'Tis the season for bargain hunting, which means that Lou Agnese is in high gear, advising sales and management teams at his company on marketing and trademark issues and promotional campaigns with merchants.
"The holiday season is a busy period for the legal team, as it is for our company as a whole," says Agnese, general counsel and corporate secretary for WhaleShark Media Inc.
The Austin-based, privately held company owns and operates a collection of online sites where consumers can find coupons and deals from retailers around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France.
WhaleShark receives commissions from the merchants who offer coupons on the sites it owns, such as RetailMeNot.com.
Agnese says he spends most of his time on privacy issues, intellectual property protection, acquisitions and working with the company's marketing team. Privacy issues include making sure that WhaleShark meets the United Kingdom's and France's stringent regulations regarding how companies collect, store and use consumer data, he says. Typical IP matters are filing trademarks and protecting the company's brand, he says.
The company had only about 75 employees when Agnese became its first in-house lawyer in October 2011. Just 14 months later, the company has 300 employees worldwide, Agnese has added two lawyers to his legal department, and he plans to hire another in-house lawyer during the next six months.
He says the company has garnered about $300 million from venture capitalists and forecasts that 2012 revenue will exceed $125 million. Although Agnese had been a corporate lawyer in a firm for eight years before joining WhaleShark, he says he had never been part of the fundraising presentation team.
"Most of my experience was involved in the legal side; I didn't get to be part of the actual pitching, in talking to investors," he says.
Investors ask a lot of questions about competition, risks and trademark protection. "You don't have much of a voice left when you're done talking to those guys," he says.
Agnese grew up in San Antonio and earned a bachelor's degree in business at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, where his father was president of the university. He became interested in law school after spending time with a friend of his father's, David Cibrian, then a corporate partner with the San Antonio office of the now-defunct Jenkens & Gilchrist.