SBy @SimonCocking

We spoke with Daniel Glazer @DanielCGlazer partner at FriedFrankTech ahead of his visit to  DogPatch Labs in Dublin to help Irish startups considering U.S. expansion. Book tickets hereDaniel Leads the Tech Transactions and Expansion for FriedFrank @friedfranktech International law firm.

DP

Firstly tell us a little about who FriedFrank are and what they do?

FriedFrank is an internationally focussed Wallstreet lawfirm. We have always been very interested  and aware of emerging technology coming out of Western Europe. In London we are based in Shoreditch at the heart of the Silicon Roundabout tech cluster. We assist startups in the rest of UK, Ireland and Western Europe as well. We help these startups with the US transition. Other firms may do this too, but we have top US lawyers both here and in the US, in Wallstreet, Silicon Valley, and beyond, on the ground to help make the necessary connections. We help to make that bridge to the US for European startups. We are not looking to move companies to US, but rather to help them grow where they are, to crack the US, on the ground, with realtime assistance, utlising our VC connections in US

We’re a law firm, but we have connections to a much wider series of useful sectors in wider tech context, enabling us to be a trusted business partner. We see London as an exciting opportunity, similar to the (Silicon) valley in late 70’s or New York in the 1990’s. We also provide mentoring to all the fintech incubators in London.

What is your own background?

I am a tech lawyer, I spent 17 years in Silicon Alley in New York. Helping emerging companies to grow. Now I work on Fried Frank’s Tech Group and work from both the London and New York offices. I  oversea technology transactions especially licensing, outsourcing, and services arrangements, and the IP/IT aspects of M&A and other complex corporate transactions. It’s an exciting time now in London and New York for startups and the ideas they are presenting.

Are we in another tech bubble?

New York has a lot of exciting startups, locating in areas where rents were low. However things are different now than from late 90’s because companies have more traction now. They have more focussed business plans than many ideas which got funded during the last dot.com bubble. Barriers to entry now are so much lower now, that it is easier to gauge whether there is a real value on offer or not. If there is a bubble now, it is on valuation, rather than the actual services they are actually providing which clearly have value and already achieving revenue.

Why are you coming over to Dublin and Dogpatch labs?

Well Patrick Walsh @pwlsh who you know, was introduced to us by Jon Bradford @jd, who seems to be one of the most well connected people in London I’ve met. We’ve been running these running these workshops for 3 years, and it seemed like a great time to engage with the booming Dublin tech scene. Also to work with good people including the US embassy, Frontline Ventures, pwc, and Teamwork.

We are also big fans of Irish tech scene, which we believe to be one of the most dynamic European cities for tech, Dublin, Berlin, London, perhaps Stockholm. Dublin is certainly one of the cities to watch. I’m also happy to come over to Ireland, because I have Irish roots.  ¼ of my family were from Kilkenny, so it’s an honour and I am excited to come over. We have worked with Enterprise Ireland to help Irish companies looking at US expansion as well, so it all makes sense to be here.

Are you looking for particular sectors to support and assist, Fintech etc?

We are sector neutral, the issues faced, are the same for all companies, especially including immigration issues. That said we do do a lot in FinTech, and mentor at all the London fintech accelerators, including Borris Johnson’s delegation to New York.

We are in a unique spot by working with so many startups as it means we have a really good understanding of the sort of potential issues a new company coming to America may face.

[See the FriedFrank Coming to America Academy here for a good outline of the range of topics we cover]

Not sure if you followed the issues raised at the Fintech Websummit in Belfast, but there was a frequent comment that existing banks and financial services need to engage with the Fintech sector or risk being blind sided by it. What’s your take on this?

Yes absolutely. We are seeing a big desire by existing banks and financial services providers to engage with early stage companies. Big companies see the value of these more nimble companies. The interesting thing is how they are dealing with this challenge in many different ways.

Some are supporting accelerators, some via fintech funds, or by partnering with startups, some by aquisitions, or in house development studios, to innovate from within. The common thread, is that each company is working out how to reconcile corporate culture with these new opportunities.

Why is there so much red tape to establish a company in the US?

The US market is different from Europe. The big difference is that in the US it is not ‘loser pays’ in litigation matters, each side must bear its own legal costs, which is completely different from Europe. This means it is much more common to have a threat of litigation. In the US you have to be a lot more careful to all details, as it’s a lot easier to get into trouble in US.

If you’re 95% likely to win, it’s fine, and in Europe there will probably not even be a law suit. However in US even with 95% chance of losing, the litigant still might bright a lawsuit, and you might need to settle for paying some money, to avoid lots of legal fees building up.

This has a real impact on how business is conducted in US, so you have to be more careful over there, with potentially much higher court costs.

That’s a great answer, and addresses the legal challenges of trying to set up in the US, but also what about the challenges of overseas companies trying to get their team members through all of the paper work to move over to the US?

This is a very live discussion about the ability of getting your people into the US.  Immigration policy is heavily debated. Many people are pushing for different approach to immigration, from both major political parties, to enable overseas entrepreneurs to come in. Historically it’s clear that the US has massively benefitted from an influx of the top minds from elsewhere.

The challenge is that it is a  tricky, hotly debated issue. It’s important to remain competitive, and to to keep an open door in immigration policy. However while we are discussing something specific for tech, this issue  also intersects with many other much bigger issues, and it can be hard to separate tech immigration from wider immigration debates.

Great and delicately dealt with. Now lets move away from such a hot political potato. What tips do you have for Irish startups?

For us expansion, there is a lot of the planning that can be handled in Ireland before you get there. I strongly recommend doing this. When you reach the US there is enough to do with trying to grow the product, so it makes sense to deal with these more administrative details beforehand. This is especially relevant now because you can do so much of it beforehand in real time. This will put you in a much better position when you actually get to America.

It’s also important to recognise that the US is not monolithic. The East is different from West, and the South. You don’t have to get it all right, far better to concentrate on a smaller market  or niche, and nail that. Get it right in one place and grow from there.

Geography is very important to consider. The East coast could be an easier place to launch without sending over a founder, as there is only a 5  hour time difference. Whereas if you locate on the West Cost with a 12 hour flight and the greater time difference this could be difficult to manage from Ireland. You also need to consider if it is better to be near your customers or your VC’s and investors.

It’s a big country, and you need to think through these considerations and keep your mind open as to where might be the best place for you to locate.

How much attention should startups give to marketing their product?

If you’re an Irish company you’re competing with US companies and rest of the world, there is no quota to be spent exclusively on Irish products. You need to just be the best in your sector because of your product, not your origin.

American startups are very good at communicating to customers, vc’s  and everyone else in the ecosystem. There is an American style of pitching, very able to effectively self promote, and convey why their company is the one to chose, while UK / Irish can be less self promoting. Neither is better or worse, but if you’re going to American VC’s and want $10 million dollars you are going to have to convince them that you are the best people to give it to!

Your US strategy needs to include how to communicate with /Americans. You have to communicate that you are the best prospect on offer!

How do you manage working both the US and UK / Europe aspects of your job?

It’s possible to work in multiple time zones, as long as you are responsive. Our companies need to know that we are reachable. The technology allows this, but when you are straddling multiple timezones, think about the time zone of the people you’re working with.

The analogy I see, would be an increase in interest in European sports in US now such as the Premiership, because we can now follow it in real time. It is the same in business now. We can use technology to be in same place, and one way to avoid jetlag!

 

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