Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Raleigh-Durham's Best Lawyers for Startups

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/29/2017

Getting a good startup lawyer right from the beginning, can often be the difference between "off to the races" and "oop...

Getting a good startup lawyer right from the beginning, can often be the difference between "off to the races" and "oops, why didn't we think of that before".  Picking a good lawyer often revolves around their expertise with startups, expertise in your industry, expertise for your specific project, bench strength of their firm, affordability, references and personality fit with your organization.  So, speak with several, to assess who is best for your business and liking, before making your decision.

There are several worthy full-service lawyers in the Raleigh-Durham area, with deep expertise in serving the startup community.  Below is a list of some of my favorites (in alphabetical order of law firm name), having met with most of them.  You will be well-served by any of their counsel.

Neil Bagchi at Bagchi Law
Location:  Chapel Hill

Online Bio:  http://bagchilaw.com/team/
Contact:  (919) 537-8159 or neil@ bagchilaw .com
Firm Size: 5 attorneys ($)
Industries:  technology and life sciences

Involvement:  CED, Idea Fund

Jesse Jones at Fourscore Business Law 
Location:  Raleigh
Online Bio:  https://fourscorelaw.com/team/
Contact: 919-307-5356 or jesse@ fourscorelaw .com
Firm Size: 2 attorneys ($)
Industries:  technology and life sciences

Fred Hutchison or Justyn Kasierski at Hutchison PLLC
Location:  Raleigh
Fred's Online Bio: http://www.hutchlaw.com/people/attorneys/fred-d-hutchison
Justyn's Online Bio: http://www.hutchlaw.com/people/attorneys/justyn-j-kasierski 
Fred's Contact:  919.829.4300 or fhutchison@ hutchlaw .com 
Justyn's Contact:  919.829.4337 or jkasierski@ hutchlaw .com
Firm Size: 21 attorneys ($$)
Industries:  technology and life sciences

Involvement:  CED, First Flight, NC IDEA, UNC, NC State, Duke, Launch Chapel Hill, Triangle TechBreakfast, HQ Community, LaunchBio/BioLabs NC

Jim Verdonik or Benji Taylor Jones at Innovate Capital Law
Location:  Raleigh (North Hills)
Jim's Online Bio:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-verdonik-b36b6635/
Benji's Online Bio:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/benji-taylor-jones-283271a/

Jim's Contact:  (919) 616-3225 or  JimV@ InnovateCapitalLaw .com
Benji's Contact:  (919) 673-4301 or Benji@ InnovateCapitalLaw .com
Firm Size: 2 attorneys ($$)
Industries:  technology and life sciences; fintech & blockchain, coin & digital assets

Involvement:  CED, Raleigh Chamber, NCTA, Duke, Campbell, UNC
Other:  Jim wrote the book on crowdfunding.  Flexible fee structures, including deferred fees, task-based billing, flat fees and annual subscription services to fit the needs of each client.

Randy Whitmeyer at Morningstar Law Group
Location:  Raleigh
Online Bio:  http://morningstarlawgroup.com/author/rwhitmeyer/
Contact:  919-590-0369 or rwhitmeyer@ morningstarlawgroup .com
Firm Size: 26 attorneys ($$)
Industries:  technology and life sciences

Involvement:  UNC, Raleigh Chamber, CED, NCTA

Glen Caplan or John Fogg at Robinson Bradshaw
Location:  Chapel Hill and Durham
Glen's Online Bio:  http://www.robinsonbradshaw.com/professionals-Glen-Caplan.html
John's Online Bio:  http://www.robinsonbradshaw.com/professionals-John-Fogg.html
Glen's Contact:  (919) 328-8807 or gcaplan@ robinsonbradshaw .com
John's Contact:  
(919) 328-8806 or jfogg@ robinsonbradshaw .com
Firm Size: 130 attorneys ($$$$)
Industries:  technology and life sciences
Involvement:  CED, Duke, UNC, NC State, Exit Event & Groundwork Labs

Some Clients:  Dude Solutions, Automated Insights, Distil Networks, Validic, WedPics, IDEA Fund, Cofounders Capital, Sony Ericsson, Digitalsmiths, Cloupia, ExtraOrtho, Bull City Ventures, River Cities, RTI, Inlet Technologies, Get Spiffy, Filter Easy and Valencell.
Other:  Glen and John both have past experience working in Silicon Valley for Wilson Sonsini (Glen) and DLA Piper (John).

Merrill Mason at Smith Anderson
Location:  Raleigh and Durham
Merrill's Online Bio:  http://www.smithlaw.com/professionals-Merrill-Mason
Merrill's Contact:  (919) 821-6733 or mmason@ smithlaw .com
Firm Size: 130 attorneys ($$$, but willing to consider creative alternatives)
Industries:  technology and life sciences

Involvement:  Launch Chapel Hill, CED, IDEA Fund, HQ Raleigh, Carolina Angel Network, 1789 Venture Lab, Triangle Angel Partners, UNC, Duke, NCSU
Other: We are a team of startup lawyers at a full-service law firm enabling us to leverage in-house tax, employment, IP, licensing, securities and real estate expertise.

