Initialized Capital Management LLC, a venture capital firm behind some of Silicon Valley’s biggest unicorns, has hired its first-ever general counsel in Livingston Miller II from the WeWork Cos. Inc.
Miller, who joined San Francisco-based Initialized in May, most recently served as general counsel for WeWork’s U.S. and Canada operations, having been hired by the co-working company as a senior corporate counsel in 2018. He was promoted the following year to global head of corporate transactions.
Miller will lead all legal and compliance efforts for the firm, Jennifer Wolf, an Initialized partner who was promoted to president last month, said in a statement. “As our fund and team grow, that includes our compliance team as well,” said Wolf, citing Miller’s in-house expertise in mergers and acquisitions, venture capital investments, and diversity and inclusion.
Initialized, co-founded in 2012 by current managing partner Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian, raised $230 million last year for its fifth fund to invest in early-stage startups. Ohanian, a co-founder and former chairman of Reddit Inc., left the firm a year ago this month but remains a part-time board partner at Initialized.
Initialized currently has 12 unicorns in its portfolio with investments in companies worth over $100 billion, spokeswoman Cyndi Reseburg said. The company was an investor in the recent initial public offerings of property technology startup Opendoor Technologies Inc. and Coinbase Global Inc., a cryptocurrency exchange whose valuation soared above $100 billion after its stock market debut in April.
Tan, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, compared Coinbase’s potential impact on the financial services industry to the success over the last decade of technology giants like Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google, and Microsoft Corp.
Those big-ticket investments are handled by an investment team of six, Reseburg said. She noted those Initialized individuals have myriad professional backgrounds, some of whom have founded and built companies and products themselves.
Miller now joins one other lawyer in that group—Alda Leu Dennis, a general partner at Initialized and former general counsel for Founders Fund Management LLC, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, a former Big Law associate and co-founder of PayPal Holdings Inc.
“As our Initialized portfolio grows, we are also growing our ability to support them with our expanded internal legal and compliance structures,” said a statement from Dennis, who also previously was an associate general counsel at Thiel-founded investment firm Clarium Capital Management LLC. “Our first fund is over nine-years-old, and as our portfolio companies mature, our legal needs are also getting more complex with our first IPOs, SPACs, and lots of M&A happening over the last year.”
Dennis, who began her career as a litigator at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, made partner at Initialized in 2017 and has subsequently become a vocal supporter of investing in companies led by women and underrepresented minority groups.
Wolf, Initialized’s new president, said that 50% of the firm’s senior investment team is comprised of women, a rarity in the venture capital world. Wolf also recently announced an open search for new members of Initialized’s investment team and noted that the final three candidates for the firm’s general counsel role were either women or from underrepresented minorities.
Miller told Bloomberg Law that he was drawn to Initialized’s emphasis on fostering a diverse and inclusive atmosphere, both internally and in its investments.
“Diversity within organizations is critical to be innovative, competitive, and successful in the long run,” said Miller, a member of the Black General Counsel Initiative, whose ranks have been profiled by Bloomberg Law. “There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows diverse teams are better at innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making.”
Miller joins Initialized after more than three years at WeWork, where he said he took the lead on a program that developed policies and procedures for ensuring that the company’s outside law firms had “adequate representation of diverse partners and senior attorneys on legal matters.”
At WeWork, Miller advised on more than 100 merger and venture capital deals and led the New York-based company’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Initialized said. During the last year, Initialized noted that Miller helped WeWork right-size its real estate portfolio across the U.S. and Canada.
WeWork, which in January promoted global general counsel Jared DeMatteis to chief legal officer, succeeding the departed Jennifer Berrent, didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether it has replaced Miller. Nor did DeMatteis.
DeMatteis, Berrent, and Miller all previously worked at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in New York. Miller was counsel at the law firm, which he joined as a senior associate in 2014 after spending more than three years at Davis Polk & Wardwell.
WeWork, which was hit hard by Covid-19 following an aborted initial public offering in 2019, is again preparing to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company. WeWork chairman Marcelo Claure told Bloomberg News in May that the company is seeing demand for its services return to pre-pandemic levels.