O’Melveny & Myers has hired Viqar Shariff, former chief strategy officer for the cognitive computing company Loop AI Labs and a veteran deal lawyer, for its emerging companies practice in New York.
Shariff will also join the firm’s Momentum industry group, which was formed several years ago to represent entrepreneurs and technology companies from the start-up phase through going public. He will be responsible for leading the group’s expansion in the New York market.
Momentum has advised Sequoia Capital in its funding of the food delivery startup DoorDash and represented Google in a patent infringement case. In 2019, the group helped close nearly 200 venture capital financings and raised more than $6.2 billion for start-ups and later-stage growth companies, according to O’Melveny.
Shariff’s career has straddled the worlds of law and business. Before joining Loop AI Labs, he founded a venture capital firm and worked as a private equity fund managing partner, Clifford Chance partner, and Justice Department lawyer.
“We’ve never really had anybody on the ground who has the chops to develop this practice locally,” said David Makarechian, chair of O’Melveny’s emerging technologies group. “Despite this pandemic, deals are continuing to go forward, and we don’t want to miss a beat.”
As chief strategy officer at Loop AI Labs, Shariff worked as a liaison to outside legal counsel, financing sources, and investors.
Before that, he was co-founder and managing partner at SAFA Partners LLC and managing partner at investment fund Rizvi Traverse Management LLC. In those roles, he directed investments in companies including Lyft Inc., Facebook Inc., Pinterest Inc., and Twitter. In the process, O’Melveny said, Shariff worked closely with lawyers from the firm on many transactions.
“In the New York legal marketplace, much of the focus is on public company M&A, so there’s a hole when it comes to representing emerging companies and startups,” Shariff said. “I want to be able to grow the business as much as possible.”