BUSINESS PODCAST: How Do You Transition from having a Long Career as an Attorney and Become a High Tech Entrepreneur? Joe Tiano of Legal Decoder Explains How He Did It.
How Joe Tiano from Legal Decoder ditched his two decade career as an attorney and Sr. Partner at a large Washington D.C. Law Firm and became an Entrepreneur building a successful software business.
Talk about taking the leap, listen how Joe did it and how he’s having the time of his life!
You don’t want to miss this episode…
A full transcript of the episode is below.
Brandon: 00:00:00 Welcome back to another episode of Build a Business with Brandon. I am Brandon White, your host, and today I am excited because we are going to be talking to a longtime friend Joe Tiano of Legal Decoder.
Brandon: 00:00:14 Joe was my attorney on the first money I ever raised backin 1999.
Brandon: 00:00:20 He had a tremendous career as a attorney working his self up from an associate all the way up to a senior partner in a big law firm in Washington D.C. And decided that he was going to end his career practicing law and become an entrepreneur and he built this company called Legal Decoder.
Brandon: 00:00:45 I’ve been there since day one with him and it’s been an exciting journey and I know that you’re going to love his story because I know that we have a lot of listeners out there who may not be happy in their career, even if they’re doing really well.
Brandon: 00:00:59 You may not be happy and want to make a shift and that can be really hard to do. And listening to Joe’s story I think is an inspiration of how you go from having something that you are comfortable with and making a leap which is totally uncomfortable and then making it work out and it wasn’t all easy and you’re going to hear that in this episode it wasn’t all roses but Joe has made it work and he is on his way to building a really successful company.
Brandon: 00:01:32 I’m really excited for him. I’m actually proud of what he did because it’s really hard to make that jump. I put together a cheat sheet for you. If you are thinking about making a job switch or transitioning into something, there are certain things that you want to make sure that you are thinking about. People sometimes say, well, I’m just going to go jump and do this and I think that is absolutely the wrong thing. In fact, every company that I have ever built has always been built as a side hustle and there were certain parameters and certain things that I needed to check off before I made that leap. I put that together in a cheat sheet checklist for you and I tell you where to download that towards the end of the episode. So be listening for that. And without any further ado, let’s jump into it with Joe Tiano from Legal Decoder (LegalDecoder.com)
Brandon: 00:02:40 Hey everybody.
Brandon: 00:02:40 Welcome to another episode of build a business. We’ve got Joe Tiano, the founder and CEO of legal decoder. Joe and I know each other. Going back, we were just talking before we went live on here 20 years. Joe was my first attorney when I built my first business, which I think it was named more one England time. It was right Joe. That was right. That’s right. Ah, and that’s a story that I tell in my blog. Joe was there from the my first real round of money until the end. And then we became friends and he’s helped me along the way up until I sold that company and we run into each other and help one another. But the amazing thing with Joe is, is that he took a 20 year career as
Brandon: 00:03:35 An attorney. I knew him when he was an associate. It was a [inaudible] Joe and Harry Glaser, I think was at GT law at the time and took worked his way up to a senior partner, which you’ll tell us about and then completely made a jump. And he can, he’ll tell you about why he did that and he took a jump, became an entrepreneur, and now he’s got a really cool company that is on its way really revolutionizing the industry in analyzing legal bills. I’m gonna let Joe take you through a story. We’re going to go all the way back. I want to talk a little bit about where he is today, but mostly talk about how he started because that’s a story that no one ever really tells. And it wasn’t always easy for Joe. In fact, he bootstrapped it and then he’s raised a bunch of money he can talk about.
Brandon: 00:04:26 And then we will talk a little bit. Joe’s got to sons and talk about what his day looks like because no one ever really talks about how hard that is. And then he will give you three high percentage tips of for fellow entrepreneurs of how to start and grow your company. So thanks a lot, Joe, for taking time to be on here. Mmm. If I miss anything, jump in, interrupt me, which I know you will. And can you take everybody from the beginning of your story all the way back to when you became a lawyer and then how you sort of figured out that that wasn’t gonna work for you for ever?
Joe Tiano: 00:05:06 Yeah, sure. Well, first of all, Brandon thanks for reaching out to me. It’s a privilege to be able to chat with you on the podcast.
