Episode 17

Big Risks and Big Rewards: René Paula, GC & SVP of Legal & Business Affairs, Vaxxinity

Episode summary

Introduction: 00:15

  • Introducing René Paula, GC & SVP of Legal & Business Affairs, Vaxxinity.
  • Nearing the end of a difficult year in world events.

Recounting the experiences that shaped you as a leader: 2:14

  • Working as a CPA before attending law school.
  • Experiencing different sides of the legal world at Cravath, Swaine, & Moore.
  • Learning the different responsibilities for young, mid-level, and senior lawyers.

Entering the world of financial services at HSBC: 4:18

  • Joining the bank right as they were pulling out of the United States.
  • Becoming the principal transactions lawyer for selling off credit card business, private equity group, and hundreds of bank branches.
  • Enduring a mentally difficult role as a corporation downsizes.

Moving into tech at Amazon’s Audible: 6:13

  • Converting an early transaction for Audible into Amazon’s first legal role outside of Seattle.
  • Preparing a new team for growth in multiple countries and multiple languages.
  • Making content deals with publishers and labor deals with unions.
  • Advancing at the forefront of digital marketing and dealing with related antitrust issues.
  • Developing the early voice and text technology that has become the heart of AI.

Transitioning from in-house lawyer to founder at Sonar: 11:01

  • Drawing from experience as a parent to develop a new take on the baby monitor.
  • The difficult requirements and massive capital needed to enter the hardware business.
  • Selling your business with a focus on patents.
  • Finding an expert to take on the challenges of IP law.
  • Understanding transactions from the owner and founder side of the table.

Spearheading Zx Ventures at Anheuser Busch: 16:39

  • Making programmatic investments for a massive multinational corporation. 
  • Developing a model for incentivizing individual employees instead.
  • Becoming a case study for success at Harvard Business School.

Expanding beyond legal and chasing big enterprise at Bionic: 19:49

  • Drawing from experiences at Deloitte and Cravath to work in board rooms alongside C-suite.
  • Selling strategy to massive organizations as a consultant. 
  • The importance of being comfortable in multiple languages.
  • Recognizing when the numbers don’t work. 

Selling your professional services business to Accenture: 22:43

  • The difficulty of growing a professional services business.
  • Maintaining relationships and reassuring clients during a sale.

Returning to legal and operations at Vaxxinity: 25:29

  • Joining a young company when they’re about to go public.
  • Drafting an IPO prospectus at lightning speed.

Positioning yourself as an operator from the General Counsel role: 32:24

  • Being the type of person that speaks up above and beyond your remit. 
  • Wearing two hats without receiving more salary.
  • Asking real questions to challenge your finance team.

Mistakes you’ve made and seen others make: 38:10

  • Understanding the numbers before you take on risks.

Book recommendations: 41:39

  • Cultish by Amanda Montell.

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Tyler Finn
Head of Community & Growth, SpotDraft
René Paula
GC & SVP of Legal & Business Affairs, Vaxxinity

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