Philadelphia Startup Leaders Discuss Work, Challenges at Student-Led Event


Pictured Above: Greg Seltzer, Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP; Ellen Weber, Executive Director of Robin Hood Ventures; Chis McDemus, Managing Partner at Baer Crossey McDemus LLC; Keenan Corrigan, Philadelphia Director of Venture for America; and Jennifer Maher, Co-CEO of 1776

Speaking to a packed house of more than eighty mostly first and second year students, Baer Crossey Managing Partner Chris McDemus, Robin Hood Ventures Executive Director Ellen Weber, Ballard Spahr Partner Greg Seltzer, 1776 Co-CEO Jennifer Maher, and Venture for America Philadelphia Director Keenan Corrigan discussed some of the many challenges and opportunities that exist in working in the Philadelphia startup community.

The event, co-hosted by Temple Law’s Business Law, Tax, and Bankruptcy Law Societies and moderated by Professor Jonathan Lipson and Temple Law alum Matt Devine, took place on October 19 in Klein Hall. During the hour-long discussion, panelists were asked about how they add value to the companies they work with, the role lawyers play in supporting this work, and what the best and worst parts of their respective jobs are, among other topics.

“For me, as an investor, one of the most important things we look for in a company is who the company’s lawyer is,” explained Weber, who also doubles as the Director of the Fox Business School’s Entrepreneurship program. “There are about a handful of lawyers, maybe 10-15 in the entire city, who we know are experts in this field and working with them makes our jobs that much easier.”

As one of the three lawyers on the panel, Seltzer said that one of the challenges of being a lawyer in the startup field is managing some of the personalities and expectations of often young founders. “Being coachable, while at the same time having that confidence to lead a company, is a really delicate and often difficult balance for a founder to handle. On the one hand, you want a company’s founders to believe in themselves and believe in their product, but on the other I’ve unfortunately seen too many situations where a company’s founder is too confident and causes real problems to the company’s growth. It’s a balance that is really hard to teach but really necessary for any company to grow sustainably,” said Seltzer, a Temple Law alum and partner in Ballard Spahr’s emerging growth and private capital group where he founded the Ballard Academy for Student Entrepreneurs (BASE) initiative.

“It kills me to work with so many good companies with good ideas who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to get the funding they need to survive,” explained 1776 Co-CEO Maher, a former Pepper Hamilton attorney turned entrepreneur who helped found the co-working space startup Benjamin’s Desk before it recently merged with the New York City and Washington, D.C.-based 1776. “As a result, I run a lot,” joked Maher, before adding that being an attorney-turned-entrepreneur has really allowed her expand her skillset into all sorts of new and exciting areas that were previously unavailable to her as a junior attorney at a major international law firm.

“At the end of the day,” said Baer Crossey’s McDemus, who also runs the blog, “it’s about finding a group of people you like working with trying to build something together. At this point in my career, I have had a few clients who we’ve done work for two or three of their companies, and it is always fun to help them grow from concept to company to acquisition.”

The event, which was the first part of a series that is likely to resume in the spring, also highlighted Temple Law’s revamped Lawyering for Entrepreneurship class which builds on some of the themes discussed by the panel. The class, which is a drafting simulation class where law students create, guide, and build two imaginary startups from concept to acquisition, is generally offered in the spring to mostly 3L students. More information on the class can be found on Temple Law’s website.

Elisa Hyder (LAW ’19) is the President of Temple’s Business Law Society and a Staff Editor for Temple Law Review.

Matt Devine (LAW ’16) is an associate at Hill Wallack LLP and a member of the firm’s Venture Capital & Emerging Markets, Banking & Financial Services, Business & Commercial Services, and Public Finance practice groups.

Leave a Comment