Brandon: 00:05:14 You know, I, I think that as a practicing lawyer meeting guys like you and the guy’s like, he was really instrumental in, and the decision to become an entrepreneur. You know, after having gone to law school and practicing law for a couple of years in in, in, in big firms, you know, 1999 and 2000, 2001 rolled around and I met a ton of guys just like you who were hungry young, Mmm brilliant entrepreneurs who were really capitalizing on what was happening with the internet and sort of revolt you know, revolutionary technology and click handily. I was kind of sitting on the outside and I was a little bit jealous. I mean, I watched all you guys build amazing companies you know, worldwide and angler was one I watch sort of the advent of, of, of Blackboard which was an enterprise software company back in, you know, 2000, 2000. One went public I think in 2002 or three. And then after one public, there is outgrows from the entrepreneurs at, at Blackboard. And I just kind of watched all you guys and you were having a lot of fun. You were making a big difference in people’s lives and you are solving problems in a way that people had never really imagined. And you know, just kind of watching you I kinda got the entrepreneurial zeal to try it one day, but you know, as a lawyer, I never thought I could do it.
Brandon: 00:06:52 Well. Yeah. And maybe we should talk Joe for context. You and I, back then, I mean I was on the Eastern shore, Maryland, we were on the East coast, so it wasn’t even like we were in Silicon Valley, you guys at GT law, we’re really paving the way for tech companies. And then ultimately I think Cooley moved in and then everybody else followed. But know I think that’s important for listeners to understand that it wasn’t as if we were living in the tech capital of the world or the entrepreneur capital where we were on the East coast. Things were happening for sure. Mmm. But [inaudible] you were living, I think you were living in Tyson’s corner at the time.
Joe Tiano: 00:07:31 Yeah, that’s right. The I mean, you guys were revolutionaries. I mean, there was probably a zillion of you know, sort of upstart entrepreneurs who are really the logical problem solvers on the West coast, but there weren’t too many of you guys on the East coast. But, you know, it’s sort of like success begets success. You know, people like you had some success in Blackboard guys and it just throws, just numerous outgrows. It probably all started frankly with AOL probably about 15 years earlier. And, and you know, the, the town, you know, DC converted from a government town to a commercial town. But you know, for the most part it was, you know, tech technology you know, pharma and biotech coming out as an H and then you know, government contracting and insecurity coming out of all of the agencies that has like, you know, free letters. And, and it, it transformed from a, from a government town into a government and commercial town. And it was really fueled by, Mmm. By some West coast money, but it was, it was just fueled by sort of the confluence of really incredible forces, smart people lots of money and evolving technology.
Brandon: 00:08:57 Yeah. If I remember those days, and it was AOL proxy calm with Raul Fernandez, there was vertical net with Mark Walsh and then there was UCI. I was in an Apolis and then MCI. And I think that’s really what fueled it. So take us up until, you know, after that sort of wave where are we? We’re all in it. You then, you know, tech in 99 crashed and then you continued your lawyer career. Can you take us through from, you know, post crash, whatever it was, or 2001 crash, you know, building your law degree, and then ultimately what made you pull that trigger to say, Hey, look, I’m going to do something. And then how did you even come up with the idea of legal Dakota?
Joe Tiano: 00:09:49 Sure. So yeah, I, after, after the crash I wound up moving as an associate from Greenberg to, to akin Gump. There was about I don’t know, nine people or so in our group that moved over to over to akin Gump. And I largely was pulled over to akin Gump because the ring leader who was the part charge with the you know, the big book of business kind of wanted to bring Blackboard along. So Blackboard kinda came with me and I would say probably another associate. So that was a nice resting place for, you know, 2000, 2004 when the economy was sorta just post bubble and [inaudible] and reinventing itself and in a, in a different way. And then about two years later the partner with whom I moved to akin Gump moved to another firm called Thielen Reed and priest at the time.
Joe Tiano: 00:11:00 Well, what sort of an old school, New York, San Francisco firm. And, and it was not really sort of a technology hotspot by any stretch of the imagination. I actually, I knew about Thielen raid priest because believe it or not, my father used to be at a partner at, at redone priest. And, you know, my name was up on the door and people would, my dad had passed away years ago, but you know, people would walk by and I’m sort of like a, I’m a doppelganger for my dad. People walk by, I’m like, Oh my God. It’s like, I don’t understand. Who are you? I was like, yeah, yeah, I know.
