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Alumni Spotlight

‘40 under 40’ Honoree Finds His Purpose Helping Startups

By Lauren Mineau

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Eric Leander ’11 has found upstate New York to be the perfect place to work on his “why.”  

Though many of his clients—in legal practice and entrepreneurial endeavors—are based in New York City, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C., the draw of a calmer life upstate has proved to be ideal as he guides startup companies from idea to reality.   

“I felt like the story in those places had already been told,” he said. “Here in the Capital Region, it’s still early in this story. There is great opportunity here to create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Leander was recently honored as a member of the Albany Business Review’s latest “40 under 40” class. The 2020 list highlights emerging local business leaders—from restaurateurs to lawyers to real estate agents—who call the Capital Region home.

Since 2012, Leander has focused his practice on working with businesses.  In 2014, he joined The Wagoner Firm and began emphasizing working with startups and emerging-growth companies, scaling technology companies, and seed and venture capital investment transactions.  Equal parts attorney and businessman, Leander helps entrepreneurs get their ideas in motion while making sure they adhere to the legal parameters required for budding companies.

“It’s gratifying to work with companies that do something out in the world,” he said. “That’s where I get a lot of my fulfillment—in helping people build businesses. As a pragmatist, I think I default to seeing the value of actual utility. It creates value. I realize I like to do what I do because it’s part of the value-creation process.”

Leander is also Managing Principal of Square Peg Ventures, an early-stage company itself that invests in startups and supports them along the way. Leander started the business in response to the misconceptions of many would-be investors and entrepreneurs about the startup establishment and growth process.

“Typically, the first money that’s going into a company, that’s the riskiest that’s going in,” he said. “You have to be in it for the long haul, not to make a quick buck in two or three years. Square Peg Ventures was and is really all about putting my money and resources where my mouth is.”

While at Albany Law School, Leander concentrated in business law and civil litigation and took part in any practical opportunity he could, including extracurriculars like the Donna Jo Morse Negotiation and Client Counseling Competitions and the Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology. He saw law school as a chance to build self-accountability, a trait he advises all law students to work on.

“Your classmates are your future colleagues. They’re not your current competition. You need to build relationships now that last the rest of your careers,” he said. “The only person you should be competing with is yourself.”

There’s a certain kind of stress that comes along with the entrepreneurial world, but it’s where his “why” lives.

“If you don’t know why you’re going about your life, you are really just kind of meandering; it’s pointless and demotivating.” he said. “People need to get in touch with their ‘why.’ When you know what your purpose is, it’s pretty hard to be dissuaded, demoralized, or defeated.”