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Notion Nabs First Legal Chief From Fellow Tech Unicorn Zendesk

Nov. 16, 2020, 10:15 AM

Notion Labs Inc. has hired its first in-house legal chief in Hasani Caraway, who has joined the workplace productivity startup from rival software company Zendesk Inc.

Caraway is one of five new executives recruited by Notion, announced Akshay Kothari, the company’s chief operating officer, in a Nov. 12 post on LinkedIn.

Kothari touted Caraway’s expertise guiding Zendesk, which focuses on customer service software, through its initial public offering in 2014.

“He’s helping us make sure that even though we’re on the early side, we’ve got best-in-class approaches to privacy, contracting, employment policy,” Kothari wrote on LinkedIn, where he served as vice president of product and head of LinkedIn India prior to joining Notion in 2018.

Notion joined the ranks of Silicon Valley’s technology unicorns earlier this year after it was valued at $2 billion following a $50 million fundraising effort led by venture capital firm Index Ventures and other investors.

The New York Times reported that Notion needed the extra cash to cope with an increase in business, as customers clamored for the company’s collaboration software due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Caraway told Bloomberg Law in an email that he’s the “first person to lead the legal department” at Notion, which makes products and other tools that enable remote work. Notion’s clients include individuals and companies that use its application’s templates to track their work, workflows, and other projects.

“This year forced organizations to trust their teams more, embrace the differences in them, and unlock the problem solver in us all,” Caraway wrote on LinkedIn. He added in Kothari’s post announcing his hire that he hopes to use Notion’s platform “to build a one of a kind legal team.”

Caraway declined to discuss the names of outside law firms that have advised Notion, noting that he just came aboard and is trying to figure out which firms will best serve the company’s needs going forward. Public records show that Barnes & Thornburg has done trademark work for Notion.

“While I just joined, I know that the company has been happy to build a product that can help many people and companies during this time,” said Caraway, a venture capital, corporate finance and governance, and mergers and acquisitions specialist.

Caraway began his legal career as an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, leaving in 2013 to join Zendesk. The company, which has its roots in Denmark, but like Notion is now based in San Francisco, promoted him to general counsel in 2017.

John Geschke, chief legal officer and chief of staff at Zendesk, didn’t respond to a request for comment about Caraway’s replacement. Neither Geschke nor Caraway were among Zendesk’s top five highest-paid executives in 2019, according to a proxy statement filed by the company for that fiscal year. Bloomberg data shows that Geschke currently owns $3.83 million in Zendesk stock.

Zendesk’s website lists an opening for its general counsel position.

The company, which has expanded rapidly since its stock market debut a half-dozen years ago, has projected that its sales would slow this year as a result of the economic downturn. Zendesk also defeated this month a would-be class action accusing it of misleading investors about its performance and sales capabilities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com