Getting GDPR right - An Interview with Christian Eustermann, Remerge's new Legal Counsel
Posted on May 24, 2018
Today, on the 25th of May, the EU officially enforces its new General Data Protection Regulation, which aim to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe. This regulation will empower EU citizens by enabling them to review - and then contest or consent to - the use of their data. Remerge is not responsible for the consensual extraction of data, but has a duty to ensure its safe processing, storage, and transfer. As such, we’ve chosen to hire an in-house lawyer to ensure our full compliance.
In this interview, we catch up with our newest hire, Christian Eustermann, to talk about making the leap from a well-established legal practice to an ad tech start-up.
You’ve been practicing law for 15 years. Can you tell us how it was that you came to specialise in IT law?
I’ve loved computers and IT all my life, even though I chose to pursue law. I had a Commodore C64 when I was ten years old - the one that looks like a brown bread box. I was programming BASIC and learned assembler, but most of my time with computers went into gaming. I’m an avid gamer! This passion influenced the focus I took in my studies.
Initially, I worked in Corporate Finance. Then in 2009 I decided it was time for a change. I had been observing the start-up ecosystem that was growing in Berlin and wanted to get involved. So I decided to start advising start-ups. I worked with them from the beginning, developing the foundation of their company, through various financing rounds, right up to their exit or tradesale. I connected to many of the VCs, listened to people’s business plans, advised them on how to pitch their ideas to investors, and how to figure out what they liked and didn’t like, need, and didn’t need.
That sounds awesome! So how did you first hear about Remerge?
I have known Pan for years. He called me when he was founding Remerge as he needed some legal advice. Many of the startups that tried to hire me wanted to give me shares for services but people who know their shares will be of value won’t give them away for free. He wanted me to do the services and invoice Remerge. I really liked that so I came onboard as an advisor.
That sounds like Pan alright! And at what point did you decide you wanted to get more involved in the company?
I continued to work with Remerge even after they obtained funding - advising on day-to-day issues and watching them grow from strength to strength. When a new legal advisor position opened, I assisted Remerge in drafting the job specs and in finding someone fitting. Only after a while did it click to us that I was a fit. It was rather a surprise for both sides that things turned out this way. It seemed strange that I would leave the legal practice that I had spent nine years establishing, but I said, “Why not”?
Was it difficult to make the decision between staying at your established practice and moving to a start-up?
I saw that working for Remerge was a low-risk engagement for me. Looking at the KPIs of the company, I could see that there was no financial risk to be expected.
Of course I needed two weeks to think about - to talk to my wife, parents and peers, and my clients of course! But I got such great feedback. And I didn’t even really need it - I had already made my decision and was probably just influencing them to tell me what I wanted to hear!
What are your first impressions of the company?
I thought I knew a lot about the company and many things were as expected, but many things weren’t! It wasn’t until I met other people within the company - such as those working in product - that I began to appreciate the scale of what Remerge can achieve. There are such incredible brains in this company and the things they can do - with numbers, algorithms, and optimisation - just astounded me.
What are your day-to-day tasks?
Until today, Remerge has been focused on finalizing measures to ensure GDPR compliance (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation). There’s a lot to be done, even through Remerge isn’t responsible for the consensual extraction of data. We still need to work to ensure that any data we do use is processed, stored, and transferred safely. So my primary task is collecting information from every department in the company to ensure that everything we do is compliant.
What would you like to achieve in your time here?
From a professional point of view, I’ll try to employ legal standard wherever relevant and required. I shall observe upcoming policy shifts and regulations and identify how they would impact the business model and resolve on how to adapt the business to changing external regulatory influences.
Personally, I found a vibrant environment where the people are open-minded and where I can be myself.