In his twenties, Carlos Rivas had it all figured out. He would practice law for a few years in his home country of Venezuela, move to the US, get a master’s, work at an international firm for a few years, then return to Venezuela to practice as a partner for the remainder of his career. It was a perfect plan.
“If you think you have it all figured out in your twenties and refuse to consider other possibilities, it’s a huge mistake,” Rivas says, laughing at his younger self. It’s not that the plan has deviated wildly: Rivas is still a successful lawyer, but after twenty years he’s still in the US and he’s gone in-house.
Now the director and associate general counsel at Instacart, where he heads up the M&A legal team, Rivas may not have stuck to his plan—but it’s for all the right reasons. His interests evolved, and the opportunities were incrementally more interesting. After building out a successful track record of M&A work in New York and California firms, Rivas would spend six and a half years at Intel.
The attorney is grateful for those years when he was part of a well-oiled machine. Rivas says there was always a full merger and acquisition team ready to get to work on whatever deal was being considered. But as he gained more in-house experience, he realized something was missing.
“I wanted a chance to connect more directly with consumers of the services the company offered,” Rivas explains. “When I told my kids, nine and eight years old at the time, that I was going to work for Instacart, they immediately understood. It’s those friendly people who come to your door and deliver your groceries. They understood that I would be driving that mission.”
Instacart’s mission was particularly alluring to Rivas: giving everyone access to the food they love and more time to enjoy it together.
“Working families like mine spend so much time going to big and small retailers and that takes us away from our families, our friends, and from using our time as we’d like,” Rivas explains. “Instacart seems like such a simple, beautiful thing, but it’s incredibly complex. And I wanted to be here to support that mission and help grow this company.”
The M&A all-star says companies like Instacart acquire to accelerate their growth potential. He’s been brought on, in part, to help the company develop its own M&A culture, which can be distracting for late-stage private companies.
“My role is partially about building a culture of how we do acquisitions,” Rivas says. “Late-stage private companies that haven’t done much M&A can often see deal opportunities as too risky. So as part of my job, I help our deal team find the kind of risk we are willing to assume.”
Rivas is crafting an M&A playbook for Instacart, and part of his purview is to support those M&A efforts.
“I might not execute the number of deals I was used to at Intel, but there is so much more that goes into building an M&A culture,” Rivas says. “I don’t have specialists on every aspect of the M&A process, so we all have to make sure we’re aligned and ready for every step of the deal.”
While his life plans may have shifted, there has always been one constant in Rivas’s life: the need to adapt. When he came to the US, Rivas was rejected from job after job. He mostly applied to US law firms that had a Latin America practice. However, to his surprise, being from Venezuela was a less attractive attribute for these law firms due to the challenging political backdrop in that country.
But Rivas persisted and joined law firm DLA Piper as a full-time associate.
“Any time anyone asks me for advice, I always tell them you only need one chance,” Rivas explains. “Don’t get demoralized or lose your strength to persist in your goals. You just need that one opportunity. I got many rejection letters, but I also got that one chance I needed, and the rest was history.”
Rivas says that Latinos traditionally wind up working harder to demonstrate their value and their worth. And oftentimes, they’ve had to overcome a great deal just to get to the same starting point as those with a more privileged start. He worked long hours, actively sought out mentors, and looked to take advantage of every door he managed to open.
California may not be Venezuela, but for Rivas it is home. This may not be the plan the attorney planned on, but it’s the one he wanted. He just had to be open to adapting.
Paul Hastings extends its congratulations to Carlos Rivas and is pleased to join Hispanic Executive in Carlos’ well-deserved recognition for his rapid upward trajectory in technology and as an M&A star. We look forward to continuing our long-standing and valued relationship with Carlos.