Brandon: 00:11:34 I didn’t even know that. I don’t know how, I didn’t know that over 20 years together that I didn’t know your dad was there. Well, that was pretty cool.
Joe Tiano: 00:11:42 Yeah. yeah, so that was a, that was sort of an interesting that was an interesting journey. And then and then the guy who I went to with left and went to another law firm, I’m like, look, I’ve been, I, I’ve been a gypsy for, for way too long. I want to you know, I want to try to see if I could go on my own. And, and with, with lawyers, they often are able to take their book of business with them. And, and there was a little bit of business that I had originated on my own. But I just said, look, I’m going to fly on my own. I’m going to give it a try. And, and I was kind of an entrepreneur in a law firm environment, which sounds a little bit I don’t know what the right look at anomaly and, and I suppose it kind of was, but so I, I wound up teaming up with one of my former partners at [inaudible] at [inaudible] and we built basically a cross border finance practice that was doing a lot.
Joe Tiano: 00:12:43 We were doing a lot of work in, in China in, in, in cross border financing transactions. And we came basically out of, out of really scratch out of nothing. We built a, a several million dollar practice together and we’re, we’re kind of getting promoted up through the ranks at at Thielen. And all of a sudden 2008 hit Lehman hit and and Thielen didn’t make it through the didn’t make it for 2008. It wound up going and solve a declaring bankruptcy. And so we had to kind of find a home for our practice. And so, you know, as it was a, it was a very shot off after practice cause we’re doing it about 10, $12 million worth of business at the time. And so we wound up going to a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, which was a, a, again, a bike coastal national firm a lot of roots in technology and entrepreneurship.
Joe Tiano: 00:13:44 And I was there for, I don’t know, a good five years, just kind of continuing on and sort of the aftermath of a Thielen, you know, I made equity partner in the year that they that they went bankrupt, which is really, really incredibly poor timing from us from a bankruptcy law perspective. But, you know, we kind of parlayed what we built there into, into a practice at at Pillsbury and the practice of law. Just honestly, it started getting a little bit repetitive a little bit, Oregon. I was starting to see the, the industry trends form, you know, there were, there were entrance into the well everyone of course was, was concerned about sort of the you know, the, the size of legal fees but about what are seeing new technologies come into the market, which were really disruptive to the industry. You’re seeing companies like legal zoom and a rocket lawyer you are seeing non lawyer, they call them alternative legal service professionals. Basically, you
Brandon: 00:14:52 Know, it’s, it’s, it’s this process outsourcing for the legal industry, legal process outsourcing come in and, and, and be able to do the work. The Rick sort of recurring more commoditized work that, that lawyers were historically doing it $500 an hour for $125 an hour. So the competitive landscape, just you know, from, from sort of the financial crisis recession of 2008 until I left and 2000, 13, 14, whatever it was. It just, the entire industry was getting the, you know, there was sowing the seeds of disruption, let’s put it that way. So how did you come up with, I mean, obviously there was these new technologies and I remember legal zoom and thinking, wow, now we basically have a concierge legal service. And you know, in the Valley things started to change. I think that I think thinking back Joe, that [inaudible], you know, I’m a cheapskate or maybe not cheapskate, maybe, I don’t know.
Brandon: 00:15:59 Oh, please. You’re not a cheapskate at all. You’re just mindful with your dollars. Yeah. Mindful. That would be a good way of is. So I’m not a cheapskate, but I am cognizant of yeah, how much money I spent on things as you know, a quick story for everybody. Joe learned about that one time. We were, we were closing a deal. We or we were trying to close a deal. We actually missed that deal with news Corp and Joe co I knew Joe was going to be on a plane and he so I get a call from Joe and he’s like, Hey, I’m checking in. I said, well, what the hell is going on here? Where are you? And he said, well, I’m on the plane. I said, are you calling from [inaudible] the phone on the back of the Hey? And Joe said, yeah, I’m calling from the back.
Brandon: 00:16:51 I instantly hung up. So yeah, I remember you got back down to Atlanta and you’re like, what the hell are you, hang on. I was like, that thing’s like $5 your law firm’s gonna charge me another five on top of it. So yeah, I, I, I wouldn’t say that I’m cheap, but what I do remember is that that whole, that whole model was obviously changing around. Mmm. You know, how everything was going to be priced in. What I was saying is a four. I went off on that tangent remembering that story was that, that first deal, that first million dollars that I raised that yeah, you were the lead guy on, I think the attorney fees for that were like $85,000. And I think the entrepreneur community basically, I didn’t know any better right at the time as an the entrepreneur side of things.
