When we first came up with the idea for Court Buddy, my husband, James, and I were both working full-time. James was a solo attorney with his own law practice, and I was working in advertising. James had noticed that whenever he went to court, people would approach him minutes before they were due in front of a judge and ask him to review their paperwork. After seeing this day after day, he started asking why they didn’t have counsel. Many said they didn’t know where to look. Others didn’t have money for a retainer.
We did some research and discovered that an overwhelming number of Americans attend court alone. Yet when we reached out to some of James’s colleagues, we learned that many of them were having trouble finding clients on their end. We realized that nobody had created a widespread option for people to obtain à la carte legal services. We took that idea, and in 2015 courtbuddy.com was born. When we started we knew nothing about fundraising. We were approached by potential investors in early 2016, but they were first-timers and we were first-time entrepreneurs, so we passed. When we walked into a pitch meeting, the very first question out of an adviser’s mouth was, “Who would pay for this?” It left such a bad taste that we vowed to just bootstrap Court Buddy forever.Then we won a competition through Evolve Entrepreneurship, formerly known as the American Entrepreneurship Award. From that experience we learned about 500 Startups, a business accelerator in San Francisco. 500 Startups taught us how to fundraise properly, and they also introduced us to investors. Before participating in the program, I would ramble on about our company, but that’s not what investors want to hear. They have specific metrics they’re listening and looking for that signal if a venture is a good investment. Learning those key signals helped us hit the right notes when telling people about Court Buddy.
We also fine-tuned our pitch to attract investors who already believed in what we were doing. That’s how we met the lead investor for our seed round, who was looking for a woman founder and minorities to back. Lead investors generally put in the most money and act as your cheerleaders. They open up their Rolodexes and bring in other people they like to invest with. If you find a venture capitalist who’s respected and has done great deals in the past, it’ll make your life a whole lot easier because others will want to coinvest and go along for the ride. It’s important to hone your presentation. I always tell founders if you’re not a great public speaker or a natural salesperson, get yourself a pitch coach. It can honestly be the life or death of your company. And be sure to ask potential investors your own questions. You want to know, for example, if they have experience investing in other businesses in your space. That will give a good sense of whether they’ll be a no or a yes. It also helps to come into the meeting with a warm introduction from another entrepreneur who has been backed by that firm. When it comes to impressing investors, it’s all about storytelling. Yes, traction matters, whether measured in terms of revenue or the number of customers, but being able to craft that into a story that’s compelling and memorable is key. Give potential investors the information that makes your company shine so they’ll have what they need to sell you to their partners. Make sure they grasp and are excited about your three strongest points. That will ensure that they can persuasively repeat them. Building a business with my husband, especially one that was so sorely needed, has been rewarding. We have different strengths, so we complement each other and make a strong team. It’s hard sometimes not to talk shop around our 3-year-old daughter, but after work we focus on giving her our full attention. Perhaps the best start-up advice is to find a partner you enjoy being around, because that will help make the success of your venture a lot easier.