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Monica Zent

Monica Zent is an experienced entrepreneur, leader, and negotiator with a diverse background in technical legal and business affairs, specializing in advising public companies and executives at preeminent and emerging growth companies. She has founded and co-founded several ventures in data, digital media, professional services, technology, and AI including ZentLaw. As a public policy advisor, Zent guides global brands through State and Federal regulatory landscapes, leveraging her extensive network in corporate leadership, philanthropy, politics, venture capital, government agencies, and media. A seasoned investor in real estate and startups, she focuses on areas like IoT, clean-tech, wearables, e-commerce, and social good. Known for her eloquent communication skills, Zent has appeared in various media outlets as a speaker and commentator. Balancing multiple professional roles with ease, she excels in maximizing resources, minimizing costs, and achieving successful results. Apart from her professional pursuits, Monica Zent is an endurance athlete who has completed over 20 marathons and 130 half marathons across the West Coast, embodying dedication and discipline in every aspect of her life.

Please share your background and career journey and how both led you to what you do now.

I’ve always loved business, the ability to do different things, push the limits of what has been done before, and engage with people in an authentic way. As an entrepreneur, it’s been my business to look around corners and carve new paths. My earliest business ventures did this and my ventures in the legal industry have continued to push the envelope of what is possible when others said it can’t be done. Being involved in the legal industry for 25 years, I’m always looking to see what more I can do. What’s the next innovation that could drive our industry forward? What’s going to make a positive change for our clients? So much has changed in the legal industry in the last two decades and I’m proud to be a part of that. When I launched my business twenty years ago, the Alternative Legal Services Provider (ALSP) model was unheard of. Now, it is seen as a respected solution that gives clients flexible options for their legal needs. When I started writing about innovation and how lawyers must adopt an “Innovation Mindset” eight years ago, it was a widely shared piece and kicked off what is now a tidal wave of innovation in our industry. I have developed patented AI in some of our earliest products that we created for clients to use long before the AI boom we see now. Being a pioneer has not been easy and carving a new path can be thankless work but as I reflect back on some of my journey, it has been very rewarding to usher in a new era for the legal industry. I’m excited about the future of our industry and the developments yet to surface.

How have you noticed technological tools evolve over the past few years and how do you see technology evolving over the next few years?

During my time in the legal industry, I have seen many new innovations and technological tools change our work for the better. In fact, a specific focus of mine was using legal technology to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing for legal teams, both internally and with outside stakeholders. Of course, I see tremendous potential with generative AI opening the door to the potential for a lot of new applications, including access to resources, data analytics, and accelerated workflows. While we definitely need to be careful and thoughtful with how we use this new technology, I also see a lot of amazing possibilities. I also see AI-powered tools making certain work that people need to do in this industry faster, easier and more cost-effective.

As an experienced entrepreneur and leader who has founded several ventures in various industries, what do you believe are the key factors that contribute to the success of a startup, and how do you manage to stay focused and motivated in each new venture?

For me personally, the key is to enjoy what you do and be optimistic. Also, the key to any successful business is to find a need and fill that need. Sometimes, needs are not recognized yet by the market, in which case, a business is too early. Sometimes, the need exists but few others see it. Then you have green field and need to run until everyone else catches up to you because when they do then it’s saturated. And sometimes, your timing is just perfect and as long as you have a great solution and team then you are off to the races. I’ve been in business long enough that I’ve experienced all of these scenarios. They all present with their different challenges but the key is being able to see that for what it is. Being an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to innovate and create new business models, explore new tech and new business ideas, to change people’s lives and make them better. Starting a new business is tough, it takes a lot of time and work, so it’s important that you like what you do and can use that to stay optimistic and power through the hard times. In business there are ups and downs and you start some and close some but that is the nature of the journey. The key is never give up- just keep going.

What do you look for in potential investment opportunities, and how do your experiences as an entrepreneur inform your investment decisions?

As an active investor in real estate and startups for many years I look at several factors. Definitely, my firsthand experience as a Founder and CEO many times over informs my investment decisions. First, I believe in investing in what you know. That can be very broad and touch many parts of a person’s life but, fundamentally, it should be something a person knows or has personal experience with on some level. Second, I look for the find-a-need/fill-a-need criteria. Does the need truly exist? What is the timing of this business relative to that need? Is the market ready for this solution for this need right now or will it be very soon? Third, I look at the founder and executive team. Are they ethical, kind, and treat people well? Will they do the right thing when pressed? Are they confident enough to start and lead a business yet humble enough to accept feedback and input from those around them with more expertise than they might have? All of these traits are, I believe, hallmarks of a good leader that can be counted on to build a high-quality, loyal team that can drive a business forward. Lastly, drawing from my early years in banking, I look for sound financials and sound financial decisions. Solid investments are those that provide a solid return and that’s what I look for every time.

You've run multiple marathons and engaged in other endurance athletic activities. How does engaging in these kinds of activities help you do your best work in the legal industry?

Running a marathon can teach you a lot about yourself and a lot about entrepreneurship. A marathoner for more than two decades, I’ve discovered that the qualities and skills necessary to succeed on a long run are very similar to those that have helped me succeed in my career. The keys to both are focus, discipline, organization, preparation, visualization and a little bit of fun. Focus on what you want to do and how you are going to accomplish that goal. Be disciplined enough to do what you need to do to make it happen. Stay organized by adopting an efficient process and taking advantage of the many tools available. Prepare for the unexpected. Visualize success. How we each define success for ourselves might be different and change for ourselves over time but whatever success means to us in that moment is something to visualize. See it in your mind first then run the race with that image on your mind. And, finally, don’t forget to have fun. At the end of the day, what’s the point if you didn’t enjoy yourself?



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