Silicon Valley firm Gunderson Dettmer eyes Texas venture capital deals with Austin launch

New office will be led by partner Wesley Watts, who joins from Vinson & Elkins

Silicon Valley law firm Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian is opening an office in Austin to tap into the region’s venture capital and emerging company ecosystem.

The firm has hired tech startup-focused partner Wesley Watts and senior associate Luke Thomas from Vinson & Elkins to lead the office launch. 

David Young, Gunderson Dettmer’s managing partner, said: “Austin’s growth is remarkable and our approach has always been to grow where our clients are. We have represented companies and venture capitalists in Austin for over a decade. We have been looking for the right opportunity in Austin for a while. Wes and Luke are a strong fit for our firm’s culture and expansion plans.”

Watts had been a partner at Vinson & Elkins in Austin for almost five years, with his practice focusing on representing emerging technology and tech-enabled companies at all stages of their growth lifecycle, from financings through to M&A. He also advises venture capital and private equity firms on their investments.

Prior to Vinson & Elkins, Watts was a senior associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati and an associate at Baker Botts before that. Thomas, meantime, joined Vinson & Elkins as a capital markets and M&A associate in March 2016 following earlier temporary stints at the firm. Like Watts, his practice focuses on the lifecycle of emerging companies, including venture financing, M&A and public offerings.

Watts said: “I have worked across the table from Gunderson Dettmer lawyers many times over the years. Considering its size, Gunderson Dettmer has consistently punched above its weight class and it’s no wonder that it is the number one firm in the world for emerging growth companies and venture and growth equity funds.”

He added: “Gunderson Dettmer is singularly focused on the same clients I have devoted my own practice to. And that focus is tailored perfectly to the unique and developing ecosystem in Austin and around Texas.” 

The Austin launch is the firm’s eighth office in the US and 10th globally. Earlier this month US peer Kirkland & Ellis opened in Austin to tap into the city’s tech and renewable energy markets. Top 50 US law firm Perkins Coie also hired partners from Vinson & Elkins and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati to set up shop in Austin last year.

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