Entrepreneurial Lawyering: A conversation with “Ask a Silicon Valley Lawyer” Louis Lehot, Partner at Foley & Lardner LLP
As our economy further deepens into the fourth industrial revolution, we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. While no one can predict how it will unfold, the response to it will involve all stakeholders, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
Industrial and vertically integrated multinational corporations will no longer drive employment. New companies will evolve to disrupt industries with a single focus and mission. The fourth industrial revolution is also the age of the entrepreneur.
In a civil society governed by the rule of law, the relationship between entrepreneur and lawyer will be key. To tell us about entrepreneurial lawyering, we sat down with Louis Lehot, business lawyer and partner at Foley & Lardner LLP, and the videoblog series #askasiliconvalleylawyer to get his insights.
Blue Ocean: What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Louis Lehot: Sitting from my perch in the Silicon Valley over the past 15 years, I have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs taking ventures from ideation to minimum viable product, and MVP to scale to exit. The number one job of an entrepreneur is to inspire, whether to disrupt an industry, to evangelize thought leaders, attract users, close customers, hire engineers, design products, or to invest capital. My clients inspired me to bring entrepreneurialism to the legal practice. The art of enchantment, a famous book written by Guy Kawasaki, former CMO of Apple, starts with a smile, continues with laughter, and is infused with positive energy. I try to give smiles and positive energy to all people that I run across.
Blue Ocean: We understand that you recently launched your own law firm. Tell us what sets your firm apart?
Louis Lehot: We established our firm to serve a gap in the market for innovators, disruptors, entrepreneurs and their investors with personalized and technology-enabled strategic solutions that make sense. Whether your company is two people just getting off the ground, or a large publicly traded company, the approach to serving you needs to get you to the end point with a solution designed to be direct, rapid and efficient. Just like our clients, we should automate, innovate and systematize every task. We focus on representing high growth, innovative companies, helping them at all stages of development. From assisting with formation to financing, from seed or venture capital investors, to preparing for an exit, a public financing on a major international joint venture, we take pride in enabling our clients to achieve results. Helping a business thrive, go public, or attract acquisition interest, is our specialty. We work seamlessly across the innovation economy. Our experience affords our clients with clarity when formulating, developing, adapting and monetizing their business models for artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, fintech, enterprise software, real estate, life sciences, clean energy technologies and renewable energy projects. This broad experience uniquely positions us to provide tailored advice to drive outcomes for our clients. We are also widely known for our expertise in cross-border transactions.
Blue Ocean: With the unprecedented global situation, how do you keep your team and yourself motivated?
Louis Lehot: Great question. We are owners. We invest our time in creating winning strategies, and if our clients lose, we lose. We stay connected every Monday morning for breakfast and we make sure that we have distributed work across our team members, we celebrate victories, share learning, and prepare transactions and tasks that need to be closed during the week. We pick up the phone instead of sending endless Slack messages. We communicate often and directly. We are one team with one mission: our clients’ success. We end the week with a social hour where we share our pain points, hopes, dreams and celebrate the thrill of victory and bemoan the agonies of any defeats. We do this together.
Blue Ocean: What’s the most important advice that you can give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Louis Lehot: No one person can be the best at every task, and the only thing that is infinite is the quantum of knowledge that you will never have. One of the first questions I have for entrepreneurs I meet is about their co-founders and team mates. The best thing entrepreneurs can do for themselves is to surround themselves with co-founders, team-mates, advisors and investors who are really smart, really dedicated and all-in. While many investors will tell you that they invest in disruptive technologies, what they are really looking for is a winning team to execute. There is no “I” in team and never enough supporters to help your startup achieve lift-off.
Blue Ocean: What new trends in the startup space should we expect post Covid-19?
Louis Lehot: As most of the developed world has been sheltering in place for the first half of 2020, we have increasingly become dependent on digital technologies and their convergence with biological and physical innovations. Business models that leverage artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, and 3-D printing, are rapidly changing the way we create, exchange, and distribute value. Some call this convergence the “fourth industrial revolution” – representing a systemic change across all sectors and aspects of our lives.
