Untold Innovation: A few minutes with David Willbrand
By: Katie Taylor
This year at Untold Content, we’re focusing on stories of Untold Innovation. As a firm committed to innovation storytelling from thought leaders across organizations and sectors, we have embarked on a journey to uncover stories of innovative thinking that are galvanizing change and growth in four main industries: tech, medical, science and human impact. This first quarter, we’re focused on the tech sector. We asked you to nominate thought leaders in your field who are driving innovation, and we are amazed at the response! Here is our third feature story of untold innovation.
If you’re immersed in the #StartupCincy scene, then you probably know David Willbrand. If you follow our city’s startup conversations on LinkedIn, then you definitely know David Willbrand. David is one of those business superheroes who is not only capable of doing his own complex work, but also documenting that work in pithy, awe-inspiring content that everyone on the outskirts can follow with great anticipation. Top that off with his commitment to teaching university law classes at the University of Michigan and the University of Cincinnati, and you’ve got one massively important player to the current and future state of Midwest innovation.
But David wouldn’t brag about himself in this way. His activity on LinkedIn is humble, eye-opening and inquiring. He takes us along as he teaches Mergers and Acquisitions at MSU, highlighting the key takeaways of the day’s graduate lectures and conversations so that we hear about the complications and opportunities of major market movements. He shows us images of himself sitting, seething on a sidewalk on a Friday late afternoon re-working through a deal that was supposed to be nailed down the day before. His content reveals the vigilance and thick skin demanded of the VC and startup world.
David’s work exemplifies the impact a driven passion can have when shared through a consistent message. The small business, tech startup scene in Cincinnati simply wouldn’t be the same without innovators such as David lending their insights, talents, and time to seeing our community grow.
So, we hope you enjoy these few minutes with David Willbrand.
David Willbrand’s Innovation Story
David is the Chairperson of Early Stage & Emerging Company Practice at Thompson Hine, LLP. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law, he currently lectures at the University of Michigan Law School and Miami University. David is also the Chairperson of the Advisory Board for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University.
UC: What is your field of specialty?
DB: I am a partner at a law firm, and I represent entrepreneurs, startups and venture capitalists. I would say that my “job” is to provide legal services but that my “role” is to be a trusted partner (and friend) to my clients.
UC: Where does your personal and/or organizational innovation story begin?
DB: We are constantly evolving the way we deliver legal services. Legal services are expensive, and bills are a black box and intimidating for most of my clients. We have a long ways to go, but we have made great progress in changing much of this through flat fee and capped fee and other alternative fee arrangements. It’s always about the customer.
UC: What impact has your innovation had on your organization or the field at large?
DB: We try to stay a step ahead of the competition, and a step ahead of what others in our organization are doing. As to former, there is little benefit to being derivative; to get market share and credit for your innovation, you have to be out in front. As to the latter, we try to make our colleagues uncomfortable. Comfort kills. Innovation requires creativity and imagination and vision, but fear is an important and not-to-be overlooked input as well.
UC: What one piece of advice would you give to future innovators?
DB: One of my favorite proverbs is that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is right now. Sure, you probably already feel like you are starting too late, or missed some window, or whatever. Ok, maybe. But even if that’s the case, it’s never too late. Go do it!
Thanks for reading David’s innovation story. You can read more about our Untold Innovation Stories series in our Untold Innovation Stories kickoff post.
*Interviews are not endorsements of individuals or businesses.