Cindy Hess is the co-chair of the Startups and Venture Capital group at Fenwick and West. Hess has worked with some of the top companies in tech, including NextDoor, GoPro and Fitbit. She's seen startups at all stages - from seed stage to public, and knows a thing or two about what great companies have in common.
I recently had the chance to interview Hess, and asked her some questions related to startup founders, and legal issues companies may face in their lifetimes. Here is what Hess had to say on a few subjects:
You've worked with some great companies. What trait to do successful companies have in common?
Cindy Hess: It all starts with leadership. Every successful company I've worked with has a great leader at the helm. Great leaders are passionate, tenacious and will do what it takes to see the vision of their company come to fruition.
Great leaders ultimately inspire their teams to work hard and get everyone focused on a singular vision, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do.
So who Are Some of the top leaders you've worked with?
CH: I've worked with a number of great leaders, but a few that standout include Nirav Tolia from NextDoor, Nick Woodman from GoPro and Amanda Khalow from 6sense.
Nirav leads by example and commands the loyalty of the team. He doesn't ask anyone on his team to do something he wouldn't do himself. Nick embodies passion and vision - he brings a larger than life vision to the table and brings that vision to reality. Amanda is a great example of someone building a positive, and sustainable culture. She is one of the best I've seen at highlighting the success of the team to the entire company, and making the good fortune of the company about everyone.
What are some legal issues companies may face that they aren't taking seriously enough?
CH: The nature of the workforce is totally changing - especially with the rise of a lot of on-demand companies. I think companies really need to take the 'exempt vs non-exempt' employee issue very seriously. New overtime rules take effect December 1st, which could have a pretty dramatic impact on operating costs for a lot of companies. Knowing those rules, and correctly classifying employees is pretty critical right now.
Aside from that, every company at its early stages should properly consider equity splits and vesting. It's important to get the basics right at the very beginning to avoid unnecessary growing pains later.