Blank Center Sponsor Profile: Morgan Lewis
Michael A. Conza is a Partner at Morgan Lewis and a co-leader of its emerging business and technology team, which focuses on helping startup companies. Morgan Lewis has been a sponsor of the Blank Center since 2017 and is very supportive of Babson startups!
What is the history of Morgan Lewis?
Morgan Lewis was founded in Philadelphia in 1873. It is now a firm with over 2,200 legal professionals in 30 locations throughout the world. Within the United States, we have offices down both coasts and in the middle of the country. Internationally, we are in all the “hot spots” including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. We represent clients ranging from startups to Fortune 100 international businesses.
How did Morgan Lewis become involved with helping startups?
We have been helping startups since day one. Our firm has a dedicated emerging business and technology (EB&T) team which focuses on companies from the startup phase and throughout their growth cycle. I am a co-leader of the EB&T team, which is made up of approximately 80 lawyers, in various offices, dedicated to working with dynamic companies in all fields.
What is your role at Morgan Lewis?
I am primarily a corporate Partner and a co-leader of our EB&T group. I am a practicing corporate lawyer, so I focus on helping companies form and helping founders with sorting out equity, financing, mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, and more. We view clients as our partners. We help them triage their to-do lists based on available financial resources. We partner with young companies to help them understand how to work with lawyers, and to view our legal team as part of the company as it grows.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurs are primarily people who recognize a need and seek to fill that need. People who start businesses aren’t always entrepreneurs; true entrepreneurs have a feeling in their soul that they can fix a problem. In my experience, successful entrepreneurs are primarily motivated by the desire to solve a problem, not just a desire to make money. Such entrepreneurs are relentless, and constantly pushing to find better solutions.
What does the world need from entrepreneurs today?
More of them! I work with entrepreneurs because I find it extremely exciting. The world needs entrepreneurs to continue being entrepreneurs – and not to get beaten down by anyone. It’s a high-risk life path, but these people often change the way we all live and do things. It’s exciting to see it happen.
From your work with startups, have you discovered any trends in entrepreneurship that you find exciting?
I have been a practicing lawyer for almost 30 years. 15 to 20 years ago, many entrepreneurs worked alone. These days, it seems that there is more teaming, and it is happening sooner in the life cycle of young companies. It is more common today to see two to three people with complementary skill sets working together as the founding group.
I am particularly excited by two areas in entrepreneurship right now. The first is the Internet of Things – these entrepreneurs are working within an evolving landscape of increasing connectivity, and that is the future. The second is artificial intelligence (AI). I believe we are going to start seeing explosive applications of AI in many areas of our lives. The world is heading into an AI and connectivity revolution, which I believe will be equally as disruptive as the industrial revolution was. Entrepreneurs in these spaces will have an interesting ride.
Any tips for entrepreneurs looking to move their startups forward?
This is related to how I view entrepreneurs and people who start businesses. Successful entrepreneurs do things that they care about. They have seen or personally experienced a problem and they know people will want a solution. This is a common trait in successful entrepreneurs, and something that is often missing from those who turn out to be unsuccessful. Don’t start a business just for the money.
Successful entrepreneurs are willing to bring on high-quality people as team members rather than as mere employees. In contrast, unsuccessful entrepreneurs often have big egos that get in the way of hiring qualified people. They don’t gain that new perspective, which limits their chances of winning. Successful entrepreneurs do not feel challenged by highly capable people, but instead incorporate them into the team. I have seen many entrepreneurs fail because they were afraid that highly capable people could undermine our outshine them – and they miss bigger opportunities as a result.
Successful entrepreneurs also learn from their mistakes. Every entrepreneur has made mistakes, but successful ones acknowledge and analyze what went wrong to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Entrepreneurship is risky; you’re going to make mistakes. Acknowledge, dissect, and learn from it.
Additionally, from a legal standpoint, it’s important to take time to think about the “what ifs” with your co-founders. Who will be the final decision-maker? What happens if a co-founder wants to leave the team? Think of it as a prenuptial agreement. I have been involved with a lot of startups where people are excited to start a company together, but three years later they are at each other’s throats. Acknowledge early in the process that things may not always be perfect. Figure out ahead of time what to do if things go wrong.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a sponsor of the Blank Center?
I’ve enjoyed being spending time with entrepreneurially-spirited people. I love working with entrepreneurs because of their energy and unquenchable optimism. They see an issue and know they can fix it and change the world. They are in love with what they do. I’ve met many such people through the Blank Center and am thrilled to meet more!
About Morgan Lewis
Morgan Lewis offers more than 2,200 lawyers, patent agents, benefits advisers, regulatory scientists, and other specialists—in 30 offices across North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The firm provides comprehensive litigation, corporate, transactional, regulatory, immigration, intellectual property, and labor and employment legal services to clients of all sizes—from globally established industry leaders to just conceived start-ups.