Haley Altman talks about what it takes to grow a legal tech company and position it for acquisition in today’s market.
Law Technology Now
Haley Altman has over a decade of experience working on complicated transactions in the corporate, private equity,...
Monica Bay is a Fellow at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics. She also writes for Thomson Reuters, ALM...
Bringing a legal technology startup into today’s market comes with its own set of unique challenges. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay talks to Haley Altman about what it takes to grow a legal tech company and position it for acquisition in today’s market. Haley also describes her experience building her own company, Doxly, and how she balances being a professional with fostering a healthy family.
Haley Altman is the CEO of Doxly. She has over a decade of experience working on complicated transactions in the corporate, private equity, and venture capital verticals.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Thomson Reuters.
Law Technology Now
The Life of a Startup Part 2 Prepping for Acquisition
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Monica Bay: Welcome to another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. I am Monica Bay. Before we get started, we would like to thank our sponsor, Thomson Reuters. It’s demystifying artificial intelligence will be done in seven single steps. AI will create change, but managing change doesn’t just happen. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.legalsolutions.com/ai” legalsolutions.com/ai to learn more.
Today we’re speaking with Haley Altman, CEO and Founder of Doxly. Welcome Haley.
Haley Altman: Thank you Monica. It’s great to be here.
Monica Bay: Well thank you. I’m really glad that you’re here. The day before the CodeX FutureLaw 18 Conference, you were one of five people who were focused on a luncheon, and it was called Legal Tech Founders: Then and Now. Can you tell us about that?
Haley Altman: Yes. It was a great panel. Alma Asay, who founded Allegory Legal, which was acquired by Integreon, came up with this great concept of having current legal tech founders that are working on legal tech companies and still kind of working on growing and scaling their companies, talk to and interview three legal tech founders that has had successful exits, and getting a sense of how did they grow their business, how did they position themselves for exit, and we were able to just get a lot of questions answered.
So Ryan Alshak, who is one of the Cofounders of Ping, which is a time-tracking legal tech application and I interviewed Alma from Allegory, Daniel Lewis from Ravel, which was acquired by LexisNexis and Michael Sander from Docket Alarm, which was acquired by Fastcase just this year.
We had a great discussion of what it takes to kind of successfully grow and position a legal tech company in this current market.
Monica Bay: Were there any surprises for you?
Haley Altman: I think they kind of confirmed a lot of what I thought that the sale cycle in law firms and in terms of bringing the legal technology to market is challenging. But I think it gave everyone a lot of hope that the market is changing. They all started their legal tech companies, before legal tech was really something that is talked about and celebrated and encouraged for law firms today, before law firms had practice innovation groups or chief innovation officers.
So they got started when it was kind of really, you had to be scrappy. I think one of the things that I learned that I thought was really interesting that you have like in insight on, but Alma raised, when we asked what was it that when you look back with the benefit of hindsight in building your business really helped you grow and position yourself for acquisition. And she said it was the partnership.
She had started the company and was kind of working on, getting into law firms and kind of trying to get adoption with her product. And as she was kind of getting to that point of what’s next for us, she got connected with different people that were able to help her from a partnership perspective. And that enabled her to really kind of move her business forward in a way that she hadn’t been able to before. And those partnerships, someone from here on, who she had met early on, ended up moving over to Integreon, who ended up being their ultimate acquirer.
So establishing those partnerships, relationships early; especially, in legal tech, where different groups have been around longer and they have that credibility can really kind of help you grow and scale. So I thought that was a really good lesson that it’s important to learn, especially earlier on, when you’re building a company.
Monica Bay: That sounds absolutely great. I had wanted to go to that but unfortunately my ticket, because we were going to the CodeX FutureLaw and I could not get my one changed and I was so disappointed and I was really looking forward to it.
Tell us about Doxly, and what it is and how you got into it?
Haley Altman: Yeah, so Doxly is a legal transaction management platform. So we help attorneys get deals done. So I was a transactional attorney for over 10 years, I practiced at both Wilson Sonsini in Palo Alto and at Ice Miller in Indianapolis.
My practice focused on all types of transactions, from mergers and acquisitions, to private equity, to venture capital, and even some commercial lending. And so, throughout my career, I really had focused on how do you run these complicated transactions and then as I moved back to the Midwest, which is where I’m from or I have been since high school, I rejoined Ice Miller and was wanting to make partner.
