When working with startups, Boston-based Partner Ed Pease often begins counseling founders before they have even formed their companies. "There are lots of minefields to navigate when starting a company," he explains. "If founders make mistakes, it can be a lot harder to succeed down the road."
Pease and his colleagues in the firm's Emerging Company Practice help guide startup company clients through their critical early years. "Our goal is to form these companies correctly from the outset, counsel them through the many critical decisions they face early on and help put them in a position to succeed," he says. "If we can help entrepreneurs grow their companies into something big and meaningful, we've done our job."
Pease, who grew up in New Hampshire, initially envisioned a different career: his father owned a few weekly newspapers, and as a graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School, Pease planned to join the family business as a journalist. He changed his focus to corporate law after that business fell on hard economic times, and quickly developed an interest in "working with very young companies, where lawyers can make a meaningful and measureable difference in the existence of those companies."
This focus led Pease into Boston's vibrant startup ecosystem, where, over the years, he has built a diverse portfolio of technology company clients in a wide range of industries, from gaming to energy to medical devices.
"For these startups, we're really providing full-contact lawyering," Pease explains. "If we do our jobs correctly we end up as indispensable advisers, helping them think through a diverse set of constantly changing business and legal issues."
Much of that advising centers on positioning clients to raise the capital necessary to fuel the rapid growth that startups depend on. "We want our emerging company clients to be high-growth companies, which generally means securing multiple millions of dollars to achieve that growth," he adds.
A company's fundraising trajectory is a key factor in a decision to represent it. "When selecting potential clients," Pease explains, "we're really only taking on companies that expect to go through multiple rounds of institutional financing leading to an exit transaction, either through the sale of the business or a public offering." The goal for the firm's startup clients, he adds, is to help make them a successful part of this cycle.
Working directly with potential funding sources also makes up a crucial part of Pease's practice. He represents a number of venture capital firms, which, he says, benefits everyone. "Our Emerging Company Practice attorneys work hard to help our VC clients by introducing them to interesting young companies, and our relationships within the VC community are a great benefit to our company clients when they are raising capital and looking for introductions."
While the Emerging Company Practice focuses on building large, long-lived companies, success can also come early for its clients, says Pease. The firm may lose a startup client after just a year or two when a bigger company acquires it, but "three or four members of the management team of that company will go on to different companies or to their own startups, and they'll come back as clients—so one client can turn into many."
The opportunity to build those strong, early relationships with founders makes it worthwhile for the practice to invest in under-funded startup clients, says Pease: "We'll say, 'Look, right now you may not have two nickels to rub together, but you are going to be a fantastic entrepreneur who does great things for the next 20 years, and the firm will benefit if we are with you throughout that journey.'"
The richness of that founder-lawyer relationship gives Pease great professional satisfaction. "You start with two guys and an idea in a classroom at MIT, and help them grow into a company that sells itself for millions of dollars three years later, creating generational wealth for the founders," he says. "It's exciting and extremely rewarding to know that you have played a key role in that success."