Brandon: 00:17:44 But I remember thinking, doesn’t, don’t they just have this from another deal? Yeah. The turns are different. But why is this so hard? You know, it should be a template in and around that time that you’re talking about. I remember the, the whole thing of series C documents came out on a really I think out of Silicon Valley here where the entrepreneur said, Hey look, this is ridiculous. We’re not gonna, you know, have a $100,000 or 80,000 to 8% of our, our money raised going to legal fees when this thing should be systematized. And that’s when those series C documents came out. And I think really revolutionized raising money in that sense. And that was probably, you know, when legal zoom and these other ones like you’re saying came out and
Joe Tiano: 00:18:32 You know, it went from
Brandon: 00:18:35 $20,000 charge to incorporate down to a few thousand dollars and things became more economical. So, and, and I, I do want to say one thing, cause I think lawyers get a bad rap and burning by listening. I get to say this, my grandfather had a league, a law firm for a long time. So it’s not as if I don’t come from that place and I’m taking a jab. But I think that lawyers get a bad rap in the sense that, you know, they say, well, it’s a services company, but in many ways, Joe, you and your partner, and I remember those times because you brought me in on one of those China deals that you were putting together. I remember we, we met down across from the MCI center. Oh, the old MCI center in that part of town. Mmm. Is that you, you guys really are entrepreneurs because you had to build that book of business. It’s not like the law firm when you get up to that level, the whole deal. Right? I mean, maybe you can talk a little bit about that. Is, is the partner actually has to generate your own business. It’s not like you have this funnel coming in and they’re like, Hey Joe, here’s 20 leads today.
Joe Tiano: 00:19:37 Yeah. I mean there’s a real contrast between being a business entrepreneur and an entrepreneur within a law firm context in a law firm context. You know, unlike unlike most commercial businesses, there are limitations on what you can do from an advertising perspective. There are limitations on, on what you can do from a, from a sales and marketing perspective, there are limitations on what lawyers feel comfortable doing. You know, it’s, it’s not like sort of the all out or in, in the commercial world where you’re going to try to steal your actively steal and publicly steal or your competitors. Client and business, it’s much more, you know, you have to, you have to be in the right place at the right time in one respect. But you also have to be thinking creative creatively. You’ve gotta be thinking, okay, so there’s a ton of other lawyers out there who do the same thing that I do from sort of a, a transactional perspective.
Joe Tiano: 00:20:41 What can I do to differentiate? How do I make myself different than, you know, 80 million other M and a lawyers and, or 80 million other finance lawyers. And you know what, what my old partner, Lou and I and who’s actually now our lawyer figured it out was if you have a differentiator, ours happened to be China. We were the leaders in doing cross border Chinese deals. That was a differentiator. And when he become the market leader at it, you know, all of a sudden, you know, the right place at the right time now becomes, you know, you get invited, it’d be speakers because you are the expert on things. So it’s a different path within a law firm to become a successful, I’m using my air quotes entrepreneurial, but but yeah, it could be done in a law firm context. It just much, much, much more limited how you can do it and much more difficult. Well that’s not true. It’s not more difficult to be an entrepreneur. It just, it’s sort of a different breed of entrepreneurship.
Brandon: 00:21:45 Yeah. I think though that it does take a lot of creativity like you said, because of limitations on what you can and cannot advertise. So I just thought it was worth bringing that up cause I think people in the services businesses don’t think of it. And I think you articulated really well that it’s different, but it doesn’t minimize the fact that you still have to be an entrepreneur
Joe Tiano: 00:22:08 [Inaudible]
Brandon: 00:22:08 To figure out how you’re going to market yourself. And I, and I do remember you guys doing that. In fact, I think you were using buying companies on the stock exchange and then doing into them. And that was really fascinating. In fact, I think it’s still an Avenue and maybe even some of these companies today are doing that. But let’s get back to so that happens. What, like was there one day while you’re sitting in the office with Lou or sitting in your office by yourself when you said, Hey, I’m going to create this technology, I’m going to call it legal to coder and we’re gonna comb through legal bills with AI and ML and optimized billing. I mean, was that like this, you came home to Meredith and you’re like, Hey, I got the new great idea or how did that happen?
