Samer (Sam) Zabaneh serves as US co-chair for DLA Piper’s Technology Sector and has been practicing law for more than 20 years. He focuses primarily on corporate, securities and M&A. Within those practices, Sam advises public and emerging private companies and their venture capital and private equity investors through the life cycle of the company, from formation to liquidity.
Sam is one of the participants in the firm’s upcoming Global Technology Summit. Launched in 2008, the award-winning Summit has brought business leaders, visionary technologists, pioneering entrepreneurs, and in-house counsels from leading tech companies together to share insights and analysis into the emerging technology and legal trends affecting businesses today. For the first time, this year’s event will be held virtually, giving participants a front-row seat to candid conversations with some of the tech industry’s top leaders.
- DLA Piper’s Global Technology Virtual Summit aims to provide insight on emerging technology and legal trends affecting businesses today. As US co-chair for DLA Piper’s Technology Sector, what trends are you closely following and why?
As a result of the pandemic, I’ve seen rapid development and adoption of technology tools that help empower companies’ newly remote workforces. In addition, we have seen explosive growth by ecommerce clients and the parties with whom they partner.
As companies start to define their long-term approach for the workplace, there will be additional scrutiny placed on remote technologies. Developers must ensure that their solutions make possible a productive and secure workplace that can exist both inside and outside of the physical office, permanently. As ecommerce companies increase their market share of consumer and business spending, they will face increased pressure to provide a safe and secure environment for their customers and partners.
- For the last 20+ years, you’ve advised technology clients out of Austin, Texas, one of the country’s fastest-growing technology hubs. What excites you the most about the region’s ability to attract some of the world’s leading businesses within the technology industry?
It’s exciting to see Austin become a destination for talent. It has become a city where people want to be, and they are proactively moving here, rather than relocating reactively based on a career opportunity.
In the last seven years in particular, I’ve seen the tech scene in Austin accelerate rapidly. It is now a thriving hub packed with venture capitalists and leading technology companies, as well as thousands of exciting emerging companies. These companies are driving initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining talented technologists and entrepreneurs.
The presence of and active recruiting by tech giants and startups alike has turned Austin into a place with a thriving network for innovation. That acceleration now allows the broader technology sector to consider Austin as a viable headquarters. I’ve seen this across SaaS, ecommerce, consumer packaged goods and other industries, and expect it will continue.
- In today’s startup environment, clients often need help accessing the right sources of finance and optimizing their potential for raising capital. What do you consider key to their success?
In my view, some of the best ways for entrepreneurs to open doors to financing is to build a strong network and surround themselves with smart people. Over the last 10 years, there has been a trend for startups to focus on raising smart capital. To do that, it is essential to seek out partnerships with venture capitalists that can serve as advisors and help aid in the company’s growth.
I believe these partnerships are critical to a startup’s success and are just as valuable as the actual investment dollars. In my role at DLA Piper, I am fortunate to be in a position to connect clients to a network of advisors and capital sources who can specifically support entrepreneurs and share relevant insights around accelerating revenue, enhancing product features, raising capital, acquiring businesses, going public, or developing corporate governance infrastructure. Making those introductions and seeing the benefits to both parties is tremendously rewarding and satisfying.
- What is one piece of advice you have for working successfully with emerging growth clients?
One of the key methods for being a valued advisor is to dedicate time and effort toward building strong and trusting relationships with your clients and working with clients that similarly value a strong connection with their attorneys.
I make a concerted effort to invest in my client relationships, whether by attending board meetings or brokering impactful introductions to another client or stakeholder. I am constantly thinking about how to leverage my network for my clients’ benefit, and this has led to rich and long-term relationships that have lasted since the start of my career. When you take the time to invest in a relationship, rather than simply viewing an engagement from a transactional perspective, you are able to build the foundation for a long-term partnership that allows you and your client to succeed together.
Many of my best client relationships stem from a handful of individuals who have referred me into their networks because our team provided them with excellent service, invested time in the relationship and opened our network to them. One of my most enduring relationships started when I took the time as a newly minted lawyer to meet with a new client of the firm for lunch rather than by phone, and he sketched out a business plan on a napkin. We subsequently formed the company, financed it through business cycles over several years, and then sold the company ten plus years later in a great transaction. But rather than a one-time transaction, that relationship led to a 20 plus year period of working together on a range of clients and hundreds of exciting transactions, all because the client and I invested in the relationship beyond the initial transaction.
- The Summit is virtual for the first time since launching in 2008, giving participants a front row seat to candid conversations with top leaders in the technology space. What do you hope are key takeaways?
I’m excited that this year’s event is virtual, allowing audiences to join from wherever they are located around the world. The Summit provides a great opportunity for participants to hear from leading technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and in-house counselors in the technology sector. The speakers will cover a wide range of topics from the future of data analytics to the role of legal counsel in setting sustainability, and environmental, social and governance (SESG) strategies. I’m personally looking forward to hearing their unique perspectives and insights about the future of tech innovation, as well as the opportunities and challenges we should all take into consideration going forward. With the virtual format, participants will be able to engage in conversations and networking in real time using the Twitter hashtag #DLAPiperTech21.