Google hires phalanxes of lawyers because of Apple's aggression

A team of heavyweights from the biggest tech companies in the world described the way they dealt with entrepreneurial inquiries.

Bernard Gander, Logitech; Deborah Magid, IBM strategist VC group; Anil Hansjee, Google; and  Tero Mennander, Nokia were sitting on the dais. Google lit out against Apple and said it had hired a whole team of lawyers to deal with patents because Steve Jobs had been so litigious.

Now read on…. and try to make sense of this…

The  big guns are trying to explain corporate development to a handful of people at the White Bull conference in Sitges. We think people slept in this morning and forgot to have breakfast, but we’re not sure.

IBM’s Magid has a department called corporate development which reports to the chief beancounter and looks at what is called deal flows. Strategy is split into two functions – the corporate HQ that looks at new businesses – an example being cloud computing which includes software and data centres and that. Each business unit has a strategist -the hardware business has one of them, and Magid is a software strategist.

Anil H from Google said every company has a different implement. It has a separate group for partnerships, a separate M&A team, a separate Google investment team in the US – it has tactics as well as strategies. There is a difference you know. High level strategies involve the executives on the executive committee.

Nokia has three levels – the chief beancounter portfolio which is top down, the second level is core business development and the third level is new business development.

Frank Kelcz, the moderator from SEB Ventures, said he had found ways to sneak into companies.

Deborah Magid said she is the friendly face of Big Blue. She admitted she had oversimplified things but part of her job is to take a view of what IBM’s business priorities are. Relationship building helps people find a path into the business.  Anil H said he aspired to have the maturity level of his colleagues on the dais. He’s been with Google for four years and over time the company has realised the intensity of the relationships he has to maintain. Google is closer to the setups that IBM, Logitech and Nokia have. You wouldn’t think that would you?

Gander from Logitech said that he is having a gander three or four years down the line as well as doing current deals. It’s a bet, he said. You have to look at strategic fits. If you talk to VCs or entrepreneurs it’s with the objective of finding an emerging or disruptive technology that will enhance existing business.

Anil H disagreed, not profoundly, but subtely. As a banker, VC or entrepreneur, if you approach any corporation you should have the mindset that you might want to sell your company, “full stop”. You should always have that in the back of your mind, said Anil. You should always have the end goal in mind.

IBM almost never buys a company that it hasn’t a relationship with, said Majid. It looks at those deals, and occasionally may do one. Nokia agrees. You shouldn’t approach Nokia with the mindset of selling your company.

Interesting. No wonder Google is so powerful.

The Nokia guy says it can take quite some time to find the relevant time to find the right people in big elephants like Google, IBM and Nokia.

IBM’s switchboard has a very well structured telephone directory and it’s possible to get to the right person using its “Blue Pages”. Google doesn’t have a switchboard. Anil H said you have to think of the number of deals people get. This is kind of Sales 101, he said. Logitech has a switchboard but also has a way for entrepreneurs to get through the front door. Nokia has a switchboard but it’s not the best way to approach the Finnish company. Personal relationships work better, said the man.

Logitech does not sign NDAs. IBM does screen things in a way that’s safe. Magid said she has a central position within the business. It’s possible that people might “cross contaminate” each other. Google’s guy said the company has a separate team focused entirely on patents and has a big team of lawyers and has grown since Apple decided to be aggressive. It’s only going to get worse. Apple has opened up a Pandora’s Box, said Anil. Patents have always been a big issue. Google did need to separate out that team to make sure there’s no taint in patent issues. Ultimately, Google would never buy a company unless it had a good understanding of the team, the quality of the team and how the technology works.