What the future does holds for crowd funding? How do you pull together a successful pitch event for startups? All this and more as Roger Royse shares how technology and legal issues are changing the world for entrepreneurs.
Alan: Welcome back I’m here today with Roger Royce, he is the founder of Royse Law Firm Roger welcome to today’s show.
Roger: Thanks Alan, good to be back.
Alan: Roger I understand that to your firm was recently named as one of the top law firms in Silicon Valley.
Roger: The San Jose Silicon Valley Business Journal they have an annual for the book of lists and have an annual list of law firms and about a year ago now that we finally made the list we been growing pretty quickly since I form the firm about eight years ago and we’re up to 20 lawyers now. In all different areas of practice for small business and startup companies.
Alan: Now your firm specializes- you deal with a lot of companies but you deal with a niche practice in startups?
Roger: A big part of what we do is start up company and emerging growth primarily because our main offices in Palo Alto but also because we have a pretty deep bench in technology law, corporate securities, M&A and corporate financing. So I would say that a pretty big part of the practice has to do with startups.
Alan: Well being right in the heart of Silicon Valley, can you give us a feel for what’s happening out there now, word on the street with companies.
Roger: Well everything goes in cycles in California, this part of California anyway, has its own little cycle it's own little bubble that seems to be immune from the rest of the world. To some extent and you could call what's going on right now to be a bit frothy there's lots of companies are getting funded, lots more are formed and there seems to be a lot more money in the market chasing those companies than there has been in recent years so it's a pretty good environment for startup companies right now.
Alan: So you talk about funding companies, currently the new trend is in crowd funding.
Roger: Yeah, that's a big deal, it's what we’ve been hearing a lot of, and we’re certainly one of the pioneers in terms of understanding the new laws and doing presentations conferences white papers on, in fact I was out in Washington DC last fall at the SEC when they finalize regulations on one aspect of the jobs act but it's important know there's as much misinformation is information about the crowd funding rules out there right now but nevertheless we have had some recent law changes and that have freed up billions of dollars for startup investment that wasn't there before. And we’re seeing the effects of that, the business models in the technology is catching up the law and there are certainly several websites and portals and help facilitate angel investing under the new crowd funding rules.
Alan: As an attorney how do you help your clients through the crowd funding and legal documents, is there any special processing that you walk them through?
Roger: There's no shortage of lawyers in Palo Alto and there is no shortage of good lawyers in fact almost anybody can it's not hard to walk up and down Page Mill or Embarcadero where I am and find somebody who can help a company with the legal aspects of the securities placement but here in Silicon Valley we try to take a little bit more of an expansive role and it's not just so much, how do you dot i’s and cross t’s, I think there's a lot more strategy that has to be involved in an fact a lot of the speaker presentations that I give are up are part of the legal aspects of lawyers a part of my day as law but another part of strategy. Who do you want as your investors how much money should get? Should you stage your financing, should be in doing crowd funding or should you be going right to the institutions? It's things like that and that's where lawyers add a lot of value to process much more than just shuffling paper
Alan: You know from your perspective what is the future hold for crowd funding?
Roger: We are eventually going to see that democratization of the process I think that we are going to see a lot more players entering the market terms of investors, angel investors and having a lot of access to a lot of great companies and that's going to necessarily increase the quality of the companies that are going to get funded, there’s going to be more competition, not more money, more competition for that money because it's a lot easier for companies to get out than get in front of them now. So I think crowd funding is as technology has done in a lot of different areas for crowd funding it's going to allow people to connect from places where they might not have been able to connect and real world before.
Alan: At what point in time is it appropriate for a startup company to get involved with an attorney.
Roger: Well I think as soon as possible of course. Certainly at the point that the company is going to engage in any conduct so some asset protection in any business conduct business activities that might result in liability and this is California, so doesn't take much to result in liability as you know. At the point where it's going to be creating any intellectual property broadly defined technology trade secrets anything like that because we need a new vehicle that can collect those rights and at the point where it's going to divide up equity or make arrangements with other stakeholders founders advisors consultants things like that, any of those things are going to happen pretty early in an enterprise’s life so I think a company needs a lawyer pretty early.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Roger Royse, he is the founder of the Royse Law group right here in Silicon Valley, Roger we need to take a quick break, and we’ll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back in here today with Roger Royse and that he's the founder of the Royse Law Group right here in Silicon Valley and ranked by the yes Silicon Valley business Journal as one of the top law firms here. Roger recently you held at pitch event here in Silicon Valley for new start companies coming in, can you give us more information and let us know how did it go and give us some background some of the companies that showed up.
