He has spent nearly his entire legal carreer helping startups. It it just something he enjoys doing. Matt Bartus is a veteran startup lawyer in Silicon Valley. He has advised companies like Wordpress Foundation, Technorati or Solera Networks, and has also represented many leading VC firms over the years. He has kindly answered to HitBarcelona questions:
- You have chosen to spend your legal career helping startups. Why?
Fundamentally, you have to be interested in what you’re doing to really enjoy it, and in my heart I love all new technologies. It’s really exciting to become a part of the team, to become an essential advisor and to watch the progress of the companies at a very nascent stage. As a lawyer, when you work with larger companies you tend to work with in-house legal counsel and are in much more of a service provider role. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a very different experience from having a direct line to the CEO of your various clients.
- You say the way a law firm work with startups is fundamentally different than with large companies. In what sense?
Lawyers that work with startups have to deliver effective legal services that make sense from a business and cost perspective. From a cost perspective, startups have cash flow issues that larger companies don’t have (or have to a lesser extent), and it’s important to be able to distinguish what actually needs to be done. On the business side, the “soft skills” really matter. For example, knowing what terms a startup is likely to get in a licensing agreement (as opposed to what Apple or Microsoft might be able to get), and advising management effectively. Finally, law firms that work extensively with startups have “off the shelf” forms for many common things, reducing the need to spend valuable cash drafting some form documents.
- What are the main issues startups have to deal with in the current economic downturn?
Things appear to be turning around in our space, and funding activity has increased substantially. Young companies have challenges establishing themselves as legitimate companies so they can sell their product. Selling into the enterprise is still challenging. On the flip side, one of the challenges I have been hearing a lot about lately is the difficulty in hiring talented employees, especially on the engineering side. This is a great sign that hiring activity is picking up.
- What do you think events like HitBarcelona can offer to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Anything that advances the startup ecosystem and reduces the amount of friction it takes to start a company is a great thing for our industry. The amount of information that people can obtain both online and from networking within the various startup ecosystems has grown exponentially. Your event and others will ensure that the best and brightest talent will have the necessary information to make a decision about joining or starting a company.