Recently we managed to catch up with Jennifer Reuting, Founder & CEO DocRun, an awesome startup in CA. Jen, is a serial entrepreneur who founded her first company at just 17 years of age. Her first company came to life due to a crazy situation where the founders of the company, that she was working for at the time, eloped with the cash box.
Jen used the free office space to launch InCorp, and this year they are on target to generate well in excess of $25m in turnover. Jen is also the creator of LLC’s for Dummies and can be found in her spare time mentoring at several accelerator and incubator programs across the West Coast.
DocRun is a SaaS solution that creates highly-customized, state-specific legal contracts and agreements instantly just by asking the user a series of simple, intuitive questions. Even the most inexperienced users can create (and also understand!) highly complex contracts.
How did you come up with the idea for DocRun?
Through the years I have spent a large portion of my time engaging with a lot of small businesses, and I have definitely developed a passion for helping small business. It’s really easy and relatively cheap to start a business nowadays, which is brilliant. But one thing that has not been democratized and is still very much archaic is the law. Creating strong legally binding partnership agreements, stock option plans, etc… is not cheap. Most startups don’t have the $5k to spend on a retainer or a spare $500 an hour to drop on attorney fees. So I decided to start DocRun, an artificial intelligence that replicates about 90% of what a lawyer does but at a fraction of the cost.
What were some of the challenges that you have faced starting a company?
The whole fundraising process was really interesting to me, as well as figuring out how to streamline it while I continued to build the company – I found that to be a massive challenge. It is so easy to put all your time into fundraising, so finding a way to compartmentalize things was the key for me. Whatever you do, do not let fundraising take over your life. I hear a lot of CEO’s say that fund raising is their job, and you know what… that’s not what I want to do. I created DocRun because I wanted to help others, so that’s what I want to do with my time.
What 4 pieces of advice would you give to founders looking to raise their first round of funding?
- Look to build real friendships and relationships with investors before you look to pitch to them.
- Never pitch the first time you meet an investor. Instead, find something that you have in common to talk to them about; their blog post, something that you feel strongly about that is relevant. Show an interest in their interests.
- Find the connectors. If you want to get a meeting with anyone you need a referral. Don’t spend your time pitching at events or going to startup meetups. Instead, work on your prototype and find 1 or 2 key people that believe in you and ask them if they could make any introductions. These people can get the whole of Silicon Valley on your side. So as early as possible, finding those people that are connected that will talk you up and make the introductions that you need.
- Get on Angel List, it’s awesome!
My biggest piece of advice is to have a prototype. If you can’t build a prototype people will have a hard time believing in you.
When it comes to fundraising, are there any things that entrepreneurs should stay away from when pitching their company to an investor?
- This might sound counter intuitive but if you have a little bit of revenue and traction don’t dig into it too much. You need to keep them focused on how you are going to change the world, and not metrics that can put restraints on their imagination.
- Do not ever say “if we get just 1% of the market we will be making lots of $£$£”… particularly if it is China.
- If a VC suggest that you make some changes to your direction, don’t agree just to humour them. Have a real reason why you disagree and stand by it, but also be open to exploring their suggestions.
- If you are raising money when you need money, you should really be concentrating more on selling your product. That is not the time to start rising capital, investors can smell desperate.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
Business plans are weird, right? The thing is that it’s all bullshit, honestly. It’s not a plan because it’s going to change. I don’t plan more than a starting point. A super detailed business plan is not good for raising capital either -investors just don’t have the time to go through them. A 7 slide deck is perfect, because you don’t know all the details anyway. They just hope that you and your team have the aptitude and talent to pivot and adapt your idea as needed to evolve. Understand your starting point and stuff the projections.
A massive thank you to Jen for taking the time out of her busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. We look forward to catching back up with DocRun next year to see how things have progressed. In the mean time check out their site you can also find DocRun onTwitter!