Stubbs Alderton’s Preccelerator program is a legal boon for the tech boom
Published in 2017 Southern California Super Lawyers magazine on January 20, 2017
It was a bad time to start up anything, really.
“This was right after 9/11,” recalls managing partner Scott Alderton. “It was a horrible time for tech startups in L.A.” But he and Joe Stubbs, Murray Markiles, John McIlvery and Greg Akelsrud rolled the dice and formed their firm in early 2002 with a clear mission statement: to translate their passion for early- and middle-stage startup clients into a thriving law practice. They wanted to become the firm for tech companies.
They’re on their way. In 15 years, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles in Sherman Oaks has established itself as one of the most dynamic tech-focused firms in the L.A. area—shepherding Skype and Beats Music from inception to sale (clients eBay and Apple, respectively), and helping numerous startups reach escape velocity by committing to a field of law practice that has become, over time, only more competitive.
Tech growth in the L.A. area, and Santa Monica specifically, has drawn a flood of Silicon Valley firms into the newly christened “Silicon Beach.” The crowded field encouraged Stubbs Alderton to look for new ways to serve its tech clients.
By 2012, says Alderton, “the whole accelerator thing was happening” and the firm felt a need to create a Santa Monica presence. Says Alderton: “We wanted to do something meaningful.”
They found it with their Preccelerator program. Like a typical startup accelerator program, the Preccelerator (trademarked by the firm) helps fledgling tech companies by providing support and office space. Companies participate in the program for a fixed length of time—in this case, six months, after which time the firm and startup meet to determine if they both want to extend their run.
What makes Preccelerator different? Its companies are earlier in the development process—sometimes coming in with “just an idea, and not much else,” according to Alderton. The second difference: “The main component of an accelerator is funding,” Alderton says. “They provide funding. We don’t.”
Instead, the program provides office space, AWS and cloud computing credit and, perhaps most importantly, access to Stubbs Alderton lawyers and an extensive team of volunteer mentors from across the business spectrum.
“[These] are things that every startup needs,” says Voter founder Hunter Scarborough. His startup came to the Precelerator with 5,000 users. By the end of a year in Santa Monica, Voter had 220,000 users and was named the “#1 Up-and-Coming App” by Newsweek.
One of the most beneficial perks of the program, says Scarborough, is a collegial atmosphere in which startups, mentors and firm lawyers interact freely. “[Early-stage startups] have pretty lean teams,” he notes. “It’s nice to be in the trenches with people who are facing the same hurdles as you. We try to help each other out.”
Adds Duncan Swezey, founder of Rally, “We entrenched ourselves in the Santa Monica space. We all became close and feel very comfortable opening our Rolodexes to help each other any way we could.”
Although Alderton sometimes sounds like the head of a non-profit—peppering the conversation with words like “good energy”—Stubbs Alderton has begun taking a small equity stake in each company. “Hopefully, these companies will grow and become clients,” Alderton says.
And at the heart of the project, Alderton says, are benefits beyond profits.
“I had a client the other night tell someone that he doesn’t view me as a lawyer, but as part of his team who has a legal background—as a trusted adviser who helps them with their business,” he says. “That was very gratifying.”