Written by Ben Goodall
The pace of innovation and adoption in technology – fast and getting faster – has long presented a stark contrast to the deliberate pace of change in the law. That contrast is greater than ever today, as entrepreneurs and established tech companies alike accelerate the time to market and the speed of global expansion. With that as a backdrop, DLA Piper’s Global Technology Summit, scheduled for September 27-28, 2016, at the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, California, is expecting record attendance, and representatives from major tech players such as Cisco, DocuSign and LinkedIn have all signed on as speakers.
Victoria Lee, a partner with DLA Piper in Silicon Valley and Co-Chair of the firm’s Global Technology Sector, recently spoke about the genesis of the summit.
What would you point to as the value of the DLA Piper Global Technology Summit?
It is one of the premier events for both business and legal leaders at the world’s fastest-growing and most dynamic technology companies. It always features discussions by global business, technology and legal leaders, and attendees always get actionable intelligence on how to overcome challenges – and optimize opportunities – resulting from evolutions in technology and the law. In that way, attendees come away with a competitive advantage. It’s also a great networking opportunity.
This year’s summit is a little different than summits past. We’ve split it into two days, one day for C-level executives, entrepreneurs and investors who can talk about the perspectives of venture-backed and emerging growth companies – and a second day for in-house counsel from established technology companies, who can learn about emerging legal issues relevant to technology companies.
What excites you the most about this year’s event?
I’m very excited about the new structure. The first day of the conference, Garage2Global, will, as the title suggests, provide insights and strategies for building and growing a business globally at rapid scale.
The keynote speakers are also very exciting. Alec Ross, one of America’s leading experts on innovation and an advisor to political and technological elite to help them better understand the implication of factors emerging at the intersection of geopolitics, technology, and innovation will discuss themes from his new book, The Industries of the Future, as well as the impact of Brexit and the coming presidential election on the technology sector and innovation. Michelle Zatlyn who is co-founder and head of User Experience at Cloudflare and will share her insights on how she and her co-founders took an idea and built a global business that for two years running was named the “Most Innovative Network & Internet Technology Company” by The Wall Street Journal.
The rest of the sessions and panel discussions are also filled with well-known entrepreneurs and investors. They’ll cover a wide array of topics, including early-stage financing, corporate structure and scaling internationally, and M&A and exits. It’ll give founders and entrepreneurs a much better understanding of what investors are looking for – and help investors better understand developments in the startup world. A Tech Summit wouldn’t be complete without some discussion of technology and so of course we’ll also have panels discussing innovation and developments in currently trending technology areas. It was difficult to decide on those panels because there are so many emerging areas of technology development right now: AI, virtual or augmented reality, drones and fintech, among others. We landed on panels focused on the Internet of Things and healthcare IT and we’re really excited about the speakers that we have for those panels.
We’re calling day two TechLaw. Some well-known general counsels are set to speak – including keynotes by Mark Chandler, GC at Cisco, Mike Callahan of LinkedIn and Hillary Smith of Zenefits. Session topics will include common concerns for corporate counsel at companies going global, best practices in patent litigation, international taxation and structuring, employment issues globally and M&A trends and projections.
At DLA Piper, we work with in-house counsel every day, so we knew attendees would see value in these topics. It’s a unique opportunity for our clients to get together and provide in-house lawyers the opportunity to hear from other in-house lawyers all while offering CLE credit.
What are some of the challenges today in driving sustainable growth and taking a company from garage to global? Which of these issues will be discussed at the Summit?
We actually have a panel dedicated to that question. Jonathan Axelrad, a corporate partner in our San Francisco office, will moderate it, with a focus on what companies need to do to scale internationally.
Every company starting out these days has an online presence, so they can essentially be global from day one. With cloud computing and other innovations, businesses can expand more quickly than ever. But with that, there are challenges. What makes sense from an international tax-structure perspective? Or for payment collection from customers overseas? How do companies position themselves for taking overseas investments? Ever-smaller companies are dealing with these issues, which were historically for larger companies – and they’re compelled to do so earlier in their development. The panelists will discuss how they deal with these issues and how they’ve successfully navigated global expansion.
One of the panelists is Reggie Davis of DocuSign, a general counsel who used to work at Zynga. The other panelists are Jonathan Ebinger of Blue Run Ventures and Santi Subotovsky of Emergence Capital.
What are some of the trends that legal departments at well-established technology companies are wrestling with?
At established companies with larger legal departments, the question seems to constantly be how to do more with less. Legal departments are increasingly trying to innovate and find efficiencies, even in their work with outside law firms. We’re starting to see a trend where a larger legal department will hire a legal operations staff member, sometimes a non-practicing lawyer, as the legal department’s chief operating officer. Those COOs look at what the companies can do to become more efficient. That usually trickles down to law firms.
The topic of efficiency and innovation is a passion of Mark Chandler of Cisco, who will give one of the keynotes at TechLaw. He’s got a great reputation in the industry, and I’m looking forward to hearing about what he’s done in this area.
What are some of the hot-button issues that you believe will shape technology innovation – and its intersection with business and the law over the next 12-months?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming really interesting, which is one of the reasons we have a panel focused on IoT at the summit. From a consumer prospective, connected cars, smart cities and connected homes will all be big, as will industrial IoT. I think we’re going to be hearing more about all of those things as those technologies mature. The evolution of technology in healthcare and finance are something to always keep an eye on – as is data analytics, which is increasingly impacting businesses.
Is there something specific, timing-wise, that makes this year’s summit special or different?
World events will certainly will be in the backdrop when we get together in September. We hold a summit every other year and 2016, of course, happens to be a presidential-election year in the United States. So that and the UK exit from the EU – especially as they relate to global expansion and regulation for established and emerging tech companies – will be on a lot of minds and widely discussed at the summit.
Victoria Lee became global co-chair of the firm’s Technology Sector in June 2015. With nearly two decades of experience, Lee has been named one of the 50 Women Leaders in Tech Law by The Recorder.