Here are More Signs that LA Tech is Moving to the Next Level

Posted on Jul 24, 2012 | 26 comments

Here are More Signs that LA Tech is Moving to the Next Level

I wrote a blog post on how to work with lawyers at a startup nearly two-and-a-half years ago. It was very widely read.

If you don’t have much experience in working with law firms at a startup it’s a good primer.

In that post I talked about how to select a law-firm for a startup. It should be:

  • Local;
  • Right-sized; and
  • Startup-focused

I specifically called out some of the best people I had personally worked with

  • Dave Young (LA … DLA Piper)
  • Sam Angus (NorCal … Fenwick & West)
  • Scott Alderton (LA … Stubbs Alderton)
  • Don Lee (LA … LKP)
  • David Hernand (LA … Gibson Dunn)
  • Joey Tran (SF Bay Area … Fortis)
  • Michael Pfau (Santa Barbara … Reicker Pfau)
  • Mike Lincoln (Washington DC / Virginia … Cooley)

By now I know many more. But these were my eight. And still the 8 I most often recommend in their respective geographies.

And then today. BOOM!

The magic all came together.

Mike Lincoln (on my list) had previously had huge success with Cooley (long considered a platinum-status Silicon Valley firm as depicted in the image right above highlighting some of their clients) in expanding their presence outside their traditional NorCal stronghold. He built a practice around a growing community in the Mid Atlantic and beyond.

Nearly everybody in the DC region had told me, “You must meet Mike. He knows every startup & VC in town.” He was generous with his time with me and helpful. This was 2005 when I had no exits under my belt, no blogs … nobody was looking. He was a mensch.

And over the past few years I had been egging him on from LA to get Cooley to take our market more seriously. I told him that our market was absolutely booming and was worthy of a commensurate investment. Not that I’ll take credit for what I’m about to announce, but I knew that if somebody could commit to building out LA and making the investments required to kick ass in this market it would be Cooley.

And I know that Mike agreed.

Invest they have. They scooped up none other than David Hernand who will join the practice as managing partner.

When I first arrived in LA my good friend Matt Pillar (a long-term veteran of tech, media & VC) who had been in LA for some time told me, “in LA there’s none better than David.” I met with him several times and had tried to bring him onto deals I was working on but his practice wasn’t yet geared up to handle the earliest-stage deals.

He was the guy I wanted but couldn’t afford. I told David,

“Look at the changes we’ve seen in the VC / funding market. The whole movement to seed funds / early investments happened for a reason.

And as a VC if you’re not looking at deals at an earlier stage and getting slightly out of your comfort zone some great deals will simply get away from you.

The same trend seems likely in the legal industry. If you’re not getting great deals early – you may never see them.”

I was trying to encourage him to set up an early-stage practice. For starters, David had once been an entrepreneur himself so it seemed like such a natural fit.

And again I won’t take credit for his decision to join Cooley but the magic of having David join Cooley is simply an awesome outcome for our community at large.

But wait! There’s more!

When I couldn’t talk David into doing early-stage deals back in 2008/09, I hooked up with the guy who seemed to be working with the largest number of high-quality LA startups I had encountered – Dave Young – and started working with him and Nicholas Hobbs of DLA Piper.

And over the past 5 years I have done more deals with and worked with more companies counseled by Dave than any other firm. He became the go-to guy for many in our community including me.

And now he’s with Cooley. And he’ll be heading the Business & Technology Group.

Also coming from DLA Piper is another partner – Christopher Shoff. And a fourth partner – Jennifer Massey – will join from an entertainment background.

And that’s where I thought the goodness ended. Until just now. I just read their press release and found out that they went one step further.

Ever since I’ve been in LA, the Big-4 accounting world has had one tireless business development professional who has sponsored many entrepreneur events, pushed for his firm (PwC) to be flexible in working with early-stage companies and tirelessly championed LA with  his “Shaking the Money Tree” conferences. And I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that Randy Churchill will join Cooley’s LA practice as head of business development.

This post is not an ad for Cooley nor for any of the fine professionals I’ve talked about in this post.

It is simply a stunning announcement of investment in this community and taking the future of the LA technology scene in a serious way that I haven’t seen in my five years since returning to LA (I lived here in the early 90’s as well). They went after an A-team and brought them all under one roof to kick off a brand new practice.

Cooley is taking on major costs not only of these professionals and the inevitable support staff that they will hire but they will also be establishing a major presence in Santa Monica where I’m told they’ve secured  significant office space.

For me it’s a sign that people outside the region are starting to grok what we who have been on the ground for some time have been saying.

There’s something going on in LA Tech. And it’s more permanent and pervasive than we’ve ever seen in the past. We’ll go through more bumps in the road. Every community does when the economy goes through its inevitable cycles.

