Episode 3: Innovating Alcohol, AI Lawsuits, & Ivy League Law School after working in Silicon Valley with Elizabeth Brandt, NY InSITE Fellow (Columbia JD 2018)
Podcast Summary — LISTEN to the interview HERE!
Startups & Companies mentioned:
- McMaster Carr
- Medallia — “win in a customer-centric world”
- PeerIQ in NYC — “risk management for peer-to-peer credit”
- Framebridge in DC — “the easy way to custom frame”
- Power to Fly in NYC — “get the best remote jobs in tech”
- Hopsy in SanFran — “fresh local beer to your door”
- EdenWorks in NYC — “the future of farming”
- TextIQ in San Fran — “using AI to help companies win lawsuits”
- FiscalNote in DC — “take control of your government strategy”
- NakedWines in Napa — “drink like an insider”
InSITE Fellows & Alumni mentioned:
Resources and Websites mentioned:
GUEST: Elizabeth Brandt, InSITE NY (Columbia JD 2018)
[2:00] Getting started. I grew up around creative people, studied business at Emory, then started working at a pretty mature company right after graduating. I realized that wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, so I moved to the Bay Area and starting working for a startup. Then this year, I decided to start law school.
[3:15] Mature company & management experience. That first experience was with McMaster Carr, and I was in charge of people selling industrial supplies in their management rotational program. It was sink-or-swim, but not as challenging as I’d hoped. During senior year of college, a few people approached me about running for student government president, so I wound up doing that for a year and it was great.
[6:30] Moving to SanFran. I got to work at a SaaS company called Medallia (they’re always hiring, BTW!). I had a grandfather who was a lawyer: he was well-respected in the community, and most of his time was spent solving interesting problem, so I saw it as a useful path to go if I want to keep working with startups.
“Surprisingly, the law is frequently a standard rather than a rule… There’s still room to have a rebellious streak while working as a lawyer.”
[9:45] Intro. How did you first hear about InSITE?
Through a Facebook message. Someone posted in the NY law-school group before my school year even started, and it looked like the perfect fit for me.
[10:45] Impression. What was your 1st impression based on the application process?
At our New York chapter, it was quite the process: starts with a paper application, write a personal statement and analyze strategy of a current startup. Then you have an in-person interview. And this year we started a group-dynamic interview with teams of 4 working on problems that a client might have. Then there’s a final 2-on-1 interview with alumni, current fellows, and/or the chapter advisor.
[15:15] Jumping into work. Describe your FIRST semester consulting assignment.
I worked with a fin-tech company called PeerIQ. They’re bundling peer-to-peer loans and selling them to institutional investors. The business model is fairly complicated, so it took us a while to wrap our heads around it.
[17:35] Most recent. Describe the LAST consulting assignment you worked on.
This semester I worked with an online platform for women in tech called Power to Fly. They connect remote workers to medium-sized companies looking for very specific technology work. They’re considering connecting more people with legal-industry jobs, so our deliverable was a packet of spreadsheets with competitor analysis and strategic advantages to entering this new market and whether they would need to start an entirely new company to go there or can achieve profitable pricing with current setup.
[21:50] Highs & Lows. What were the most difficult and most rewarding parts of those?
With the first company it was difficult, because PeerIQ is creating an entirely new industry. With all the InSITE companies, a struggle so far is that companies are doing well and growing so fast that have little time, and we have to make sure we’re not wasting their time but providing genuinely helpful insight.
[23:30] Expect the unexpected. What was the most surprising aspect to you about New York startup culture?
Coming from the Bay where startups are everything, I was pleasantly surprised by how big the industry already is here in NYC. It’s such a melting pot of different people and backgrounds, that a lot of creativity emerges naturally in the mix.
[24:30] Turning Point. Was there a turning point during the InSITE fellowship that reinforced your desire to continue focusing on startups in your career?
I was already going that direction, but I’ve started to realize how many different options there are within the startup community. There are a lot of support roles available within the ecosystem. Example: angel investors and niche recruiters.
[26:15] Events. What is your favorite event you’ve been to with InSITE?
Kingpins of Silicon Alley: our annual fundraiser down at Chelsea Pier. Buuuuuuut we didn’t even finish our bowling game: it was interrupted by a laser-tag competition, which was even better.
[28:30] Investing. Name THREE (3) companies you would angel-invest in right now.
(1) EdenWorks in NY — taking advantage of decreasing LED costs and growing local organic veggies in urban warehouses. Go food-tech. (Check out the in-depth TechCrunch article on the green-rooftop growing process.)
(2) Power to Fly, described above.
(3) Hopsy in SF — delivering fresh local beer to homes and businesses.
[30:05] Advice. Pick ONE piece of advice to give all the incoming InSITE fellows.
“It is what you make it.” Just get involved, put your back into it.
*starting at [31:00]
- What single daily HABIT is most key to your success? Routine is key.
- What book do you give as a gift or recommend most often? Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In really struck home with me and helped with my career planning.
- What is the coolest startup you have seen in action recently? The one I’m working with this summer called TextIQ. They use AI and analytics to help companies reduce litigation costs.
- Who is the mentor you have learned the most from? I’ve had lots so I’m going to mention four. Two of my basketball coaches George Tolliver & Tim Byers, and two Emory trustees Ben Johnson & Sonny Deriso.
- Whose face first pops into your head when your hear the word Entrepreneur? My boyfriend Zach. He works for NakedWines.com out in Napa right now, but is a serial entrepreneur who has actually started several companies.
- Biggest career failure & career triumph so far? Whenever I lose sight of what I’m trying to accomplish, it leads to failure. Triumphs come when I focus on a list of my 3 law school goals on my desk: academic goals, career success, and personal relationship-building.
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