Kirupa Pushparaj made the leap to general counsel last August, having previously worked as deputy general counsel and intellectual property lead at the Jack Dorsey-owned fintech firm Square in San Francisco.
In Managing IP’s latest IP Corner Office Podcast, the now Palo Alto-based general counsel and corporate secretary for Step – a fintech start-up focussed on developing tools to help young people attain financial independence – says the move turned out to be an interesting career shift.
“In a more IP-focused role, you are the subject matter expert and point of contact for anything on that specific topic. But in a general counsel role, you’re obviously taking on many more legal functions.
“You have to go in with humility, knowing there are a lot of topics you’ll be new to. Anyone who thinks they’re an expert in every legal topic there is either lying to themselves or is a superhero.”
Pushparaj adds that the best advice he could give to IP counsel looking to set themselves up for a similar move is to make to known that that’s what they want to do.
“No one is going to find you any less of an amazing IP counsel because you’ve expressed an interest in wanting to do more. Talk to whoever you work with and allocate some time to take on new things.
“You want to take on privacy or tech transactions? Do that, while making sure you’re still dedicating most of your time to your current role.”
Moving on to the subject of start-up IP needs, Pushparaj points out that Step is very much in the start-up stage and much smaller than Square, employing around 130 people. As general counsel, he says, he is much more involved with product design and IP.
“IP protection is commensurate to and parallel to the design of the product in a start-up like ours,” he says.
He adds that start-up counsel have to be very tied into their organisations to make sure they’re validly protecting IP.