Genome editing and other advances are creating a whole new industry in regenerative medicine. Our ability to edit the building blocks of life has recently been massively expanded by low-cost gene sequencing and techniques such as CRISPR. Artificial intelligence is augmenting processes and skill in every industry. Neurotechnology is making unprecedented strides in how we can use and influence the brain as the last frontier of human biology. Automation is disrupting century-old transport and manufacturing paradigms. Blockchain and smart materials are redefining and blurring the boundary between the digital and physical worlds. Smart cities is changing the way we interact with each other.
Being forced to shelter-in-place will accelerate the implementation of all of these technologies, and lead us out of the pandemic towards a recovery that fully benefits from the fourth industrial revolution.
Blue Ocean: You are clearly a leader of learning. How do you balance investing in yourself with investing in the relationships you have with other people?
Louis Lehot: I am always trying new “hacks” to improve my mental and physical health, and I derive so much energy from my interactions with other people. For me, good balance requires me to adopt and maintain good habits. You are what you eat and how much you sleep. Your ideas and thoughts are your reality. It is always a great time to find new “hacks” to establish better habits to enable presence and productivity. I try and start my day with a short guided meditation that emphasizes gratitude, forgiveness and visioning. I am a big fan of apps like Omvana from Mindvalley to provide variety. Amplifying positive thoughts, expressing thanks, counting blessings, and removing negative charges through forgiveness, helps me stay focused in the present. Incorporating physical exercise into my daily routine has been a challenge throughout my career as a lawyer, but a necessary habit to mental as well as physical fitness. The morning can be a perfect time for 15-30 minutes of Peleton or walking. To keep a balanced diet, in addition to copious amounts of coffee, I try and start the day with a green smoothie. Staying hydrated throughout the day is important to stay mentally and physically balanced. Staying balanced helps me remain truly present with my clients, friends and family. When I am present, I am listening better, I am able to empathize, I can strategize, and I succeed in dispensing thoughtful advice. If there is one thing I strive to bring to every relationship, it is the sense that I am making them feel really covered. People never forget how you make them feel.
Blue Ocean: What are your sources of happiness and inspiration?
Louis Lehot: My family is the source of my happiness and inspiration, and it is my most precious and most valuable asset. Family and friends are the source of our greatest comfort. As the father of two teenagers and a spouse recovering from cancer, I am trying to impart a sense of both security and comfort, even when I am sometimes feeling anxious myself. It’s okay to feel scared, it’s okay to grieve about months of school, sports and social events cancelled, and it’s okay to be concerned about what will happen next. I am trying to remind family and friends that “future tripping,” or imagining scenarios that would be uncomfortable, and breeds anxiety and unhappiness.
In my professional life, I am motivated to work with more healthcare technology entrepreneurs like the two clients I am working with who are feverishly working towards birthing new vaccine platforms for COVID19 and its progeny. I am excited to participate in healing the wounds of the economic crisis by helping them raise funds, do smart deals, and bring new solutions to market. I have also recently started my VideoBlog #AskASilcionValleyLawyer series on YouTube.
Blue Ocean: You’re clearly very busy with your legal vocation. When you have time outside the office, what passions or interests do you pursue?
Louis Lehot: In my daily life, I try and get away from work by spending some time cooking and eating with my family, and reading great books. Cooking allows creativity and the immediate sensory pleasure and satisfaction of comfort, nourishment, variety and flavor. Books allow me to drill into new topics and escape from reality. Daily walks help me appreciate the abundance of nature which we live in. While my family and clients keep my daily life filled with tasks, I love to travel and discover new places, new languages, new cultures, new ways of living. I am passionate about people, and travel allows me to discover new relationships, and celebrate difference. Spending more time on personal passions and interests allows me to enrich my relationships with new perspective.