Jan 19, 2021 • 28M

🔊 Podcast #9 - Getaround's Andrew Byrnes on Lawyering and Leadership in Silicon Valley and Washington

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  • Andrew shares the lessons from transitioning among legal and leadership roles. 

  • A team with a passion for the mission is indispensable when dealing with unexpected challenges. 

  • Finding the fundamental question of a business can open up insights in development. 


On this episode, we interviewed Andrew Byrnes, Deputy General Counsel of Getaround. Andrew has an interesting career trajectory that includes a long run in Big Law, a senior Obama administration official at the USPTO and working in-house within tech for companies like Uber. 

We cover Andrew’s career track, lessons from practicing in government and in-house. We talk about how the pandemic affected Getaround’s business and how they were able to overcome adversity in their subsequent rebound. 

Andrew’s Legal History 

Transitional Lessons

  • Coming into an agency as substantive as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the “rigor of analysis and building/management of teams” from intellectual property litigation was very important. 

    • The largest difference is the client. In a law firm, your client is a company/companies, but in the government the client is the American people.

  • Transferring out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to In-House was helped by the more business-like operations of the PTO.

    • Similarities in breadth of concern also transferred well, e.g. being concerned with the long term well being of the agency and being concerned with everything going at the company as a General Counsel.

The Journey From PTO to Uber

  • Shuddle 

    • Shuddle was a ridesharing service that aimed to allow parents to leverage ridesharing for children.

  • PresenceLearning

    • Marketplace providing telehealth services to kids with special needs.

Role at Uber 

  • Andrew was the Senior Legal Director at Uber, essentially the principal general counsel of the rideshare business.

    • The question of “How do people access opportunities by traveling from one place to another” is both energizing and challenging.

  • Understanding the Product Counsel role

    • Product Counsel worked closely with the business - product managers, engineer, business managers.

    • The close connection with the business offered the opportunity to observe the ridesharing platform around the world.

From Uber to Getaround 

  • Getaround is a connected, contactless carsharing marketplace.

    • Example: Andrew used Getaround to book a pickup truck to pick up a desk.  Hardware in the truck allowed him easy access to the vehicle and he booked and returned the vehicle without meeting the owner." 

  • Uber provided the experience of leading a team of product counsel working closely with the ridesharing business, which positioned Andrew well to judge Getaround and mobility from a birds-eye view.

Role at Getaround

  • What are your responsibilities as Getaround's Deputy General Counsel?"

    • Providing support for a wide variety of legal matters. 

    • The primary focus is public policy, government relations, privacy, regulatory, product legal, and intellectual property.

    •  The relatively small legal team means that everyone is required to be a generalist.

How was Getaround Impacted by COVID? 

  • Although Getaround is contactless, the pandemic still caused bookings to drop 75%. 

  • By late summer, Getaround's bookings doubled from their pre-COVID baseline.

    • This may be due to people taking advantage of Getaround's contactless experience, and concerns about other modalities.

  • How was morale maintained during the period where the survival of Getaround was unsure?

    • The team focused on working to procure COVID-19 related aid.

    • The team kept optimistic and visibly working hard to help the company.

    • A real optimism and passion for the mission helped keep people motivated.

What is the future of mobility / self driving cars? 

  • The acronym ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared) is an indicator of the future of mobility.

    • Even in the case that there are no human-driven cars, there will still be a need for a  framework for connecting people with destinations to those vehicles.

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