Ron Vaisbort – MemSQL Inc.
Ron Vaisbort hopes it will serve as a manifesto for in-house counsel—a position he describes as a company’s “Chief Problem Solver.”
The as yet untitled book, which he is co-writing with Marisa McGilliard, associate general counsel of Facebook, describes corporate counsel not only as legal minds, but as subject matter experts who use their legal training, communication and other skills to facilitate how products and services are created, marketed and sold, he explains.
The goal is to provide a “how-to” of sorts for lawyers on being strong, collaborative business partners who help set and meet objectives, manage risk and build a valuable company and corporate culture.
“This approach is novel, even though it shouldn’t be,” says Vaisbort, who serves as general counsel for software company MemSQL. “There are little kernels of this out here and there, but nobody seems to have put it all into one coherent framework for attorneys.”
Growing a company and a culture
Based in San Francisco, MemSQL licenses a high-performance “no limits” database management system. This allows companies to ingest, process, analyze and transact “massive amounts of data in real time” Vaisbort explains. MemSQL is expanding its capabilities with a flagship managed cloud service that is currently in beta phase.
As Vaisbort explains, not unlike many young software companies, MemSQL’s initial focus was to produce a fast, efficient software product. But now that the company is rapidly growing and maturing the goal is to build a strong corporate culture and bolster technology capabilities to support customers and partners.
“Customers are not just buying a piece of technology, they’re buying into a trusted relationship with the company,” says Vaisbort. “The goal is: How can we make customers successful?”
Since joining MemSQL three years ago, he has focused on establishing new terms and conditions and evolving licensing models to accelerate customer adoption, while managing risk and setting expectations. Then there is the weaving in of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and other evolving data privacy and protection requirements of MemSQL’s Fortune 100 and customers operating in regulated environments, such as financial services, telecommunications, energy and the U.S. Government. Those become more crucial, he notes, as the company launches a managed service in the cloud.
“There’s no finish line, right?” he says. “We’re constantly doing this as laws change, as threats change, as the types of information we’re working on changes.”
Similarly, Vaisbort is establishing frameworks with MemSQL’s management team to enable more transactions, customer onboarding and business scaling with “less and less friction.” The company is growing into a global business; more than one-third of its customers are outside the U.S.
Vaisbort is also focused on building a legal culture that accounts for many employees being either inexperienced or coming from larger companies—the result being they don’t have much exposure to legal departments. He wants to help them understand what to expect, so that the legal team can provide “near-real-time legal insight.”
“I want folks not to be shy about bringing me into anything,” says Vaisbort, adding that, “the variety and complexity of the issues we deal with is what really keeps me excited. The range of things we have to work on and think about every day is incredible.”
Job No. 1: Building relationships and trust
Despite his emphasis on the “ideal” general counsel, Vaisbort didn’t plan to go to law school. He wanted to be an entrepreneur and a businessman. But his father, an immigrant from Argentina who launched the successful sporting goods business, Master Grip Golf, convinced him otherwise. So Vaisbort went on to study at the University of California at Berkeley and Loyola Law School, then held roles at Intel and Good Technology among others.
Always business-minded and tech-focused—and a self-described “data protection czar”—he is a prolific writer and inventor who published the mystery novel “Murder by Numbers” and holds three patents covering technology and consumer products.
He and McGilliard partnered up for their in-house counsel book about a year-and-a-half ago, he says. It is now in its final draft and includes contributions from other attorneys and mentors.
“It all starts with curiosity and being a good listener,” Vaisbort says. “If you’re not curious and you’re not able or willing to listen patiently and effectively, it’s very hard to learn a new “language” and work with people.”
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