So I was trying to figure out how do I create a book of business. And so I tried to innovate within the law firm contacts and the firm, like Ice Miller is really innovative in terms of its approach to encouraging associates to do and try more things in order to create business. And so I had the benefit of working at a place that gave me — just kind of encouraged me to look to think about different ways to innovate the client experience and the law firm experience. And so, during that time, I was bringing in clients and growing my book and as an associate, I was still working on a lot of transactions with some of the senior partners.
And so I had kind of like a pretty big kind of a lot of stuff on my plate that I was working on. And so, when I looked at all the stuff, I was doing from these venture capital deals for these larger M&A deals, I just realized that there were all the same points of inefficiency. And the people across the table for me were practicing in the same way. We all use these Word document closing checklist to provide the roadmap for a transaction. And the problem with the Word document checklist is it doesn’t change. You have to update it so you’re never in tune with the real-time insight into what’s going on in a deal.
So I started working on Doxly while I was an associate, really kind of researching the market, is there something out there that can help us move these transactions forward, what was the opportunity and interviewing people to see what was the need. Did people see the pain point in the same way I did?
So I made partner; after I made partner, I was open with the law firm about what I was working on and they were really supportive. They saw the need for improvements in the corporate transactional space and so they encouraged me to continue working on it, while I was practicing. And I got connected in with a venture studio in Indiana called High Alpha, who helped build enterprise math companies. And so, their knowledge of enterprise math, combined with my understanding of the nuances of the legal process, we combined together to build Doxly. So we launched the company in July of 2016 and launched with our first customer in September and we’ve just kind of been off to the races ever since.
Monica Bay: You mentioned that you’ve been in various different places, and you’re now in Indianapolis. You’re not in Silicon Valley and you’re not in New York. Is that a positive, a negative, somewhere in between, and how did you end up in Indianapolis?
Haley Altman: So my parents moved us here from Texas. I grew up in Texas and Houston. My parents moved us here when we were in high school. It’s a big kind of shock; I hadn’t seen snow before and so this was a whole new world of winter. And I went to high school, college, and law school all in Indiana.
And I loved it and I started practicing at Ice Miller in Indianapolis and got an opportunity was recruited actually to go out to Wilson Sonsini in California. I have a kind of a unique background. I’m a Chemistry Poli Sci double major and I started doing cancer research, when I was in high school.
And so at Wilson, the interest was I was a corporate attorney but also understood the intricacies of science. So I could work with their biotech companies that they were helping raise capital. So I went out to Wilson and I was a kind of a conduit between their tech transfer group and their corporate group, working primarily with biotech companies.
But I had the opportunity to work with a lot of tech companies as well. After being out there, the guys I was dating when I first moved out to California followed me out there about six months later, and we got married and both our families are from the Midwest, from Indiana or my extended family is from Chicago. And we wanted to be closer to our family.
We wanted to have a family of our own and so we thought it would be important to be closer to everyone in our family and we both loved Indiana and the opportunities it had. So in about 2011, we moved back to Indianapolis, we now have two kids. So while I was practicing in Ice, we have two daughters they’re six and four and we love being connected into this community.
The reason we stay here and the reason I wanted to start a company and I am so passionate, and like this is where I want Doxly to grow, is because of everything going on in the tech scene in Indianapolis.
We have spent a lot of time really focusing on growing exciting companies. So the Venture Studio on the part of High Alpha was created by four successful entrepreneurs including Scott Dorsey who created ExactTarget from the start. The company was created in Indiana, they went public in Indiana, and they sold to Salesforce for $2.5 billion. So we have had like incredible success in the recent time of building companies, and those entrepreneurs that have been successful have put their capital and continued to build businesses in Indiana. And I think one of the great things about the state is that everyone is super collaborative and our government is becoming more excited under governor Holcomb about really growing the tech ecosystem and so we have a lot of resources that are focused on growing tech companies in Indiana.
So we have an organization called Tech Point that really kind of helps bring talent into the state that are critical to grow these businesses and we are bringing in investment dollars to state, just created a next-level fund. That’s a $250 million fund to invest directly in companies or in fund of funds that put their investments in Indiana. So I just think that when you want your money to go further, and especially in legal tech where there is a longer runway to kind of get traction and kind of get through the security hurdles that you need to kind of prove yourself in the law firm context that you’re a technology that fit into their world, you need that time. And so we have a really collaborative tech environment and we are able to focus more of our dollars less on rent and more on kind of growing great teams and great businesses.
