Venture to Victory Symposium Brings Together Successful College of Law Entrepreneurs, Legal Experts, and Finance Professionals

Panelists sit at a long table waiting to respond to questions at the Innovation Law Center's "From Venture to Victory" event.
From left: James Kelly L’99, Luke Cooper L’01, Kevin Whittaker L’02, Peter Alfano L’94 and Lon Levin L’80.

The College of Law’s Innovation Law Center (ILC) recently held the symposium “Venture to Victory:  Pioneer Perspectives in Tech, Venture, and Private Equity.” The symposium featured five distinguished alumni guests representing the legal, and financial aspects of bringing a new high-tech company from early-stage funding to exit strategies. The panelists were:

  • Peter Alfano L’94, Partner, DLA Piper  
  • Luke Cooper L’01, Founding General Partner and Managing Director, Latimer Ventures
  • James Kelly L’99, Partner and Chair, New York Private Equity, DLA Piper  
  • Lon Levin L’80, President, SkySevenVentures 
  • Kevin Whittaker L’02, Chief Legal & Compliance Officer, Ripcord  

The day’s events started with Cooper and Whittaker visiting the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, the hub for the University’s innovation community, connecting the campus innovation ecosystem with a global network that supports innovators, entrepreneurs, and creatives. University students involved in entrepreneurship, start-ups, and innovation were able to meet with Cooper and Whittaker and discuss strategies and career paths.

Alumni meet with students in the BlackStone LaunchPad

Later, the alumni panelists attended an informal lunch with ILC Research Assistants and leaders from the College’s Corporate Law Society and Intellectual Property Law Society (event co-sponsors). The students were able to interact directly with the alumni guests, getting invaluable career and networking tips.

The well-attended symposium was held in two distinct segments. First was a more traditional panel discussion led by ILC Executive Director Brian Gerling L’99. Gerling asked questions about career trajectories and the role of attorneys in venture capital (VC) investments and private equity (PE) acquisitions. The personal experiences of the alumni provided realistic perspectives and lessons learned that were shared with the students.

A student in the audience asks a question at the Innovation Law Center's "From Venture to Victory" event.

A role-playing negotiation scenario was the basis for the second half of the symposium. The alumni took on key roles in the negotiated exit for the CEO of a high-tech start-up company in the aerospace industry. Alumni representing the CEO, in-house counsel, the VC firm that provided the initial funding, the acquiring PE firm, and the law firm that represents the acquiring PE firm.

The result of this lively exercise was a realistic view of how legal professionals think and the guidance they provide firms and individuals involved in financial negotiations. A key takeaway was that today, lawyers need to work together rather than as adversaries for deals to be successful. The symposium ended with questions from the students and input from the panelists on the importance of building your network and connections.