It takes more money than you think and you have to listen to your customers!
Amir joined the Rainforest today to share his story coming up with the idea behind dealcloser, founding the company, seeking investment and disrupting the legal market with innovative technology.
The idea for his startup came during his time working as a corporate lawyer for Dentons. dealcloser focuses on document control for massive deals with thousands of documents, signature pages, and versions of each. Their technology replaces and automates the manual process that corporate lawyers currently employ using technology. Initially a side-hustle, Amir realized fairly quickly that he was never going to build a business while trying to work around the demands of being a corporate lawyer, so he quit Denton's and focused on building the technology.
Amir believed that he has a great idea (he does) and that his customers would immediately roll out the red carpet and welcome his technology. It turns out that law firms are often technology-unaware and intolerant of the risks that bringing new tech in can provide. Not only that, but the current processes are well established, and generate a lot of billable hours that, although generating little value to customers, manage to provide significant income to partners at the firms. However, as time goes on, law firms are getting younger and more open to the opportunities that technology provides, and their customers are constantly putting more pressure on firms to provide faster turnaround and lower fees. Fortunately, this is exactly what dealcloser provides to their clients, and firms have begun to embrace the efficiency that the dealcloser platform provides.
The dealcloser platform was built using a number of sources, including founder savings, early friends and family investment, funding from Futurepreneur, followed eventually by an angel investment out of Toronto, and recently by a private equity investment from an Edmonton firm. Along the way, Amir learned a lot through trial and error. Early on, Amir believed they had no competition. He quickly found out he was wrong. There are always competitors. Luckily, he learnt that lesson before talking to investors, who also ask the question regarding competition and the wrong answer is to say you have no competition. If you think you have no competition, you just haven't done your homework. In fact, Amir said that if he knew everything he knows now, he may not have started dealcloser in the first place - but he sure is glad that he didn't know!
Questions and Answers
- Q: How significant was the Futurpreneur loan?
- A: It accelerated the idea initially, but in the long run it was a drop in the bucket.
- Q: Have you raised money? How did that go?
- A: We've raised a couple of rounds, first from Friends, Family, and Fools totalling about $60k which got them to beta/MVP. Although it's easier getting money from friends and family, Amir was worried about losing money of people close to him. After that, they received an Angel round from Toronto which fully funded product development, followed by a local deal recently from a local Edmonton private equity firm.
- Q: How did you decide this was a big enough playground that you wanted to play in?
- A: Law firms across the world are using the same basic process, and seeing how many deals get done at Denton's, and how bad the process currently is, Amir knew there was a huge market with a massive opportunity. Insider knowledge definitely was key.
- Q: What was the first MVP and who did you show it too?
- A: The first "MVP" was just a crude PowerPoint - Amir recommends starting as basic as possible and show it to your potential customers. The cheaper you can validate your idea the better.
- Q: Lawyers can be difficult and hard to seel too, how has that gone?
- A: It was hard at first, but they know the market. Lawyers can be slow and they resist change. Two years ago, lawyers especially were resisting change/technology adoption, but that is changing rapidly.
- Q: The next market you want to attack is the US, why?
- A: There are more lawyers in New York than in all of Canada, it's much larger, more than 10x.
- Q: How has this experience changed you as a person?
- A: In a lot of ways its more stressful, but different. Working for partners in a large international law firm is its own special kind of stress, and as a startup founder, there are fewer individuals to answer too and a different kind of stress. Overall, he enjoys the startup life significantly more, saying "I'm living the dream, but the dream is a nightmare."
Amir Reshef is the co-founder and CEO of dealcloser. Prior to co-founding dealcloser, Amir was a corporate lawyer at a large international law firm where he worked on transactions of numerous types and sizes.