- Andrew shares the lessons from transitioning among legal and leadership roles.
- A team with a passion for the mission is indispensable when dealing with unexpected challenges.
- Finding the fundamental question of a business can open up insights in development.
On this episode, we interviewed Andrew Byrnes, Deputy General Counsel of Getaround. Andrew has an interesting career trajectory that includes a long run in Big Law, a senior Obama administration official at the USPTO and working in-house within tech for companies like Uber.
We cover Andrew’s career track, lessons from practicing in government and in-house. We talk about how the pandemic affected Getaround’s business and how they were able to overcome adversity in their subsequent rebound.
Andrew’s Legal History
- After law school in the 90s, Andrew spent 11 years at at Heller Ehrman and 5 years at Covington and Burling.
- Chief of Staff at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- General Counsel at Shuddle
- Executive VP and General Counsel at PresenceLearning.
- Senior Legal Director at Uber.
- Currently Deputy General Counsel at Getaround.
- Coming into an agency as substantive as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the “rigor of analysis and building/management of teams” from intellectual property litigation was very important.
- The largest difference is the client. In a law firm, your client is a company/companies, but in the government the client is the American people.
- Transferring out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to In-House was helped by the more business-like operations of the PTO.
- Similarities in breadth of concern also transferred well, e.g. being concerned with the long term well being of the agency and being concerned with everything going at the company as a General Counsel.
The Journey From PTO to Uber
- Shuddle was a ridesharing service that aimed to allow parents to leverage ridesharing for children.
- Marketplace providing telehealth services to kids with special needs.
Role at Uber
- Andrew was the Senior Legal Director at Uber, essentially the principal general counsel of the rideshare business.
- The question of “How do people access opportunities by traveling from one place to another” is both energizing and challenging.
- Understanding the Product Counsel role
- Product Counsel worked closely with the business - product managers, engineer, business managers.
- The close connection with the business offered the opportunity to observe the ridesharing platform around the world.
From Uber to Getaround
- Getaround is a connected, contactless carsharing marketplace.
- Example: Andrew used Getaround to book a pickup truck to pick up a desk. Hardware in the truck allowed him easy access to the vehicle and he booked and returned the vehicle without meeting the owner."
- Uber provided the experience of leading a team of product counsel working closely with the ridesharing business, which positioned Andrew well to judge Getaround and mobility from a birds-eye view.
Role at Getaround
- What are your responsibilities as Getaround's Deputy General Counsel?"
- Providing support for a wide variety of legal matters.
- The primary focus is public policy, government relations, privacy, regulatory, product legal, and intellectual property.
- The relatively small legal team means that everyone is required to be a generalist.
How was Getaround Impacted by COVID?
- Although Getaround is contactless, the pandemic still caused bookings to drop 75%.
- By late summer, Getaround's bookings doubled from their pre-COVID baseline.
- This may be due to people taking advantage of Getaround's contactless experience, and concerns about other modalities.
- How was morale maintained during the period where the survival of Getaround was unsure?
- The team focused on working to procure COVID-19 related aid.
- The team kept optimistic and visibly working hard to help the company.
- A real optimism and passion for the mission helped keep people motivated.
What is the future of mobility / self driving cars?
- The acronym ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared) is an indicator of the future of mobility.
- Even in the case that there are no human-driven cars, there will still be a need for a framework for connecting people with destinations to those vehicles.
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