I labored with had been working for years with nearly no documentation and never surprisingly had vital deficiencies when it comes to company approvals. Only a few issues are deadly, however the outcome for this shopper was a bumpy and costlier financing course of — which required a number of rounds of clarification to the traders and their counsel.”

On being a startup lawyer:

“What I’ve realized is that the perfect attorneys for startups carry greater than competent authorized recommendation to the connection – they act like enterprise homeowners themselves, considering strategically concerning the enterprise. The most effective attorneys have vital expertise and a knack for sample recognition, the mixture of which helps establish points and alternatives upfront of once they turn out to be obvious.”

On risk-taking:

“There are some authorized dangers that early-stage corporations might want to take. For my part, my function with earlier stage shoppers is to place them for fulfillment by being sensible and focusing them on the problems which are materials for a corporation at their stage of improvement. General, I wish to empower shoppers to push the bounds of what they assume is feasible, whereas making sensible enterprise and authorized choices that received’t handicap them sooner or later.

“I might additionally level out that with the ability to scale with shoppers is extraordinarily essential. As shoppers develop, my function evolves to suit their wants – what works for a startup firm is completely different from what a unicorn/progress firm will want from their lawyer. With early-stage corporations I are typically extra carefully concerned with the founders and the corporate’s enterprise, whereas with later stage corporations the connection turns into extra strategic and we are likely to assist inside authorized groups and boards of administrators.

Under, you’ll discover the remainder of the founder critiques, the complete interview, and extra particulars like their pricing and payment constructions.

This text is a part of our ongoing sequence masking the early-stage startup attorneys who founders like to work with, primarily based on this survey (which we’re preserving open for extra suggestions) and our personal analysis. For those who’re a founder attempting to navigate the early-stage authorized landmines, be sure you try our rising set of in-depth articles, like this guidelines of what it’s essential get carried out on the company facet in your first years as an organization.

The Interview

Eric Eldon: To start with, inform me about Fenwick & West. It’s one of many unique regulation companies that began in Silicon Valley and centered on tech corporations, and also you’ve been there for years by means of the varied cycles.

Sam Angus: Launching my profession in Silicon Valley has offered me with a singular skillset and perspective that now permits me to thoughtfully advise shoppers who wish to scale shortly, regardless of the place they’re situated. Working with fast-growing innovators, like these I’ve served for the reason that tech increase of the 1990s, is for my part completely different from conventional approaches to training regulation. Offering shoppers with glorious authorized recommendation is desk stakes for any advisor to startups. What I’ve realized is that the perfect attorneys for startups carry greater than competent authorized recommendation to the connection — they act like enterprise homeowners themselves, considering strategically concerning the enterprise. The most effective attorneys have vital expertise and a knack for sample recognition, the mixture of which helps establish points and alternatives upfront of once they turn out to be obvious. Nice startup attorneys even have in depth networks of traders, founders and companions and might leverage these networks to assist their shoppers, tackle materials operational points, fundraise or full a strategic transaction. They’re environment friendly/cost-effective and transfer as shortly as their shoppers, and, most significantly, present judgment. This whole skill-set is uncommon for attorneys, however when it is available in one bundle it’s extremely helpful to rising corporations. That’s one of many the reason why I like working at Fenwick: this method to advising startups is solely how we follow.

Eldon: The authorized trade is seeing actual competitors from on-line companies and automation — how are you competing?

Angus: It’s true that automation is impacting the follow of regulation, like different sectors of the financial system. As a result of Fenwick works carefully with progressive corporations throughout the globe and sees how know-how is altering issues, we’re among the many companies main the best way to embrace this alteration.

For instance, Fenwick has an in-house knowledge and know-how innovation staff. Our innovation staff has developed numerous automation instruments and software program merchandise to reinforce and improve the companies we offer our shoppers. These embrace automated kinds, shopper portals the place shoppers can entry all the info about their corporations (i.e. key company paperwork, cap desk, contact data for his or her Fenwick staff, and many others.), and use of instruments similar to Kira, an AI platform that automates elements of doc evaluate in M&A offers, permitting us to shut offers at a fast tempo whereas serving to management prices.

One other innovation is our budgeting functionality. Fenwick’s budgeting staff supplies our shoppers with well timed and correct value estimates for initiatives and transactions, similar to M&A or IPOs. Leveraging our proprietary deal knowledge about a whole lot of comparable transactions, we’re capable of extra precisely predict authorized prices for our shoppers.

Eldon: Let’s return to how you bought into working with know-how corporations and startups.

Angus: Within the early 1980s, after a brief stint enjoying skilled tennis, I used to be recruited to play tennis at UC Santa Barbara on a tennis scholarship. Whereas at UCSB, I entered the entrepreneur world, beginning UCSB’s first entrepreneur membership with two mates in 1984. We additionally launched our personal enterprise, a publishing firm that produced and distributed wall calendars.

Our progress was fast: In our first yr we did one calendar title, the following yr we expanded to 5 calendar titles, the yr after that 25 calendar titles, the yr after that 75 titles, in addition to various posters and different printed merchandise. As our enterprise grew, we began licensing fashionable tradition content material, which was one thing the calendar trade hadn’t actually seen earlier than. We had been the primary to supply the Michael Jackson calendar and the primary Madonna calendar.

Eldon: You probably did all of this when you had been in school?

Angus: Sure, although I ended up taking a break from school in 1987, one quarter shy of finishing my diploma, to pursue the enterprise full time. By 1989, the corporate had grown to about 150 US salespeople, ten worldwide distributors, and was doing roughly $50 million yearly in gross income.

In the long run, I ended up promoting my curiosity within the firm to the lead investor following decision of assorted claims with the investor. By that have, I realized firsthand what it’s prefer to be a founder who had bootstrapped and had scaled the corporate with advanced provide chain … and navigated investor points.

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