Turns out even well-paid lawyers want deferred payment services.
Dylan Ruga, an intellectual property attorney founded Steno Agency, along with two former executives at restaurant reservation platform Reserve, in 2018. Steno Agency gives lawyers the option to pay for the service once the case is settled.
One headache for attorneys is the cost they have to front when hiring court reporters. Attorneys representing the plaintiff don't usually recoup the cost until their cases have been resolved.
"That's where the idea for Steno was born because [Dylan] went looking for a court reporting agency that would defer payment until the case resolves," CEO and co-founder Greg Hong said. He couldn't find one.
The Westwood-based startup prides itself on its deferred payment system, DelayPay, that allows attorneys to hire court reporters and videographers without the worry of upfront costs.
Last week, the company received $20 million in debt financing from Rivonia Road Capital, a global alternative asset manager.
In other ways, Steno Agency isn't very different from most court reporting agencies that offer court reporting, videography, interpreters, remote depositions, litigation support services. But, unlike other court reporting agencies, it has a different payment plan.
Hong boasts that while there are court reporting agencies, litigation finance companies, tech companies within the legal space, "very few companies, if any, are offering all three under one umbrella."
Brad Smiedt, co-founder and managing partner of Rivonia, said strong management plays a role in their decision to finance a startup.
"We wanted to know that there is a reliable, experienced team that is going to be successful," Smiedt said and that's why they were able to finance Steno with $20 million in debt financing. "But because we are getting involved early in the company's lifecycle, we are taking some risk that the company is going to either be successful or not successful."
The agency also offers Steno Connect, a videoconferencing platform built for remote depositions and remote bench trials. Some of the funds will be used to hire more engineers to build and add to their products like Steno Connect.
"It really empowers an attorney to emulate what they would have done if they were there for an in person deposition in terms of the manner in which they would share documents and it just makes the user behavior more natural," Hong said.
In a traditional court setting, exhibit handling can be in the form of an 8x11 poster board that will be shown during a deposition. Attorney's using Steno Connect will be able to share documents seamlessly. Unlike Google Meet, when someone shares their screen, it takes over the whole monitor and prevents you from working.
"So when you would share that document, you'd see the documents side by side with the images and it would allow the participants to more fluidly interact with the exhibits themselves," Hong said.
The company operates in California, Texas, Illinois, and New York and plans on expanding across the country.
Meet Gary Benitt, managing partner at Social Leverage — a venture capital firm that invests in startups ranging from fintech to SaaS.
On this episode of LA Venture, Benitt discusses his role at Social Leverage, the fund's investments in Robinhood and Rally Road, and his approach of investing early and leaning in.
"I want to be a user. And I have intuition that I believe is right. But obviously, it's just one data point for my founders to take and to do with what they want," said Benitt.
Since 2011, Benitt has invested in early-stage companies like Classy, Getaround, Gusto and Gyft. Joining Social Leverage brought Benitt closer to the fintech world. And he credits his partner Howard Lindzon's vision and big personality for earning Social Leverage's reputation.
Before he started working at Social Leverage, Benitt spent 18 years building companies in the customer service and support software space, including startups such as Assistly, where he was the founder and COO.
Benitt's knowledge in sales and support have led him to be willing to invest early on if he believes in the idea. He stresses the importance for founders to be on the frontline selling the product they made.
"If you love everything about the deal, but the price, do the deal anyway. The price shouldn't be the reason for you not to do the deal if everything else is great," he said.
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On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Untapped Capital, Alltruists and Kiva founder Jessica Jackley talks about her experience supporting entrepreneurs across the world, and offers advice to founders on what to do when encountering doubt -- from themselves or others.
"The pursuit of an opportunity, a vision, like an imaginary world that you want to make real. You're running after this thing, you're pursuing it without regard to what you have in front of you," she said. "So there's always going to be something wrong."
Jackley's journey as an entrepreneur started when she founded Kiva, a nonprofit that lends money to low-income entrepreneurs. She started the company and moved to East Africa where she heard stories of people starting businesses with just $100.
"I wasn't asked to swoop in and help or save. I was asked strategic questions about where they could access loan capital, where they could access business training," said Jackley. She added that the individuals she met through the service didn't want handouts.
Kiva offered $200, $300 loans at no interest. That model helped build successful small businesses. Every year, they saw a raise on how many loans they could offer. The company has so far facilitated $1.5 billion in loans since the business started in 2005.
More recently, Jackley founded Untapped Capital and Alltruists. Untapped gave her opportunities to invest in unexpected companies and watch them rise, much like Kiva. Alltruists was born out of the pandemic.
"I really wanted to figure out a way, especially as we were on lockdown, like how do we not just have our lives be waiting for the doorbell to ring and another package is dropped off and we just consume it, right? What, what would it look like to reach back out into the world in a way that is helpful," said Jackley.
She created a box subscription service that provides kids with activities that can benefit them and the world. The company's last box focused on making a pollinator hotel for bees.
From her ventures, Jackley recognized when pursuing your dreams, something will always go wrong.
"There's going to be days when you are told, or you're telling yourself, 'well, I'm not old enough', 'I'm too old'. 'I don't have enough experience'. 'I have the wrong experience', whatever," said Jackley. "Just take more steps anyway towards that thing. Cause that's what great entrepreneurs do."
Hear more of the episode, in which Jackley talks about her goal to disrupt the volunteer economy and more.
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