The best outcomes often morph out of a process of iteration, challenging assumptions and incorporating new information and opportunities as they become available.
Michael Hagele serves as outside general counsel for a group of technology companies in the aerospace, internet, defense, and biotechnology industries. Michael is also an investor in early-stage technology companies as well as a founder and investor in a number of firms in the restaurant and hospitality industries.
Michael has broad experience negotiating, drafting and closing technology, licensing distribution and development agreements in the domestic and international Internet, telecommunications, software, and hardware fields. Michael also has experience in a wide variety of commercial agreements as they relate to technology companies including promotional and marketing arrangements as well as intellectual property purchases and sales and analysis of intellectual property rights portfolios in relation to corporate financing and M&A transactions.
Prior to his current practice, Michael served as general counsel for a number of venture capital-backed internet companies where he managed all legal affairs including intellectual property strategy, corporate governance, employment issues, stock option plan administration and merger and acquisition activity. Prior to that, Michael was at the Silicon Valley offices of Fenwick & West LLP in the Licensing and Online Commerce Group. Michael received his J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and his B.A. from the University of Iowa.
Where did the idea come from?
My experience as both an outside and in-house counsel has shown me that sole practitioners or smaller firms can frequently provide high-quality, cost-effective legal services to clients in technology focussed businesses.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start by handling the day to day matters of my technology clients. Typically this involves general or intellectual property related legal counseling and then getting down to the nuts and bolts of drafting and reviewing contracts, typically technology licensing agreements.
In the early afternoon, I typically take a break for a mountain or road bike ride and often find that this is when I’m at my most creative. It’s not unusual for me to be able to arrive at a new approach for a client’s issues during these times. When I’m back in the office, I’ll often have a fresh outlook that can be difficult to find if you’re just grinding throughout the day on the same issues.
In the afternoons through the early evening, I’ll deal with client issues that have popped up throughout the day as well as continuing to bring about resolutions to ongoing matters.
I also have investment partners overseas so later in the evening, I’ll often spend time on the phone checking in on strategy and progress.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Tenacity is key, never giving up. The best outcomes often morph out of a process of iteration, challenging assumptions and incorporating new information and opportunities as they become available.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Artificial Intelligence and its varied applications including genetic programming. I’m an investor and advisor to a company that has launched an application used by non-profit companies to identify the best and most productive use of funding. We’re using machine learning algorithms to find patterns and obscured relationships in data to shed light on and provide insight into unclear, unknown or overlooked aspects of program impact. These patterns and insights can provide evidence to justify program expansion, reduce costs and create the groundwork for optimized program results.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think putting the customer first is one of the most effective habits you can get into as an entrepreneur.
Especially as an attorney, a client’s life or business rests on your ability to do the best job possible, which is a lot of pressure – but in that you also find purpose. You want to always be thinking about your client’s best interest, what will make their life better, how I can you put their interests first.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked at a car wash in the winter in Chicago. I can still feel the pain and numbness in my hands. If anything, I learned that I wanted to take charge of my education and find something meaningful to do.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think physical activity plays a big role in recharging and sharpening your mind. Time can be tight but anything you can do to get moving helps in this regard. I spend time on mountain and road bikes but even a walk around the block can stimulate energy and creativity.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Social media is very important for growing your business these days. It’s a great way to really connect with your customers. We don’t like to overdo it in this regard but it can be very helpful to have an ongoing dialogue regarding your products and services.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We opened a restaurant with a celebrity chef who was not interested in participating in the company from an equity perspective. When dealing with the subject of compensation, this person was ambivalent about the possibility of taking some compensation in equity as opposed to salary. Looking back, I should have seen that as a big red flag. You need people in your company who are invested in its success whether through stock options or some other equity mechanism. We’ve found that equity participation can really help to ensure that everyone is pushing for the success of the enterprise.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Hands down, TSA PreCheck. It sounds prosaic but flying through the terminal without waiting in line is one heck of a value for $100.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I use a blend of MS Office and Google’s various web offerings. If we’re talking about love, however, I’d have to go with Strava. It’s a lot of fun keeping up with friends’ mountain bike rides in Marin and Tahoe. Competition aside, it’s just great way to connect with like-minded people.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. A fascinating account of the birth of the United States and very entertaining as well.
- Starting from thousands of randomly generated test objects, the method selects the better individuals and applies processes such as mutation and recombination to generate successive generations.
- Over the course of dozens of generations, the population of individuals gradually fulfills the target criteria to a greater degree. At the end of the run, the best individual is harvested as the solution to the posed problem.
- In electronics, the technique has reproduced patented inventions, some of which lie at the forefront of current research and development. Other inventions include antennas, computer algorithms for recognizing proteins, and general-purpose controllers. Some of these computer-evolved inventions should themselves be patentable.
- By the end of the decade, we envision that increased computer power will enable genetic programming to be used as a routine desktop invention machine competing on equal terms with human inventors.
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Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.