Joe Tiano: 00:23:00 Well I guess a couple of things. As I think all great entrepreneurs do, not to say that I’m a great entrepreneur, but great entrepreneurs do is they listen to the market. They listened to what their customers and clients are saying. And when I was listening to, to my clients, they weren’t complaining and not just my clients, but clients across the industry. All, all lawyers and private practice were here in the clients weren’t complaining about the quality of loitering or their technical skills or responsiveness or substantive knowledge or anything having to do with the the service delivery aspects of loitering. But what I was hearing a of and the marketplace was, and my legal spends a big black hole all negotiate, you know, a 10% rate discount at the front end and it’s not translating to a 10% overall reduction in outside counsel legal costs.
Joe Tiano: 00:24:00 Or I’ll try to put in place a fee deal. And you know, I’m constantly confronted with in a scope creep and change order. So all of the predictability and visibility and efficiency and value that no clients were looking for it. They kind of weren’t getting from there. There are law firms and then on on the law firm, partner side of the world, you know, a client would come to me and say, Hey, do you want to handle my transaction? You know, and the response is, yeah, I’m the best in the world at it. Love to handle your transaction. And then, you know, I get the next question, which of course is okay, well how much is it going to cost? And I’d have this kind of Oh crap sinking feeling in my stomach. And I put my finger up in the air and I’d say in which ways to win blind somewhere between $350,000 and $850,000 the clients would look at me like I had seven heads.
Joe Tiano: 00:24:52 It’s like, wait, hold on. You’re an expert on this, but you don’t know how to price it. So I kind of look back and I stared at the ceiling for a little bit. I thought about sort of the problems that I just articulated on the one side, it’s sort of a, it’s the same coin, right? But it’s, it’s viewed through the client lens on one side of the coin and it’s viewed from the law firm partner lens on the other side of the coin. And when I came to realize is, you know, it’s really a problem of being able to price legal services accurately and efficiently because that’s, that’s what both sides frankly want. And you know, every year in the legal industry, there’s about $60 billion, $6 billion of pricing uncertainty within the industry and who wants to be on the wrong side of that equation?
Joe Tiano: 00:25:40 Yeah, yeah. So, so what, what, what I, what I figured out is you could actually use mounds and mounds and mounds of unstructured data that sits within law firms and within clients in technology to drive basically pricing predictability for law firms and, you know, ensure optimal efficiency and value for clients. So that was sort of the, that was the Genesis of the idea. There was just a problem in the industry of, of an inability to price with accuracy and transparency and make sure that when that happens, matters are worked with optimal value and are, or data analytic software basically looks at data to make sure that those problems are solved and overcome. Yeah, and I, I just comment for the listeners. You know, Joe said, I don’t know if I’m a great entrepreneur, but great entrepreneurs do listen to the market. And, and I been since day one
Brandon: 00:26:45 With Joe. And that’s really what, as I listened to you, I’m thinking, well of course lawyers are good at looking at both sides of the market because when you try a case or whether you get to trial or not, you always have to look, you’re, you’re trained to look through someone else’s lens. So it’s actually really good skillset. And, and Joe, you have adapted cause it hasn’t been easy, which I want to get to here in a minute. By any stretch of the imagination. I mean it’s, it’s not like you just cruised in and it worked. I mean you’ve pivoted and, and weaved in, docked in, and you’re still in business. And when did you, when did you guys start this about? Well, I started, I mean, I conceived of the idea obviously when I was you know, it tells Barry and you know, it, it takes time for these, for these ideas to kind of germinate and crystallize it.
Brandon: 00:27:36 Just to be able to write them down on paper to figure out do I have something that’s more equitable or not? And going out and testing your thesis and testing what the market’s really want. I, I thought I knew what it was, but you know, you still have to test in and every day, you know, from, from the very beginning until today, it’s, it’s still continually testing out ideas and theses and trying to figure out, you know, where can we deliver the best value to our law firm clients in our, in our corporate clients. Mmm. So, you know, I’ve been at it for, I’ve been at the entrepreneur thing outside of a law firm context now for about four and a half, five years. And, you know, I, I think that people like you, I watched people like you for Mmm, 15, 20 years and I studied your ethos and how you approached the market.
