Gunderson Dettmeris the law firm a goodmajority of tech startups turn to in the Valley for fundings, mergers, licensing and other dealsand its been in the business of offering tech companieseveryday legal advice to everyone from Oracle to DoorDash since the dot-com boom. It was ranked the most active law firm globally inPitchBooksrecently-released first quarter 2017 Global Venture Capital League Tables and closed more than 1,200 VC financing deals last year so what advice does it have for Richard Hendricks character in HBOs Silicon Valley right now?
I dont want to give away any spoilers for those who havent watched the latest episode but I did sit down with Gunderson partner Ivan Gavira to get his take on the Pied Piper saga, his craziest deal and why Silicon Valley continues to turn to him for tech legalese.
IG: The way we look at the world is startups are about money, people and ideas and we do all of those things. The whole firm was built from the ground up with the sole goal of being the employer of choice for high-growth, venture-backed technology companies.
SB: Atwhat stage do you get involved? You have some pretty high-profile companies you work with.
IG: Thats what you see in the news. You see the DoorDashes, the Palantirs, the Warby Parkers and what not because they have name recognition. But we actually start with companies at the very beginning. We spend a lot of time and energy working with brand new startups, incorporating them, helping them with their seed financing, their first rounds and so forth. Its quite common we often meet with entrepreneurs sometimes before theyve even decided to forma company.
SB: Whats been your most thrilling deal?
IG: So I work with DoorDash and the way I met them wasbecause I was volunteering for an investor friend who teaches a startup class at Stanford and at the end of his class there was a little panel discussion and severalstudents in the class were the original founders of DoorDash. Thats how I met them!
SB: You see all these deals. Have you ever wanted to create your own startup?
IG: (laughs) Thats the fun thing about Gunderson. This place is a startup, too.
IG: But I have to tell you I have so much respect and admiration for startup founders. I guess Im just not that bold. Everyone talks about the ones that succeed but when youre a startup lawyer you know that for every one of those theres 10 or 15 that didnt make it where people really gave their blood and their sweat and money.
SB: Do you ever see a startup idea and justcringe? Like a really terrible idea?
SB: Do you ever want to tell them to just not waste their time and money?
IG: Maybe its to my detriment but Im okay with telling them that.
SB: Okay. Ill be honest I didnt think Twitter would be a thing and now here we are.
IG: Thats why Im not a VC.
SB: What happens when someone like me or someone on my team breaks a story and its a deal you are working on? What happens inside Gunderson Dettmer?
IG: Theres often a call that comes from someone inthe company and theyre trying to figure out how did [the deal details] get out. And the market has become so sophisticated so often when we get the call well say hey, its because we filed something. But a lot of firms have become a lot more thoughtful and careful about that sort of thing. But sometimes its hard to break the reality to people which isfolks in this town love to chat.
SB: Yes, they do 🙂
IG: Im blown away sometimes at the accuracy of the reports, whether its TechCrunch or some of the other sources. Its like how did they know that? We just filed that last night!
SB: Do youwatch HBOs Silicon Valley?
IG: I do! I love that show. You know whats crazy about that show, and Im sure you know this as a TechCrunch reporter but theres no doubt in my mind a significant number of the story lines are lifted from actual events that have happened in Silicon Valley.
SB: I wouldnt be surprised. So, what advice do you have for Pied Piper founder Richard Hendricks right now?
(Caution, if youre not caught up on this season, there is a slight spoiler ahead so dont read if you dont want to know anything about this seasonyet).
IG: I havent caught up on the latest episode but the last time I was caught up he was leaving to start his new internet thing but he hadnt actually done it.
SB: Ya, youre pretty much there.
IG: Well, if I were advising him the cool thing is hes been through the ringer and now hes not a first-time entrepreneur anymore so its like hey if theres any way you can finance this thing and hold off on raising money for a longer period of time. And Im sure VCs dont like to hear that but the longer you can stay independent the more leverage you have.
SB: Well thanks for talking with me and offering your advice. By the way, if you feel like sending me any deals that just happened or that you know are going to happen, feel free. Im on Signal.
IG: Uhhh, not one of our clientsbut Ill keep that in mind.