Jason Lemkin is CEO and co-founder of EchoSign, an electronic signature automation service. He was previously an entrepreneur-in-residence at Storm Ventures and co-founder of NanoGram Devices, Prior to his work in technology he was a corporate counsel at Venture Law Group. He earned a BA from Harvard and a JD from Berkeley. You can find his full bio here.
SM: Jason, take us back to where your story begins. Where did you grow up?
JL: Like a lot of entrepreneurs my age, I grew up during the first PC revolution with the Apple II. I was born in Boston but grew up in Los Angeles. I was definitely a washed-out programmer by the time I was 15. I was not good enough. Turns out there were a lot of folks like me. When the first generation of the Internet came out in the mid 1990s, we got very excited because while we were no good at programming or hacking, the Internet 1.0 version made our skills relevant again.
SM: Where did you go to college?
JL: I went to Harvard for my undergrad. I studied economics and government. I really studied going to school. Harvard is going to school, but my main learning from Harvard was that I wanted to come back out West.
SM: Why was that?
JL: I am a pretty meritocratic guy and I think Harvard is too old-school, too aristocratic, too much “this is how it was done in the 17th century”. Most of my family is from the Boston area but not from the ‘haves’, rather from the ‘have nots’. While some of that was fun (one of my best friends in college has a private island off of Cap Cod), the idea of making it on your own under your own terms was just much more appealing to me.
SM: What year did you graduate?
JL: I graduated in 1991. I then spent a year as a junior federal agent arresting people for making fake drivers licenses. Today that would be part of some anti-terrorism unit. They were not kids who were buying fake licenses; they were people spending thousands of dollars because they could not get documented. It was a big brouhaha and it went all the way to the top of the DMV. I spent about a year listening to wire taps and things like that.
SM: Was that based out of California?
JL: No, it was New York. Out of that I decided to go to law school. Once there, I quickly realized my interest was in technology, and I wanted to combine the two so I was a startup lawyer for three years at a firm called Venture Law Group.
From there I joined a company I incorporated called Baby Center. It is still a top 100 website for new parents. We grew that company, sold it twice, and went through all of those cycles.