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Industry Insight with Nithya Das
This is a profoundly interesting time to bring a company to IPO, so when I saw Nithya Das helmed the IPO for Olo, a B2B SaaS company that develops digital ordering and delivery programs for restaurants, I wanted to learn more.
What's surprised you the most about your role since the IPO?
Since our IPO, I’m most surprised by how little I feel the urge to track the real time stock performance. I thought it would be tempting to always keep tabs on the stock price. We tell our team, keep your focus on the things we can control which are execution and innovation in service of our customers. I’m pleasantly surprised that I follow that same advice! I’ll check the open and the closing price but am so busy during the day that it’s not really something I’m overly focused on unless I need to be.
Related to that, I’ve also always had a perspective that the role of the Chief Legal Officer is a 24-7 job. My general habit as a private company general counsel has been to check my email, Slack, Google alerts, Twitter, and the news as soon as I wake up to make sure nothing came up overnight. Now, being a public company CLO where we live in the public eye with our stock price being publicly viewable on a real time basis takes that to a new level. Although I don’t overly focus on the stock price itself, my daily routines have changed a bit to be more tuned into CNBC and Squawk Box and the market overall in addition to my other checks.
What principles guided you in making decisions on how to manage employees during the IPO?
One of the principles that guided us was staying consistent with Olo’s company culture and values. For example, we value transparency from a cultural perspective and we also view it as being important to the success of our business. When we reviewed our information sharing practices in crafting our insider trading program, our CTO pointed out certain metrics that our engineering and product teams use in the dev and support process. As we implemented new policies, we tried to draft these in ways which could continue to support transparency albeit in a manner that supports public company compliance.
There was of course a lot of information that we had to keep confidential as part of the IPO process, but we were prepared so that as soon as we could talk about it, we educated employees on the IPO process and what it meant for Olo. We also made sure that our CEO could announce our public filing of our IPO Registration Statement to our employees ahead of it being picked up by the press.
Over communicating with employees and being available to answer questions was key. Early in the process, we weren’t sure if we should have an employee Slack channel for asking questions because it could get out of hand with the level of questions and noise. We ultimately did have a channel dedicated to IPO questions, and it really helped ensure that employees felt confident about our preparedness and our ability to provide expertise on public company matters. They also felt taken care of by those of us running the process. The more confident employees felt about the IPO process, the easier it became to ensure that everyone was more focused on running the business than reading about the IPO.
Another principle that guided some of our decision making was optimizing for employees and stockholders where possible. For example, we negotiated for an early lock-up release for current and former employees not including executives and to launch our ESPP at the IPO. This added a lot of complexity and cycles but we knew it was manageable - just a little less sleep for the lawyers and accountants. But we felt it was worth it.
How do you message to your employees during such a significant change?
Every company and employee base is different. At Olo, we had not announced that an IPO was in the works before we filed our registration statement publicly. We had a detailed timeline in place for all communications teed off of our public filing date. We spent time educating employees on all of the various parts of the IPO including the IPO process itself, implications for employee’s stock options and other elements that impacted them like the lock-up agreement and employee stock purchase plan. It was a lot of information! We were also focused on not inundating employees so we tried to do it in bite sizes.
During that same time, our People + Culture and Marketing teams also did a great job of making sure employees took the time to celebrate Olo having reached this milestone. This was made challenging by Covid work from home and our already distributed workforce but they used Slack, Zoom, dining gift cards so people could enjoy a meal from an Olo customer with their families and swag to make it special.
At my last company, AppNexus, when we were acquired by AT&T, we similarly spent a lot of time answering questions - in person, by email and on an employee wiki. I probably answered the same question 25 times without losing my patience.
It’s critical that the legal team be responsive and customer service oriented. That can be challenging because we are also running execution of the deal while planning for communications. I’m fortunate to work with really great legal teams - in-house and outside counsel - who exhibit these traits.
At the end of the day, it’s about how your employees feel about the process. Otherwise, the IPO, acquisition, etc. is for naught.
What contribution are you most proud of in your time at Olo?
I joined Olo in October 2019 but the company had been nearly 14 years in the making. Although I joined later in the journey, I’m proud that I was able to use my SaaS background and late stage, capital markets experience to shepherd the IPO process along in a way that was successful for the company and our stockholders. I’m incredibly proud of the team that executed on this IPO. Many of us have never met in person and the team was fully remote during the deal. We were still aligned and effective on execution.
As part of the IPO, we also launched Olo for Good, our Environmental Social Governance (ESG) effort which I’m leading. We’ve joined Pledge 1 Percent pledging one percent of time, equity and product to doing good. We’re still in the early days of setting our ESG strategy, but I’m excited to steer our long term strategy for doing good while doing well.
Another initiative which I’ve taken on is executive sponsoring the Olo Women’s Network. Championing diversity, equity and inclusion together with corporate social responsibility has always been a core element of my professional and personal work. This work and the Olo for Good work are the work that gives me the energy to do the other parts of my job.
Member Success with Pooja Mehta
Financial Management for Lawyers Part II with SABA
I had a ton of fun presenting part I of this series with Amisha Patel (and moderated by Zain Jinnah) where we explored the values that shaped our personal finance choices. In part II, we'll discuss tactics - how to think implement strategies that reflect your values.
You can join us July 15, 2021 at 6:00pm ET. Register here.
Investing in Multi-Family Real Estate with Rohun Jauhar
The Pani Cooler investing survey had one clear result: members are interested in investing in real estate. Maybe it' not so surprising given the disproportionate South Asians footprint in the hospitality industry. But it's interesting how many turn to it from other paths.
That's why I'm interested in Rohun Jauhar's story. He's shared his journey from leaving a cushy job working at Facebook in Silicon Valley to open up his own real estate private equity firm and grown it to ~$500M assets under management.
Rohun will give a presentation with an overview on investing in multi-family real estate and give us a glimpse into the path ahead for those interested in moving into this space.
Join us June 18 at 5:00pm ET. [Subscribers Only]
Buying Your First Business With Vivek Jayaram
Vivek Jayaram of Jayaram Law has handled transactions from a $125,000 cannabis business to a $80 million IT business. He spilled the beans on how lawyers can buy their first business in an exclusive presentation for Pani Cooler. [Subscribers Only]
Law Student Panel with Divya Advani
If you are a law student looking to increase your reach, Divya Advani, a rising 3L at SMU Dedman School of Law is looking for law students interested in being a panelist for a national event. This panel will share the best ideas on success as a South Asian law student and how to build connections nationally.
Law Student Insights
We have tremendous legal talent among the students in this community. I've advocated elsewhere for law students to take control of their career by building a brand early by publishing and building an audience.
If you are a law student interested in sharing your insights and boost your profile with a national network of South Asian lawyers, you can have your insights published in Pani Cooler. You can apply here.
We have a couple of great pieces coming - stay tuned.
Sponsor: The Indie Guide To Building Your Legal Network
Everyone knows that the best opportunities come from your network. But growing your network is like working out - until you love to do it, it's a chore. And while it's hard to build the habit at first, once you figure out what works for you you're running at full steam.
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It's the playbook I used to go from a regional school to an AmLaw 20 firm. It's the book I wish I had when I set out to set my career.
Here's what Amisha Patel had to say about The Indie Guide: "Your writing is clear and concise, and I like how you weave in personal anecdotes and stories from others. You also outline a very clear action plan. Even as someone not in the law school setting, I found this extremely valuable in thinking about ways to reinforce many of the lessons that needed reinforcing on how to present well in strengthening and nurturing my network."
Pick up your copy here.