Xavier Langlois

The scaleup GC: balancing fundraising with the day job

Scaling legal
July 5, 2021

Navigating a Series C, managing the legal function, and dealing with the day job ... it's enough to make anyone's head explode. How did Beamery's GC handle the workload in his first three months?

Hi 👋 who are you?

I’m Xavier, I’m the GC at Beamery.

You joined Beamery in March 2021 - three months before the business completed the Series C. How did you ensure that you hit the ground running from day one? 

Due diligence was my top priority. I was lucky to be able to do that from the get-go, which allowed me to get under the skin of the business. More often than not, lawyers only get the opportunity to do those when it's too late or when they’ve been in a role for a couple of years - as it usually it ends up being a component of a funding round or an exit. 

Not only was I managing and leading the legal workstream, but I was also overseeing the whole due diligence process. My responsibilities also included coordinating between our advisors, the new investors and their advisors, and our current investors.

It was an amazing way to get to know the business, but quite daunting at the same time; there’s the underlying reminder that you only know what you know! 

Due diligence is a huge project to tackle in your first week...

For the first couple of weeks, my primary focus was getting to know our corporate structure. I reviewed everything in detail in order to both understand the business and deliver value. It was a really exciting and challenging period - there’s an intensity that you also need to contend with. 

What was the most challenging aspect?

Doing the day job alongside the funding round was a huge challenge. I had to remind myself that I joined the business to deliver on a number of tasks - only one of which being the funding round. That project would eventually come to an end, but there will always be sales teams that need legal’s help to close sales contracts, for example. Balancing that work was key.

The business expects me to provide legal advice, but they also expect me to think outside the box and find ways to help in other areas of the company

… And the most rewarding?

Sharing the amazing news of our Series C with everyone. There’s such great energy in the business when you get to share the company’s success as a whole team, with your network, and the public. These announcements reflect all the hard work that has gone into making it happen.

Alongside the Series C, what were your other priorities in the short term?

Beamery is a business achieving double-digit growth, year on year. For me, it was important that legal wore a ‘business hat’, and tried to find answers to two main questions. Firstly, how do we scale with a business that’s growing at such a rate? This doesn't necessarily mean adding headcount; it's about working smarter. 

And secondly, what do we need in order to get there? There's an obvious turn to legal software that enables the legal team and the business to sustain that level of growth. As a GC it’s important to consider these points, and review them, as you get to know the business. 

Within those questions, you then have to explore different points - what does the process look like in terms of the negotiation of contracts, for example? How do we make that process more scalable and more efficient with the resources that we have? What technology can we bring in to enable these changes?

You mentioned that GCs have to wear a ‘business hat’ - what kind of commercial responsibilities did this include for you?

When legal collaborates with the wider business, such as when we review contracts, we need to view everything from a non-legal lens and challenge the business on commercial decisions, as much as the VP of sales or the CRO would. The business expects me to provide legal advice, but they also expect me to think outside the box and find ways to help in other areas of the company.

At Beamery, I’m part of the leadership team, and also responsible for the deal desk function - which you might not expect a General Counsel to do. We’re currently recruiting for a deal desk manager to help support our sales team and enable that growth. The deal desk manager will help connect some of our support functions with the sales team, and ensure they’re unblocked when it comes to closing deals. 

Ultimately, the business wants results. It doesn’t matter if you’re a GC or a paralegal; they're coming to the legal team for something and you have to deliver on it

When you’re the first legal hire, you may not have bandwidth to deal with long-term strategy planning. Does that approach change if you’re joining an existing team?

I think it takes at least six months to a year for someone to really find their feet and understand how the business operates. This feels particularly true at a scaleup, where you have to dive into different tasks that might not typically fall under your remit. It’s a lot of work to tackle and it takes time getting used to that approach. I’ve been quite honest about setting expectations for certain timelines and the business understands my perspective.

What advice would you give GCs in their first week at a high-growth company?

It’s important to remember that every scaleup faces similar challenges. You may have to approach all of them differently because the sector, the culture and the people are different, but if you’ve worked at a scaleup before, there are similarities in each and every one. That does make it easier to navigate the challenges that come with working in such a high-velocity business. 

I also believe you have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. In the earlier stages, you’ll be negotiating NDAs and managing exciting, large-scale projects at the same time, and you need to have an attitude where you’re happy to get involved.

Ultimately, the business wants results. It doesn’t matter if you’re a GC or a paralegal; they're coming to the legal team for something and you have to deliver on it. It might be daunting but it’s also the best way to get to know the business and your team, and it makes working at a scaleup incredibly rewarding.

Thanks, Xavier!

Xavier is the General Counsel at Beamery.

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Xavier Langlois is the General Counsel at Beamery

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