Brandon: 00:28:32 And, and figure, you know, it’s, if you could identify a problem which could be sold, all right, which could be solved, then, you know, you’re really in good shape, but it’s you know, it’s kind of like raising a child. It takes a village. Well, that’s for sure. I think the other thing that I like you to talk about is one of the impressive things that you’ve done and that I hear a lot of which in the tech industry is, I have this great idea and, but I’m not a tech person. Meaning I’m not a coder. I’m not, and I mean, I think it’s fair to say, Joe, that you couldn’t write a line of code back then if you tried. I mean, that’s just not what you did. You weren’t an engineer yet. You were setting out to build a technology that you’ve yeah, I mean four and a half years. I mean, we hear about ML and AI now. Mmm. And tech nerds like us. We’re talking about it long ago, but you really figured out something and then you had to go out and actually figure out how to build the darn. And
Joe Tiano: 00:29:42 Can you talk us through that? I know that you’ve got a partner, but how did you even no tackle the, I remember us talking, but you know, I wasn’t the whole person in this thing at all. If anything you really, yeah. If anything impressed me because then you came to me one day and you’re like, Hey, I got this. Dang. I was like, how, how the hell did Jody do that? So you talked a little bit about how that, it transpired too, just to walk back. You came up with the idea when you were a lawyer. If I have the story right, you were going to leave basically the law career, just point blank. They asked you to stay on, you did work, you know, as a side hustle night while you work those six months. And is that when you figured out how to get a tech partner or, or I don’t even know what was your approach?
Joe Tiano: 00:30:34 Yeah, it was I think with many successful, okay, companies yeah, you look at it from a consulting perspective to start off with and then you want to transform you’re consultative advice into something that is repeatable, technology driven and scalable. And those are words that I’ve, I now understand. But five years ago I had no clue what I, to, to explain what I [inaudible] just said. And it’s people like you who I talked to another technologist at the time who said, look, you got to find somebody who you trust, who’s, you know, if you’re all in, they need to be all in. Obviously, if you’re, as you’re working through being all in you know, it’s you could, you could sort of dip your toe in the water and figure out whether your thesis is correct, which is for what I did. While I was transitioning out of the law firm.
Joe Tiano: 00:31:41 But I, I got lucky, I teamed up with a college classmate of mine who I’ve known almost as long actually who I’ve known longer than I’ve known you. Chris Miller is our CTO legal decoder. He is a programmer. He’s a database expert. He’s said business intelligence expert and I kind of [inaudible] I sat down at dinner in a coffee shop with Christian and I said, Chris, this is my idea. I, I think I could Mmm. Automate. Mmm. Sort of the, the process of reviewing law firm data to help law firms and help clients. You said, yeah, we could do that. I said, I said, I don’t know how he’s like I do. And you know, Chris had been a friend of mine on a social basis for years and he became my business partner a 45 years ago. Now after our sort of naira meeting and he’s been indispensable to the process because like you said, I don’t know how to write code.
Joe Tiano: 00:32:47 I mean I understand from the 95,000 foot level what has to happen logically, but I don’t know how to translate that logic into something that’s, you know, scalable, something that’s secure, something that’s properly visualized, something that’s extensible. And Chris and we brought on our VP of technology. It kind of works hand in glove with, with Chris. They built the rules engine and then they adapted the rules engine. And then you came up with those just, I mean, cause I remember you hand wrote a lot of that rules because you understood how it worked in the law firm and I think that’s important too. Point out because they just didn’t write the rules engine. You I came up with some stuff on Excel or I don’t remember what you did, right? No, you’re right. No, you’re absolutely right. So, I mean, I kind of took my domain expertise in the legal industry and I said, you know, how, how would I look at this?
Joe Tiano: 00:33:53 And it’s, it’s pretty simple. No who, what type of legal professional, what are their credentials are doing? What, what are they working on? Is it a, is it a, you know, series, seed agreement or is it a notice of deposition or, or whatever. So it’s who does what and how long does it take? And I went through all of those metrics and I looked at, you know, how, through the lens of a client, how would you look at efficiency levels. I mean, we break it down to Oh, let me get too far into the weeds here. But, you know, we’ve, we break it down in, in, in, in on the client side read types of things. The first thing is staffing efficiency, which basically means that the right level of legal professional is handling a task appropriate for his or her skill set level and an industry benchmark amount of time, right?