At GRP Partners we’re all in on Los Angeles having written about $35 million in early-stage venture capital investments in this market alone in the past six months.

And I’m delighted to see a bold move by Cooley in getting behind Los Angeles as well.

Congratulations to all those involved. And to our community at large for our continued progress.

  • bfeld

    Awesome move by Cooley and great for the LA Startup Community. I just wrote about this on the Startup Community blog at

  • MHSzymczyk

    Mark – just passing along that we’ve had a great experience with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman (www.pillsburylaw) specifically for IP needs. They have a dedicated unit focused on virtual communities, gamification, etc. and also very versed in the patent process. Jim Gatto’s the lead there and great to work with. Happy to make intros for any startups focused in those areas.

    Btw – do you have some availability next week to meet up again? Made some major milestones with our product over the last few weeks so happy to bring by some coffee…

    Matt (Zugara)

  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    this is terrific news for the LA region. One of the lessons that I get from this post is the importance of influencers like Mark Suster in bringing talent and firms to a new region. This is a lesson for other cities and regions where they have to work on building their ecosystem.

  • Matt Bartus

    Mark, thanks for the great summary. We could not be more excited about this investment in the LA tech community.

  • Michael Mirel

    Great to see the commitment from Cooley. That’s a world class team.

  • jordanbp

    Can you say “All Star Team”? Great people involved here and, as Mark says, this is a huge public commitment to LA by a firm traditionally associated with and headquartered in Silicon Valley. Congratulations to all and to the region!

  • Nik Souris

    Congrats Mark! Must be great to see the support backing up your vision! Keep charging!

  • msuster

    well, to be fair to Cooley – I feel confident they made the decision without me 😉

  • Dan Ellis

    Great news. I worked with Cooley on my last company in SF, and I’d like to think they are following me down here… Jen will be a great addition to connect startups to the entertainment world.

  • Eric Otterson

    Thanks, Mark. I was just up to meet the team (while visiting our client, Grindr) and share your enthusiasm! It is really fantastic. Congratulations LA. I also have to push SD – I have a few deals: GoFastCab, MyCase, Blurtopia, CitiBot to name a few, that would be worth your time. I’ll follow up via email. Cheers!

  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    but your constant effort of promoting the region gives significant credibility to the ongoing activity in LA

  • paramendra

    Congrats. Good work.

  • Ted Alvia

    Mark do you have a list of Chicago based lawyers that are startup/entrepreneur friendly? You specifically mention local. Thanks

  • Kyle Van Pelt

    I just found out about this through @bfeld:disqus ‘s Startup Community blog and love what I see. Will now be an avid reader. Great news for LA!

  • Ted Alvia

    Thank Mark, you answered my question with your previous blog post on “How to work with lawyers at a Startup” and following some of the links.

  • Patrick Giblin

    Always great to see this kind of spawning for a community developing start ups and having a strong voice for the start ups such as you Mark is awesome. Congrats to Cooley and to Dave Young who I have had brief and rewarding encounters with while building 451 Degrees ‘Graffiti’ in San Diego (finally product and clients are here, shameless plug).

    I also think it is importan for LA and San Diego to work together to gain even more traction on all things start up. Brant Cooper (Lean Start Up), Eric Otterson (Cooley) and Rory Moore (EvoNexus) have been very active in giving back and helping move the Start up community in San Diego. It would be good to see more synergies created down the 5 freeway for the good of both sides…

    Hope to see you some time soon Mark. Your efforts to start ups are great and useful. Many thanks

  • Red Russak

    (Just saw this on @bfeld:disqus blog) Looks like a logical decision for any services firm to allocate more resources to biz dev in LA. According to, there are 500+ startups in LA and growing 😉

  • Brian Allman

    It’ll be exciting to see how, and if, their entrance into the community will push more local funding opportunities…

  • bfeld

    Totally logical!

  • cottageme

    Thank you for it ! really interesting! It have been always interesting to read shuch news.

  • cottageme

    Thanks so much for this good advice.

  • Matthias Galica

    Speaking of platinum-status in SV, I’ve been quite impressed by how much my WSGR peoples have done for little ‘ole me, and am somewhat mystified why they haven’t made a bigger push into a bigger LA presence. Dang, might I be partly to blame?

  • Alex

    Nice ad for Cooley, Wanker!

  • Gregory Smith


    A friend of mine, by the name of “Rand Fishken” recommended this blog to me, and I have really been anxious to see what you have going on. I guess I’ll stay here for a while, and study things. I look forward to seeing all of your recent, and older posts.

    Keep up…

  • writing bee

    Congrats Mark! Must be great to see the support backing up your vision!

  • M Elayan

    As a recent law grad with who wants to work with entrepreneurs and startups in SoCal, this really is huge news. I’m happy to see Mark getting as excited about this as I am.