Mentors' Monday: Matthew Hoots
Meet Matthew Hoots, an intellectual property attorney at Smith Risley Tempel Santos. Read today’s Mentors’ Monday to learn what he has to say about mentoring and his experience with businesses.
RC: What field do you work in?
MH: I am an intellectual property attorney. My practice is focused on patent, trademark, copyright and any related matter that tend to fall off of IP. The client base in my firm is diverse and includes everything from large corporations to entrepreneurial start-ups to individual inventors. While I certainly appreciate the work provided to my firm by our larger clients, I have to admit that I find it personally satisfying to work with start-ups and individual inventors – the folks who embody the American dream. I really enjoy those folks because they have an idea that, for many, borders on a mission or passion from which they will build a company from the ground up. It’s inspiring to interact with such smart, passionate and forward-thinking people and, hopefully, provide them with a service that will play a small role in their eventual success.
RC: What do you enjoy most about your field?
MH: I love getting to see the cutting edge of ideas. Also, in my practice, clients tend to be happy people. They’re inherently creative and forward thinking anyway, and they’re in my office because they’re excited about the prospects for their idea or the recent success of their endeavors. I mean, who doesn’t like to be around happy people? For the most part, if a client needs my services then there are probably some pretty exciting things going on in their lives.
RC: What is the most exciting technology you have worked with?
MH: As a firm we work a lot in telecommunications. The explosion of smart phones, with their ever more powerful processing capabilities, has spawned an inventive renaissance of sorts. There is so much technology surrounding the phones, and it is exciting to see how inventors keep finding novel ways to use a smart phone to make every day tasks more conveniently handled, provide entertainment and so forth.
RC: What valuable lesson would you share from your experience?
MH: In the back of their minds, many inventors think that a patent all by itself is the key to fortune. Not so. It’s important to understand that a patent doesn’t grant its holder the right to make money – it just puts its holder in a position to keep someone else from making money. That’s not to say that patents can’t bring significant value to a company and, oftentimes the valuation of a company can be significantly impacted in a positive way by the intellectual property that is controlled by the company.
RC: Have you mentored anybody in the Four Athens space before?
MH: Yes. I’ve participated in a few presentations to the Four Athens community on intellectual property and I’ve had the pleasure of counseling a number of the Four Athens community members.
RC: What interested you in becoming a mentor?
MH: Jim Flannery. Jim is an inspiring guy. I was fortunate enough to meet him early on in the Four Athens project and hear about his vision for the incubator. I remain bullish on the Four Athens mission and I’m looking forward to seeing more and more of its community members develop into successful, home grown companies. Nothing but good can come from the Four Athens effort.
RC: What is the most important part of a mentor’s role.
MH: Listen closely, ask questions and then provide the entrepreneur with a takeaway that he or she can actually use. Entrepreneurs are rarely interested in an academic analysis – rather, they want concrete answers that they can rely on, make business decisions on, assess risk from, etc. As an attorney, though, giving concrete answers can be difficult to give in many cases but I consciously try to whenever I can. Also, as a mentor, I try to remind myself that I’m just one of many resources available to a community member at Four Athens and that my value to them is optimized when I am careful to counsel only within my core competencies.
RC: What makes for a good mentee?
MH: Definitely fresh mint. The best mint tea starts with fresh mint.