So I am excited to be growing a tech company here and it is a little different. I have a lot of friends in Silicon Valley and New York, and it gets you. It’s really easy to go to meetings with a lot of the New York and Silicon Valley firms, but the benefits of zoom meetings and other technology, we can conference in and have the same discussions and then travel to see them and get them implemented. So, there are definitely a little bit of challenges but it’s like I can easily get to New York, I can easily get to San Francisco being in the center of the country. So kind of centrally located, so we can get different places, but I love it. I love the area and I love raising a family here.
Monica Bay: I can certainly understand that. I remember when I was in Minnesota how much I loved to be able to go to my family and in the West Coast and to New York when I needed to do. It’s very valuable. And before we move on, we are going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsor.
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Monica Bay: And we are back. So what advice can you give to young parents?
Haley Altman: Yeah, it is hard. I mean when you are starting a company, so I had young children while I was a practicing attorney and it’s difficult to be kind of in any context of when you are really trying to build a career and really pushing yourself to get to that next level, because the hours aren’t easy, and so even in the legal practice there are definitely some challenges and how to figure out how to create that balance, I would say it’s even harder from the tech context, because there’s so much you need to be doing to kind of grow the business. The travel becomes a much bigger part of it.
So you have to find ways to have those moments. I was at a CEO event recently and another CEO told me that when he gets home. He puts his phone in a drawer when he walks in because if he doesn’t put it away, it’s too tempting to look at. So he gives himself from the time he walks in the door, he focuses on his wife and his children, he has dinner with them, he talks to them, he engages with them, and then he puts his kids to bed and then right then he’s tempted like, okay I have spent time with my family, I am going to get my phone out and I am going to reconnect with the business and what we need to do.
But he realizes like he also has to spend some time with his wife, and so then he takes another 30 minutes past when the kids go to bed to really spend time with his spouse and collaborating and talking and making sure that relationship is strong.
Because at the end of the day when you are building this company and a lot of people will talk about, it is a roller coaster running a startup and trying to the highs and lows, and then on the panel said at the Future of Law Events, there then and now, he said that it’s like a roller coaster and the highs and lows a lot of times are on the same day. So you are going to have the best morning ever and have a huge fail in the afternoon, there’s like a major customer issue.
So you can’t even necessarily go one day with it being like a super high. So you have to be prepared for that and you can be prepared by having that support system at home. So when I come home and I walk through the door and my girls come up and give me the biggest hug and they are so excited to tell me about their day, or when I come back from a trip and I am exhausted and I am — we’ve been kind of really trying to push to get a sale closed and I am just — you are kind of warned then a little bit, their like joy and happiness can be really fulfilling, but it is hard to be away from them and make sure they understand just how important they are.
So I try to take time out to do special things with them on the weekends where I am home, where I take them somewhere and do something with them, and I try to make it to their school events as much as I can. So there is a balance and it’s hard to find that balance. You have to work at it, but it can be incredibly rewarding and it can help you in those moments where you’re like, oh my gosh, like all right, we’ve got to get through another day that there’s just that innocence and that joy that they bring to life that like kind of takes you out of your problems and it’s like, okay I got to focus on having a kind of a complete life. So it’s definitely challenging and you have to try to have a balance. And some days, you are going to feel like you didn’t quite get to spend enough time with the kids and other days you’re going to feel like, man, I really rocked this parenting thing today.
And then I see my girls, I think as a mom when I come home, my husband told me one day that Madison our youngest was playing on this like kind of laptop, that’s like a kind of a Fisher-Price laptop, and she said I am mommy, I am working, and I think — this is one of those things they see, they see so much and if you can show them from a young age that these opportunities exist, these stem opportunities to do something in technology and to be a leader. I mean you show them that early like it just sets them up for so much that they could do, and so I take the challenges and the late nights and the exhaustion with knowing that I am doing something really powerful for them.
Monica Bay: Well that’s really great, really enjoy that. So what has been the biggest surprise with Doxly?
Haley Altman: I think the biggest surprise is just how much you don’t necessarily know about running a company until you are actually in it and living it. Like I’ve worked with startup companies as a career in the law firm practice. So I got a chance to see people take ideas, bring them into companies and grow them and I got to be a part of all of their experiences throughout that journey but until you are in it, you just don’t understand just how much goes into it, like how many things you have to be thinking about.
