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Satellite Startup Hires Space Law Expert as Next General Counsel

March 12, 2020, 10:12 PM

At a time when many people are thinking about leaving earth, Hawkeye 360 Inc. is looking to pinpoint things on this planet.

The privately held, Herndon, Va.-based company, founded in 2015, announced Wednesday its addition of executive vice president and general counsel Dennis Burnett. Unlike other satellite operators that use pictures to geolocate, Hawkeye monitors commercial signals and radio frequencies to triangulate and track things for its clients.

“If there’s a distress signal coming from a ship, we can locate that on the surface of the earth from space,” said Burnett, crediting Hawkeye’s three “sophisticated, desk-sized” satellites. “They’re one-tenth the cost of a big satellite, so that’s what’s attractive about them.”

Burnett, who has 40 years of space law experience and has long been affiliated with the International Institute of Space Law, started his in-house legal career in the late 1970s at Communications Satellite Corp. He comes to Hawkeye after the company raised $70 million in an August 2019 fundraising round led by aerospace giant Airbus SE. Hawkeye’s former in-house legal chief, J. Alison Alfers, left in September after more than two years at the company to become general counsel at Cherwell Software LLC in Colorado.

Hawkeye brought on Burnett as interim general counsel in November and he ended up staying on permanently as the company’s legal needs continued to expand. Burnett said that Hawkeye frequently deals with contracts and export compliance issues, as well as compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission regulations.

Burnett is now part of a three-person in-house legal team at Hawkeye that includes a paralegal and Michael Mineiro, who joined the company in late 2018 as vice president of legal and regulatory. Burnett said he’s known for years Mineiro, a former staff director and senior counsel for the space subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Mineiro focuses his in-house efforts at Hawkeye on regulatory licensing and compliance, intellectual property, and government affairs. Records on file with the U.S. Senate show that Hawkeye has sought to bolster its congressional influence by retaining Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Hogan Lovells for lobbying work. Akin Gump has so far received $10,000 for its efforts since signing on in January and Hogan Lovells was hired in late February to advocate on commercial space matters, per Senate records.

Burnett, who said Hawkeye intends to launch three more small satellites later this year, declined to discuss whether the company has federal government contracts or disclose the identity of its top outside legal advisers. Weil, Gotshal & Manges counseled Hawkeye on its $70 million fundraising last year and public records show that Hunton Andrews Kurth has handled trademark work for the company.

More Startup Hires

Hawkeye isn’t the only new company adding new law department leaders. Others include:

  • OwnBackup Ltd., an Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery vendor started in 2012, announced Feb. 3 its hire of John Moss as general counsel. Moss, a former head of commercial legal at Salesforce.com Inc., spent the past five years as chief legal officer at FinancialForce.com Inc.
  • Benson Hill Biosystems Inc., a St. Louis-based crop improvement company founded in 2012, touted Feb. 4 its addition of Rebecca Bortolotti, a former in-house lawyer at ConAgra Brands Inc., as general counsel and corporate secretary. Bortolotti joined Benson Hill after serving as a partner at Advent LLP in Omaha.
  • Lotame Solutions Inc., a Columbia, Md.-based data technology company launched in 2006, said Feb. 14 that it had landed Amy Leung, a former deputy general counsel at Reston, Va.-based comScore Inc., to serve as its general counsel and chief privacy officer.
  • TripleLift, a New York-based advertising technology company started in 2012, disclosed Feb. 18 its hire of Julia Shullman as general counsel and chief privacy officer. Shullman most recently served as a vice president and privacy chief at Xandr Co., a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. that acquired her previous employer, multinational technology company AppNexus Inc.
  • Sovos Brands Intermediate Inc., a San Francisco-based food and beverage company founded in 2016, hired Isobel Jones as general counsel and chief legal officer Feb. 24. Jones previously spent two years as general counsel at e-commerce startup Sun Basket Inc.
  • Workiva Inc., an Ames, Ia.-based cloud software company that launched in 2008, announced Feb. 27 that Brandon Ziegler would become general counsel as of March 16. Ziegler, deputy general counsel at New York-based Medidata Solutions Inc., will replace Workiva chief legal officer Troy Calkins as he prepares to retire May 31. Calkins helped take Workiva public in 2014.
  • Lexion.ai, an artificial intelligence contract management company started in 2018 after incubating at Seattle-based nonprofit the Allen Institute, hired Jessica Nguyen as its first chief legal officer March 4. Nguyen joined Lexion from PayScale Inc., a software company started in 2002 that replaced her with Kristen Boraas, a former senior director of corporate legal at Tableau Software Inc.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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