Associate Spotlight: Cameron Irwin
NOTE: This article was written when Duke Capital Partners was named the Duke Angel Network.
Before his time at Duke, DAN’s Lead Law Associate Cameron Irwin handled many roles at a young startup. That experience sparked a passion for working with emerging companies that Cam carries with him today. In two years at DAN, he has screened countless startups and participated in a multitude of diligence efforts. Currently, Cam is in his third year at Duke University School of Law pursuing both his J.D. and an L.L.M. in Law & Entrepreneurship as a member of Professor Erika Buell’s dual-degree program. For this month’s spotlight interview, Cam speaks to us about his journey in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
How did you develop an interest in emerging companies and venture capital?
My introduction to the EC/VC space came straight after graduation from college, when I worked for a fintech startup called BitOoda. It was a small company at that time, so I had the opportunity to wear many hats for the business. I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved the team camaraderie and the immediate responsibility entrusted in me, as well as how every day presented us with a new, unique problem-solving opportunity. There is a certain energy around entrepreneurs and startups that is difficult to describe, but it is intoxicating once you get a taste of it.
What led you to join DAN?
I was fortunate to have some really incredible people ahead of me who shared my interests in the EC/VC space and went out of their way to open up this opportunity for me. Meredith Thompson (McKinsey), Yao Lin (Latham & Watkins) and Patience Li (Vinson & Elkins) all were instrumental in me joining DAN and they provided invaluable mentorship after I came on board. It would also be remiss of me not to mention Professor Buell’s unwavering encouragement and support to pursue business-related opportunities outside the confines of the law school. Without that, it’s unlikely that I would ever have the chance to participate in this rewarding experience.
You worked in finance before attending law school. Has that experience impacted your work at DAN?
“Working in finance” has probably had less of an impact than working at a finance-oriented startup. While finance is a key component of our investment analysis, it is not the only one. We give considerations such as product design and development, brand and marketing, the founding team’s quality and legal terms/structure a similar weight of importance during our holistic evaluation process. Accordingly, my prior experience at a startup—and incidental exposure to many of those concepts—has carried me much further than any understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of IRR.
How have you connected your work at DAN to your legal education?
The legal profession is inherently a client-service business. At a base level, clients expect their lawyers to accurately identify and effectively resolve legal issues. But the best attorneys go much further: they communicate in the client’s business language; they anticipate a client’s commercial needs, opportunities and pitfalls before they arise; and they create value for clients outside the “legal” realm. It’s a lot easier to do all of that after having spent a day (or several semesters) in a client’s shoes.
What are your current short term and long term career goals?
After graduation, I hope to continue my journey within the emerging company ecosystem, working alongside bold innovators seeking to make a positive impact on the world.