We recently spoke with Yoav Lurie, founder and CEO of Simple Energy, a Techstars in Boulder 2011 company. Through relevant messaging and engaging software services, Simple Energy partners with utility companies to help consumers make sense of their energy usage, save more and enjoy doing so.
Yoav talks about the company’s relationship with a Techstars sponsor as a strategic partner, Cooley. Cooley is a global firm with an entrepreneurial spirit and deep, substantive experience helping founders build businesses and transform breakthrough ideas into successful companies.
How did Simple Energy meet Cooley?
We connected through Techstars. Two partners from the Colorado Cooley practice, Noah Pittard and Mike Platt, came to Techstars while we were in the program.
How have Simple Energy and Cooley worked together?
Cooley is our strategic legal partner.
About nine months after we finished the Techstars programs, we were finding that the process of negotiating and documenting commercial relationships with public utilities was really driving up our legal spending in a way that felt unsustainable. So we and Cooley sat down together and—at no cost to us—developed a planning structure for negotiating and documenting future public utility contracts. The result was a tool sheet that we could use with customers that helped us work through the terms of our agreements in a clear and efficient way. The net impact of this tool sheet was reducing the legal costs of partnering with public utilities by about 70 percent.
We’ve saved money by working with Cooley. They have always been really transparent at every turn, particularly with pricing. When it came to a specific litigation matter, for example, they recommended another local legal partner who could handle the matter at a reduced cost while Cooley maintained an overall strategic advisory role. We’ve found that sometimes the best way for us to engage Cooley effectively is by having them supervise local counsel on lower-stakes day-to-day work.
Cooley is also not afraid to leverage technology to make their services more cost-effective. For example, when we were raising our Series B round, we wanted to use a company called eShares for cap table management and 409a valuation, and, once Cooley got comfortable that using eShares wouldn’t lead to unintended adverse consequences to our business, they were totally supportive. Since then, Cooley has helped many of their other clients move to using eShares. Leveraging technology allows Cooley to be more strategic, and focus less on transactional matters.
Regardless who our counsel is for a particular issue, whether it’s Cooley or a firm that Cooley recommends, the final decision is almost always made with Cooley as the overarching counsel on the negotiation.
What unique value does Cooley bring to the table?
Cooley’s ability to think about their strategic value add sets them apart. Also, the Cooley brand itself lends a lot of credibility, including the local partners in Colorado that we work with.
Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their legal partners?
Yes. Find a legal partner who you know can be a strategic value add—a firm that will be your partner. It may be one of your biggest decisions. Find a partner early and keep them engaged over a long time period. Having a legal partner will save you from a lot of mistakes. And it will save you money over the long run. Also, have a candid relationship with your counsel about other legal partners you may be using. You have to have a partner you trust, who is aligned with you, and who understands the capital constraints of startups.
Cooley has been that partner for us.
What’s the latest and greatest in the Simple Energy world?
We’re gaining a lot of traction overseas and are looking at opening an office in Europe. And as we expand into areas where the Techstars network exists, we’ll use the Techstars network to make that expansion.
We’re hiring, too: http://simpleenergy.com/company/