mentor of the month
24 July, 2015
Meet blueprint's MVP, Padraig Walsh, partner at Bird & Bird. Padraig is a popular legal counsel to accelerator startups, and also happens to be a film critic in his spare time. Check out his advice for navigating common startup pitfalls here:
What do you do when you are not mentoring startups?
I am a lawyer by profession. I help companies buy or invest in other companies.
And in your downtime, what keeps you vital?
A two-year old son helps. Trading documents for diapers is a sure way to stay centred, though perhaps not vital!
Otherwise, my most pleasurable moments are in a darkened room with 50 strangers. I am a bit of a cineaste, which is very different to being a fanboy! I analyse films for fun, and write about them. This is quite different to enjoying movies. Often, watching movies is a painful experience. Most filmmakers have talent and work hard, but also are unable to bridge the gap between conception and reality. But when that chasm is crossed, it is one of the most special artistic experiences possible.
What skills do you bring to the blueprint tech community?
Searing insight and audacious analysis.
Well, basically, I am a lawyer. I am the reality check. I am the guy who will say the glass is 1/3 empty, not 2/3 full.
What legal pitfalls commonly plague startups?
Most of the problems I see crop up because the founders do not know each other and have not worked out their own deal. This is a problem either way – whether the business succeeds or fails.
Deals aren’t always what they seem. Any advice on how to identify bad deal terms?
Basic rule of thumb though is if you don't understand it, don't sign it. And don't assume you understand it because the chap in the workstation next door gave you the dirt!
What governance issues affect startups here in Hong Kong?
Having any governance at all would be a start!
Founders have so much entrepreneurial spirit. They can be so excited by the business idea and testing the idea. They do not prepare themselves for the rigorous process involved in taking on board angel or VC funding. At its most basic, founders should be conversant in market analysis, financial analysis, and legal compliance, and applied these skills to their business.
What is the weirdest thing you have Googled this week?
One of the quirky things lawyers do on a deal is to come up with project names. The practical reason is to preserve confidentiality on an investment before the deal closes. It allows a certain dramatic licence for the lawyer though. My theme is to choose the bird of a location relevant to the deal. I work with Bird & Bird - duh! So, we are doing a deal relating to Cambodia at the moment. I jumped on the project naming before anyone else stole my thunder. My google search was "national bird Cambodia". This is how lawyers amuse themselves. Yes, I know it's sad.
It's the ibis, in case you were wondering.
And finally, what is your favourite Hong Kong life hack?
Life in Hong Kong regularly involves the same trips on the same public transport. So, I like to work out which carriage on the MTR puts me in prime position to pass through the gates first to my exit of choice. For the airport express, flying CX, it's carriage six, right side, at Central station. You exit at the ramp at the airport that leads right to the CX check-in counter. Puts waiting time to good use at the start, and gains that vital 15 seconds advantage over the chumps who have not worked out this secret ingredient to happiness in Hong Kong.
The satisfaction I feel is so disproportionate that I know it means I have lived here too long!