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Kevin Lapidus is senior vice president and general counsel at YellowBrix Inc., based in Alexandria, Va.
Can you tell us a little bit about the company? YellowBrix is a content-management and targeted-news-and-information company. Our software reads, analyzes, and categorizes news and information into various categories. We acquire news articles and research reports from over 3,000 news sources � for instance, AP, UPI, ProQuest, and Knight Ridder. Large media companies, in other words. This content is then filtered through our software, which is able to understand what these articles are about. For instance, it can understand the difference between Tiger Woods and an actual tiger. It’s what we call contextual analysis. Using artificial intelligence, the software looks at the juxtaposition of words and determines what the article means. Our customers use this information to see how they’re portrayed in the news, keep track of the competition, look at the supply chain or vendors, and to look at regulations that apply to them. It can be used in corporate portals, on Web sites, and is also distributed to wireless services via SMS, or short-message service, which can go to any wireless device. The service could also be in a lobby display or in a wireless hot spot; for example, it could be geared toward local news for that area. What we’re providing is syndicated, focused news and information, so you know the reliability of your sources, which are pre-screened and relevant to you, the user. It makes you more efficient in the corporate environment. It’s a real productivity driver, having this available to you. Our business market is broadly defined as the digital-content space. News and information, music, and movies are all part of digital content. It’s a very interesting area for three reasons. First, we have dynamic business models. The market is still testing new business models in how you distribute content. Is it free with advertising or pay-per-view, etc.? Second, we have new technology for the distribution of content, over the Internet or with wireless devices. Proprietary licensed content, RSS feeds � it’s all out there. Third, the legal regime, in terms of the digital-content space, is still very much in flux. Cases like MGM versus Grokster, which in essence was decided based on the knowledge and intent of the companies, left open the debate about dual-use technology. Copyright issues like fair use are still being flushed out � there is still honest debate about fair use and copyright in some industries. In the end, business viability really boils down to the importance of attorneys and the licensing regime. This is an opportunity for lawyers to play a business role as well as a legal role. Licensing is critical to a company. How many people are in your legal department? One person � I’m the only attorney. Our company’s history is an interesting business case study. We were founded in 1997 through a buyout of Infoseek, a Web search portal. Since our inception we have been backed by the Soros Private Equity Group as well as ABN AMRO. Other stockholders include AOL, Disney, Bertelsmann, and Tribune. Then we filed to go public and were partially through the IPO process in 2000. At that point the Nasdaq tech window closed quickly; we missed the IPO window by about three months. We spent a couple of years reorganizing the company, retooling our business model, and recapitalizing the company. 2004 was our breakout year: We became a profitable company; we acquired FluentMedia, a content-licensing group, from Tribune Media Services. Things have proceeded well. We’re hiring again; we have a number of job openings. Tell us about your role in the company. Today I’m involved in helping to manage board and investor-relations issues, including capital structure, financing, and corporate events. I’m involved in corporate governance, making sure the corporate processes and checks and balances are in place. And I work on transactions including IP licensing, customer contracts, and corporate finance. We handle mergers and acquisitions and financing in-house. During our reorganization I did the workouts with the vendors as we retooled, and helped to recapitalize the company by taking a number of series of preferred stock and converting them to common stock. It all was part of the recapitalization of YellowBrix. What’s new on the horizon? For tech companies there are important changes to the deferred-compensation law under the Internal Revenue Code � namely, how you value stock for stock-option purposes. These are big changes. What’s the chain of command? I report to our CEO, Jeff Massa. He was also one of the company’s founders, in 1997. What outside firms do you use? We use Howrey for IP work and Hogan & Hartson for employee benefits, corporate finance, and immigration-law work. What are the biggest challenges on the job? Digital intellectual property issues are important and interesting. I want to put in a plug for a Web site from the Committee for Economic Development. They have a report on www.ced.org that really goes through the issues surrounding digital content and what the regulatory regimes could be, what business models exist, and ways to protect the IP rights of content creators while also spurring technology development. I’m also on the board of the Association of Corporate Counsel, the D.C. chapter. There are important issues that affect all in-house counsel. One is the importance of an in-house bar as a distinct knowledge and influence base within the overall bar. I think the in-house bar can play a larger role in commenting on and formulating regulatory initiatives � for instance, in the area of corporate governance and the attempt to define the DNA of corporate compliance. We’re on the front lines, and the overall bar should take into account the in-house bar’s unique perspective on these issues. Also, it’s part of our initiative this year to be more involved in other debates. There are two key issues: One is protecting the attorney-client privilege, particularly as it applies to communication with in-house counsel, even in the context of complying with government investigations, and another is the licensing of in-house counsel by the Virginia State Bar. What’s your background? I went to Harvard Law School, and then I was a corporate attorney at Hale and Dorr and then at Hogan & Hartson. I left to join a client, OneMain.com, an Internet-access provider, which I helped to take public while at Hogan & Hartson. OneMain was later acquired by EarthLink. After that I came to YellowBrix, to help take it public. I’ve been here since 2000, a little over five years. What’s the best part of the job? I enjoy the combination of business and legal skills, particularly as these skills are applied to the digital IP area, which is very dynamic. Where would we find you when you’re not in the office? This summer my wife and I took a bike trip through Maine. It was a one-week trip through Acadia National Park and Camden. In the winter I like skiing. I’m taking my son skiing next weekend. Read any good books lately? As a parent, I just read a book called Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, which is about child development and focusing on learning through play. It’s a very interesting book. I’m now reading Executive Intelligence, by Justin Menkes, which is about problem-solving in a business environment. It discusses the overall aspects of decision-making, and it analyzes what to look for in individuals who can lead a company. Anything else? YellowBrix is in an interesting historical area, where the Alexandria Canal used to be. The canal connected Georgetown to the port of Alexandria. It was used for things such as bringing coal down the C&O Canal. We can see parts of the canal that are still here.

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