So there’s the initial kind of what is that product that we want to build and that’s the part where I feel the most comfortable like what is it that we can do and what is it that we can build and what are the key nuances that we have to be cognizant of. So those are the areas like feel more comfortable. I mean I don’t code but I know how to explain what I think we can do, but like how to sell, how to think about the customer. Customer success has become one of our biggest areas of focus, because a lot of technology goes into law firms and then people don’t use it.
And so you’re not really — you may get that initial sale but that’s not the goal for us. Our goal is not just to get that initial sale, it’s a really impact and change the way people are able to practice and give them the flexibility to focus on those higher value legal tasks. So I didn’t know that there was a role like that customer success role, I know there was customer service like when you call and like my iPad isn’t working the way I want. I can go to the Genius Bar, I can go and get support, but I didn’t know that there was an entire industry of customer success professionals that come in and work with you to understand your business objective and come up with a plan to implement technology to help you achieve those.
So that’s like the most eye-opening. We have a VP of Customer Success, Natalie Fedie, who was at GovDelivery, and she was helping sell technology into government, another industry that is a little bit hesitant on adoption of technology and also has various big security concerns.
And so she came in and with Murray Bower, our Customer Success Manager, they have really kind of created this whole kind of focus of Doxly, of how are we going to help make you successful with our product, how are we going to help you meet your business objectives.
So it was just a surprise that that was a concept and then it’s been something I think is so amazing and so critical. So I’ve been really excited to see like what we can do with that, and it’s going to become one of the cornerstones of how we really work with customers and set ourselves apart, because that’s going to be a big focus.
So I think that was one of the big surprises of what you can do with that. you have the technical like — it’s hard to sell in legal and understanding what the sale cycles are, so I’m happy to go into any of those without the challenges, but that was one of the most interesting surprises I had in terms of what it means to kind of create a full-scale business, and it was one of those pleasant surprises of what you can do to be really successful.
Monica Bay: That’s incredibly interesting. One more question for you, where do you want to be in five years and ten years?
Haley Altman: In five years, I think we can really grow Doxly into something that transforms kind of the legal project management. So we’ve started with transaction management focusing on mergers and acquisitions, private equity venture capital. We’re already seeing the ability for it to expand into real estate and bond work.
And so really kind of seeing how we can grow the company and how we can really grow the service offering, I think that there has been such a focus the ABA had this model opinion 477 on that email is not presumed to be confidential anymore, because there’s so many risks in terms of how it can be hacked and the potential loss of data, and I want to build a system that enables people to really share and collaborate around these key documents that drive these legal transactions.
So in five years I hope we’ve really built an amazing business that improves the way attorneys are able to engage with their clients and really collaborate with their peers to move these important transactions forward.
In ten years I hope, within that time I hope we’ve had a successful exit of whatever kind of we decide that to be for Doxly. I would like to find myself and I find myself thinking about this a lot of how to really get involved in driving legal innovation at a large scale whether that’s through a legal tech focused venture fund or accelerator within a law firm or within like a law firm’s innovation department, I’ve just seen so many things as I’ve talked to different law firms of what works, where we could have improvement in the legal industry.
And so really kind of focusing on helping evolve the legal industry in meaningful ways to kind of bring that technology to market, give people more opportunities to engage with lawyers, and just build that ecosystem. I loved practicing law, like I love being an attorney and I want to make sure that people can love practicing law and do that practice.
We see so many people wanting to kind of approach on the industry and move work to different places and I want to see that we can continue this amazing industry that really provides like a meaningful service to people and get people to continue love doing it.
So I want to find myself doing more to help that on a larger scale.
Monica Bay: Well, Haley you’ve been phenomenal. It’s been so interesting and we’re running out of time. So before you leave, please tell our audience how can they reach you.
Haley Altman: Yeah we’re at Doxly, doxly.com, so you can come, learn about our products, you can send any information. We’re on Twitter @DoxlyApp. You can reach me on Twitter, I am @Haley_Altman, and yeah, I would love to connect and engage. I’m on LinkedIn, you can find me at @HaleyAltman on LinkedIn.
So yeah, I would love to connect with more people in the legal industry and see how we can continue to move everything forward.
Monica Bay: Well, thank you so much. This has been another edition of Law Technology Now on Legal Talk Network.
If you like what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcasts. We will see you next time for another episode of Law Technology Now. I am Monica Bay signing off.
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|Published:||May 18, 2018|
|Podcast:||Law Technology Now|
Law Technology Now
Law Technology Now features key players, in the legal technology community, discussing the top trends and developments in the legal technology world.