Larry Robbins or Chris Lynch at Wyrick Robbins
Location:  Raleigh and Durham
Larry's Online Bio:  http://www.wyrick.com/our-people/larry-e-robbins
Chris's Online Bio:  http://www.wyrick.com/our-people/j-christopher-lynch
Larry's Contact:  (919) 865-2800 or lrobbins@ wyrick .com
Chris's Contact:  
(919) 865-2807 or clynch@ wyrick .com
Firm Size: 90 attorneys ($$$, but flexible for lower budgets)
Industries:  technology and life sciences

Involvement:  CED, BB&T, NCTA
Other:  Chris is a former Silicon Valley lawyer with Wilson Sonsini and Harvard Law grad.

If you think I am missing anybody, or think you should be included in this discussion, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments field below.

For future posts, please follow me at:  @georgedeeb.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lesson #272: Do You Bet on the Jockey or the Horse

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/14/2017

There have been several articles written that talk about how venture capital investors prefer to bet on the jockey (the entrepreneur)...

There have been several articles written that talk about how venture capital investors prefer to bet on the jockey (the entrepreneur), over the horse (the startup idea).  As I have often said, I would much rather invest in an A+ team with a B+ idea, than a B+ Team with an A+ idea.  So, I agree with this premise of the jockey being more important than the horse, usually.  This post will tell you when one outweighs the other.


Unless the idea is a material one in the first place (e.g., it has a chance to become a billion dollar business), why waste your time when shooting for VC types of returns.  Said another way, would you rather invest in Jeff Bezos, one of my entrepreneurial heroes, building a white water rafting business in the arid Sahara Desert, or me, a proven serial entrepreneur (albeit a fraction the talent of Jeff Bezos) trying to build a next-generation artificial intelligence technology disrupting a $200BN industry?  The former has very little prospect for driving material revenues, and the latter could become the next unicorn size startup, so a relatively easy decision.

So, there is an inflection point, where the idea is worth betting on, more than the entrepreneur.  But, the reality is, a smart venture investor would try to convince me that I am not nearly as qualified as someone like Jeff Bezos to actually pull off this grandiose vision, and to have me hand him the reins to take my business to meteoric heights.  Which I may or may not do, depending how confident I was in my own abilities vs. the equity value upside I could realize from getting someone like Jeff Bezos in charge.

Which is exactly my point of this piece.  It is not the jockey OR the horse.  It is the jockey AND the horse.  That is how to build terrific venture returns—with A+ teams building A+ ideas.  And, whatever you can do to make that happen, is the Holy Grail of venture investing.


As a little fun, to help me further illustrate this point, I took a look at some horse racing data to see if I could glean some insights on this topic.  First, I looked at the last four Triple Crown winning horses: Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015).  And, compared them to a typical Top 100 winning race horse in 2016.  The data was pretty incredible—the Triple Crown winners won their races 79% of the time (compared to the Top 100 that won 48% time).  That is a pretty good argument for the horse.

Then, I looked at the last four Triple Crown winning jockeys:  Ron Turcotte (1973), Jean Cruguet (1977), Steve Cauthen (1978) and Victor Espinoza (2015).  And, compared them to a typical Top 100 jockey in 2016.  I was surprised to see the Triple Crown jockeys won 15% of the time, a little less than the Top 100 jockeys who won 16% of the time.  That basically suggested, the jockey didn’t matter at all, as long as they were a good one.  Said another way, any of the Top 100 jockeys could have lead any of the Triple Crown horses to their wins.  Another data point speaking to the importance of the horse.

But, as an entrepreneurial leader rooting for the jockey, that left me unsatisfied, so I dug a little deeper.  There I learned, Steve Cauthen’s better than average 19% win rate (twenty percent better than the average Top 100 jockey win rate of 16%), could have been a major contributor to Affirmed’s Triple Crown win—as the horse’s 76% win rate was below the 80% win rate of the other Triple Crown winning horses.  A good argument for the jockey taking a great horse, and making him even better.

Until I learned, Jean Cruguet only won 12% of his races, far behind the 16% average of the Top 100 jockeys.  But, Seattle Slew, the horse he lead to a Triple Crown, had won 82% of his races, in excess of the 78% average win rate for the three other Triple Crown winning horses.  Chalk one up for the horse, making a jockey look better than he really was.


Based on the above examples, from both the business world and the horse racing world, there are times where the jockey is more important and there are other times where the horse is more important for driving success.  With all other things being equal, always bet on the jockey to take a good idea and make it better.  But, when the idea is so big, you have no choice but to bet on it, assuming a competent leader is in charge.  But, if need be, upgrade an average entrepreneur for a proven winner, and that will be like putting gravy on top of your turkey dinner (one that is guaranteed to fully cook and taste great in the end).

A key lesson here for most of you entrepreneurs: lose the ego and the pride of feeling you are the only person who can build your startup, as your personal equity value from your big idea could become worth materially more money in somebody else’s hands.  Separate your CEO hat from your Chairman hat, and figure out what would truly be best for your shareholders (of which you are presumably the largest).

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Don't Shuffle People Into the Wrong Job Just Because They're Already on the Payroll

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/11/2017

The old adage that a “bird in hand is worth two in the bush” may work in some instances in business, but slotting people into employee...

The old adage that a “bird in hand is worth two in the bush” may work in some instances in business, but slotting people into employee roles is definitely not one of them. I can’t tell you how many times I see early-stage entrepreneurs put someone in a role simply because it's convenient. This is particularly harmful when the individual already is known to the team and operating in an entirely different role. Stop this madness! Do you want the quickest solution to your hiring needs or the best solution?

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at:  @georgedeeb.

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