Roger: I do that fairly frequently because one of the I spend a pretty big part of my day with my client companies asking me to introduce them to investors and maybe I can do that but with a pitch event you got a captive audience of investors as judges. They’re going to listen to you, they’re going to give you your chance to tell them about your company anywhere from one to 5 minutes and if they’re interested they’ll ask follow-up questions. That's the beauty of the pitch event, so we do that periodically, it gives everybody the opportunity that we let into the pitch event to actually get in front of these companies. The one we did recently was a little bit different concept, we opened it up to anybody wanting to sign up but they only have one minute to tell their story. We had 60 companies come where we had a panel from Garage from Draper Fisher from Angels Forum and Dream Funded SF Angel. So we had a pretty powerful panel of investors and we had 60 companies come through with their one minute pitches so it was quite it was quite an evening and several of them came back were invited back to give an extended pitch and several of them and all have been contacted by the investors and they followed up, we’ll see what happens out of that.
Alan: And how innovative are these companies coming out, are their trends that you’re seeing?
Roger: We’re in the heart of innovation here in Silicon Valley, I think and that's that's the best thing about the pitch events, that's if you're in the audience or if you're moderating like I usually do, is just to see all the new ideas and the types of companies that we see is limited only by the imaginations of creative people. It's amazing some of the things that they come up with.
Alan: How do you bring an event like that to fruition?
Roger: Well first you have to live a long time so you know a lot of people, you have to be in the Valley for a long time but fortunately we’re in an area where there is there's no shortage of companies that would like to get an audience and would like to pitch, that part tends to be the easy part we’re also a place where there's really no shortage of investors but there are a lot of demands on their time so they need to know that their time is worthwhile, is being spent in a way that's productive enough to see some high-quality companies and that just requires having done this again and again and again and then we put it out there and do it it's actually not that hard.
Alan: So Roger for the future, it sounds like you’re going to do this again.
Alan: And how does a person wanting to learn more about upcoming events, is there a news letter that you have?
Roger: Well I don’t hide, its pretty easy to find but we post all of these events on our websites Royse Law, RRoyselaw.com we also have a resource site called RoyseUniversity.com where we put content, because a lot of what we do is technical and legal business content and we collect it all in this one online library and thirdly our site Royselink.com where we announce most of these activities so you can find any of these you can you can Google it and Google my name, you’ll see all sorts of events.
Alan: I’m visiting here today with Roger Royse, he’s the founder of the Royse Law Group, right here in the heart of Silicon Valley, we've been talking about startup companies and Roger, we need to take a quick break and we'll be right back of these messages and I want to get more into trends in the Valley and what we see coming up. We'll be right back after these messages
Alan: Welcome back. I’m here today with Roger Royse. He is the founder of the Royse Law group right here in Silicon Valley. Roger, we’ve been talking about start-up companies, crowd funding and about how companies get launched here in the Valley. There's a key and a secret sauce you found in networking- marketing. What was your perspective and viewpoint on how to effectively network here in order to establish a good solid company and growth. What steps have you taken to help reach your network?
Roger: It’s funny you should ask me that. As I was driving over here this morning I was listening to songs on my iPhone. I was listening to this song by Lady Gaga, don't ask me how that got on my iPhone, I don't even know. But I had this thought that occurred to me- Lady Gaga has something in common with Barack Obama and with me because we've all created this community using pretty much the same process, the same pattern and that pattern has to do with exposure, a fan base. It has to do with expertise in establishing on expertise and it has to do with very targeted sort of high-level communities. Here in Silicon Valley we really have the advantage of having access to a lot of networking opportunities. Like I say, it’s really those three things-its exposure, expertise and brand. Every startup company has to follow that formula and the successful ones do. If you look around at big brands of big companies you'll notice that they do tend to follow the same sort of pattern. When I first came to this valley back in 1991, I remember my boss. He said to me, you know you ought to be doing five business lunches and five business dinners a week, which is kind of a lot. But the point being that you really have to work, you have to put yourself out there and you have to be at a lot of these events. And you could very easily in Silicon Valley go to that many events every week and you could meet a ton of people and there is some value in that and that's working hard. There is a lot more value into being a little smart about it- where you go and what you put out- and there's a lot more value about working right and just making sure that you are connecting with the right people and get in front of the right people and use your time wisely. So that's it at a high level. To drill down a little bit, I think that the events that we do are really important. In fact, we have one coming up. I'm speaking on Thursday evening at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View for a Meet up group called ‘Idea to IPO’ on startup basics. It sold out almost immediately and we are trying to get a bigger space. But those are great events as you meet a lot of startup companies, advisors, people that are doing what you're doing or know people that might be. So part of it is just getting out there and going to some of the events that we are able to do in Silicon Valley. The other part is having those private one-on-one meetings with the super connectors such as yourself and people who really can connect you with people that you need to know. So don’t get me started on this topic, I'll talk all day long.
Alan: It is true that it is all about working smarter rather than harder.
Roger: Yeah, absolutely.
Alan: When we talk about your company, you are about twenty attorneys, you’ve really put a process in place, your brand is strong, you have some of the premier attorneys coming and joining your group, where do you see Roger Royse in a three to five year range.
