All, Startup Spotlight Interviews

Startup Spotlight: An Interview with Clarilegal

ClariLegal: a Trusted Litigation Services/Discovery Marketplace

Today’s interview is with the founder of ClariLegal, Cash ButlerClariLegal transforms the eDiscovery procurement and management process for both eDiscovery service providers and clients in need of those services.

Where did the idea come from to start Clarilegal?

I have had many years of experience buying, selling and working with litigation services at the service provider level. From this experience, I saw a number of challenging problems occurring in the industry, and I began thinking through better ways to handle these problems in order to more effectively procure and manage litigation/Discovery services.  At the end of the day, I wanted to create a solution that helps people in their roles buying and managing litigation/discovery services.  I have sat in these seats and know how important, challenging and time consuming this work and these roles can be.

Who are the audiences you target with the platform?

With our platform, we reach out to corporations, law firms, and other buyers and purchasers of litigation services. Our ‘vendors’ are the service providers who then perform one or more litigation services for the buyers. Examples of these litigation services include forensic investigation, litigation consulting, collection of data, attorney review, and court reporting.  We make sure that our service providers are vetted to ensure they provide excellent value to our buyers.  Service providers get qualified sales leads and can compete at a lower cost of sales with an expanded geographical reach.

Tell me about the lifespan of ClariLegal.

About a year and a half ago I decided to jump in with both feet and start the company.  I contacted and recruited a number of my friends and former colleagues to join me in this effort. I started by further validating the market, specifically around the pain points I had collected over the years from my past experiences. I needed to make sure that the pain I was focused on was something for which I could supply a compelling solution.

It took me six months to interview litigation and business professionals – CFOs, CIOs, lawyers, paralegals, directors of practice support, and service providers. Once we completed our interviews, we spent some time analyzing the insights we had gathered so that we could build our prototype product. We shared this prototype with about 30 different buyers and sellers, who provided us with helpful feedback.

Currently we’re in beta.  We started off with non-paying beta customers, but we will soon start charging money.  In the near future, we will be focusing on building out the ClariLegal team and developing our marketing strategy with an initial focus on corporate clients.

Can you describe your biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment during your market validation work?

One of the biggest moments I remember was in understanding the buying behavior of our customers. We created three customer segments in order to understand their buying preferences and drivers for making a decision (e.g. compliance, cost control, business intelligence, operations, and vendor management). We discovered that each segment had similar needs but prioritized their needs very differently. For example, the number one driver in corporations looks very different from the number one driver at law firms. These insights were very useful in developing our pricing and product strategy.

How have these insights affected your product development or your product strategy?

We’ve realized how important it is to build ease of use into our product. Our model at Clarilegal is that if something actionable cannot be achieved in three clicks, it’s no good.  In other words, anyone should be able to execute the most critical components within the platform in three clicks or less. We use this model when developing and implementing new solutions for better efficiency.  Another gain from our ‘ah-ha’ moments was learning the different customer personas we’re serving. We understand that different personas find different parts of the product interesting and important. Someone in finance or a sourcing person wants a different view and report of the data than a project manager or an operations person executing the work does.  Therefore, we look to create and design processes that match these personas.  The more we learn, the better we can implement to meet our customers’ needs.

As a startup with a two-sided network model, how do you address growing both sides of the network simultaneously?  

We have found that many service providers are eager to sign-up for the product, so we focus much of our sales efforts on the other half of the market—corporations and law firms—who will be posting jobs in our system.  The more jobs added to our system, the more we can grow and add more service providers. We view ClariLegal as a premier community that only allows top notch service providers into our network.  Our service providers must provide value and a great experience to our corporations and law firms.

What advice would you share from your experiences in building a team?

When building a team, it’s important to hire self-starting people with a “can do” attitude. Your team needs to be able to work together in a positive and forward-looking way without getting discouraged, which could easily affect the morale for the rest of the team.  Part of the entrepreneurial experience is the ability to handle rejection without it hampering forward momentum; this can be very difficult to do for some people.  Another important area to take into account is your team members’ risk profiles. While some individuals are more family-focused, others are more career-driven. It’s important to hire team members whose lifestyles match that of the entrepreneur and founder.

Do you have any advice or lessons learned about building or refining a product that you could share? 

I guess three things come to mind.

  1.  Make sure the problem you are solving is painful enough that customers will buy it.
  2. Make sure if a potential customer asks you to develop a feature or set of features that they are committed to buying the product.
  3. Let customer feedback drive your development. While it’s important to start with a great vision and roadmap of where it can go, it’s just as important to remain open and flexible with your ideas.

Do you have any advice around the fund-raising process?

You need to show traction—have initial customers and revenue—to investors if you hope to get the most favorable valuation for your company. You also need to understand that the fund-raising process can be a lot more time-consuming than expected. We are in the midst of fund-raising right now and a big challenge for me is balancing continuing to build the company with the demands of identifying and meeting with investors.

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