Roger: I think we can just continue doing what we’ve been doing. I seek continued growth. Five years from now, I expect we’d be at thirty lawyers’ at least, we may double by then. There’s plenty of room in this Valley to grow, as well as in our other offices. We have offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles that are pretty busy. I think Los Angeles is a place that could be a little better served by the legal community, so I go down there a lot and am building that office. We’ve looked into other areas- the Central Valley, Sacramento, and Las Vegas. So, I see us expanding and doing our core business in new geographies and new markets.
Alan: You know it’s a competitive landscape for a lot of attorneys out there. But you found a secret sauce in terms of delivering value-added service to the new entrepreneurs. What advise do you give to the new entrepreneurs?
Roger: A brain scientist will tell you that it is really hard for a person to hold two competing thoughts in their mind at the same time. When somebody walks in my office with a great idea, they are thinking about upsides, about all the success that they are going to have, that they are going to go IPO in three years, VC’s are just going to love them once they see them. I really have to temper them a bit. I tell them that it’s great, and that I don’t doubt you a bit, but we need to plan a little bit for the downside just in case this particular idea doesn’t work out. So, number one is let’s not put off having a good legal structure. Let’s have some asset protection by forming a company. Let’s make sure that the people that you bring in are not entrenched if it turns out that they don’t work out and that they are not the right people. Let’s make sure that you can pivot easily if you have to. And let’s make sure that if you are going to fail, you are going to fail fast, so you can start over with something else. So, that’s kind of what we as lawyers have to do. I see a whole lot more of failures than I see successes, we need to plan for that.
Alan: Roger, how can someone contact you?
Roger: We are on the web, www.rroyselaw.com.
Alan: Welcome back I've been visiting with Roger Royse and during the break I talked to him about his next big project, and the last time he was on the show he was talking about the book that he recently wrote called “Dead on Arrival.” Its an excellent book, you can get this on Amazon?
Roger: Absolutely, it’s on Amazon.
Alan: “Dead on Arrival” it's about how you can avoid the legal mistakes that could kill your startup. So roger I’d like to talk about, what your next big project is right now. What are you currently working on?
We have a couple things I’d like to mention that the big one is our Agri-Tech conference coming up on May 12 in Palo Alto. That’s technology companies focused on the agriculture industry. It’s something that I’ve been interested in for quite a long time coming like you coming from an agricultural state and also doing work both in the tech field as well as and in the agriculture related field so couple years ago I formed a group Silicon Valley called Silicon Valley AgTech were doing our first conference on May 12. And we’ve just gotten a tremendous response to this we haven't even really marketed it much of the people of found this week we've got over 100 paid sign ups attendees so far we've got our tech companies we've got established companies large a companies to small tech companies really good panels and presenters, of course a pitch session, about a dozen Ag Tech companies pitching to a the panel of VCs and investors is bigger than the panel of pitchers, there’s going to be about a dozen of them going to be in the audience looking for the next big thing in Ag Tech. We have companies coming from all over the world we have a company for New Zealand coming out here to pitch at our conference we have a company from Ireland coming and we've gotten calls from several other countries so this is going to be a really really great conference.
Alan: What’s the trend in Ag Tech right now?
Roger: You see that's the great thing, it’s such a broad field, we’re seeing robotics for example, that are helping create efficiencies in things like controlling crop yields in efficiency, water, pesticides, things like that. The big thing in my mind that I'm really interested in is Bog Data because of the legal issues around that. Because typically traditionally back where I grew up a farmer could only farm about as much land as he could remember, in other words he kind of had to know what areas the land needs water and what needs a little more of this and where the soil is sandy and where its rocky, stuff like that. Well there are tools now that will help them do that. So that means if these farmers can actually farm much much bigger plots, that one aspect of it. So data is one the other thing is just collecting the data and using that data and there's a lot of legal issues around who owns it was a right to privacy is a trade secret how can we protect it and that's the legal side of what's going on in that aspect of the industry. Water of course is big as you know we’re in a drought and water conservation is important and we actually have somebody coming from the CFDA that is going to talk about water conservation technologies. Someone from the state so hopefully we'll see some companies that will jump on this and see this as an opportunity to do something to promote sustainability here in California where we have a water shortage sometimes.
Alan: Water seems to be a big issue here. Roger for a person wanting to get more information, it sounds like you have just a few more slots left on the high-tech conference that where would they go to get more information to get signed up.
Roger: Silicon Valley Ag-tech. So AgTechSV.com, we’re all over the World Wide Web
Alan: I’ve been visiting here today with Roger Royse, he’s the founder of the Royse law group, one of the top law firms here in Silicon Valley focused on startups and helping companies get to the next level. Roger, thanks for being on today’s show.
Roger: Thank you Alan.