Joe Tiano: 00:34:48 If you’re a client and you get that, that’s what you want. Then our second efficiency level is looking at workflow efficiency. So what we’re trying to do there is make sure that we can identify and and surface waste or redundancy or friction and workflow processes. And the last thing that we do is help with hygiene. I’m making sure that, you know, what’s in a lawyers bill, which is basically a diary of what they’re doing in charge of your client is clear, concise and reflects accurately recorded time. [inaudible] Both, both lawyers and clients want the same thing. They want, you know, the efficiency and the transparency and, and, and, and value coming out of it. And it was just a process of going through and saying, okay, what’s inefficient and what’s efficient? So I was
Brandon: 00:35:38 I was sitting here listening to you and thinking to myself, now I know that legal decoder is really far ahead. I mean, it takes those three things and it’s the, the, the, the code and the algorithms actually do it. But in the early days, cause I remember yeah, and I think you started working at your house and then you got an office that you could get at a house with a small little office on the second floor. I think over there in memory. And you showed me it. And just to demystify this whole magic that somebody just build software, I mean, truth is, is that the software didn’t really work completely well, not because the algorithms weren’t right, but because you had so many moving parts and you personally were doing a lot of those assessments by hand after the algorithm because you had to train it.
Brandon: 00:36:36 So you know, for people out there, a lot of people come to me and I know they do you to Joe and say, Hey, like I’m waiting to get this until I build the iPhone perfectly like that. That’s not how it works. You throw it out there and then you hand jam and do whatever you have to do. So I mean, I mean you were doing those audits, right? I mean they were and they were painful. I know they work because you said they took a a long time, but sort of deem if you can, I take the mystery out of all of this. Like sure. You really did have an MVP in it. It took some hand jamming. You gave the end product to the customer, right. But that was everything that you promised. But that machine didn’t actually always do it quite is easily.
Brandon: 00:37:23 Yeah. I mean to the non technologist you know, AI and machine learning them are basically, the machine does all the work which is eventually what you get to. But there needs to be domain expertise. And you gave me this phrase that the human in the loop element, at some point as you are building, the technology’s critical. You’ve got to test it. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve eliminated the, the false positives. You gotta identify where it’s, it’s, it’s missing and you know, it’s, it’s, it’s training, it’s, it’s training the robot who [inaudible] function like a human being. You know, I don’t care what type of technology it is. I, I, I’m, I’m skeptical that we’re ever going to get to, you know, 100% accuracy when the robot is being a substitute for a human being. It can get really close, but I don’t think 100% are ever going to be attainable
Joe Tiano: 00:38:35 Within certain disciplines in ours. I mean, we’re, we’re darn close to you know, with our algorithms too. Mmm. 100% of, of what a human being would do. But then there’s the overlay of subjectivity. Maybe, you know, there are reasons for why you want to overturn an algorithm. And you know, I’m sure that’s true and in many other with many other technologies and many other companies.
Brandon: 00:39:04 Yeah. So can we talk a little bit, switching gears just for a second on how you funded this, because you funded this, a lot of this on your own money. I know, not in, maybe you didn’t write that check and put it into the corporate energy, but you worked for yourself for free effectively with no salary for a while and [inaudible] you and you had some money saved up and you had planned that. Eh, can you talk about how you, how you really prepared for that, how you understood your burn rate and how long you had and then, I mean, you have raised money, I don’t consider you, I almost put you in a, a low boot is not total bootstrap but low bootstrapped. Because you haven’t raised $100 million like these other companies and you’ve gotten a really long way. And I would argue, although you and I’ve had some long talks, Mmm.
Brandon: 00:40:05 As painful as it, as banjo call me up and say, Hey, is this really how it is? I’m like, yeah, it’s painful. Like that’s the part they didn’t show you in inc magazine or entrepreneur magazine, but Mmm. No, you haven’t raised a ton of money. And, and I think that you’re just now really getting to a place where you have product market fit because of the a hundred, you know, you’ve tried a ton of different things. So let’s, let’s step back and just talk about how you approach saving your money. You’ve got two kids and a wife and you had that burn rate you invested in and then how you approached raising what I would call probably friends and family seed money around. You’ve really never gone to a professional venture round. And my hope is that you don’t need to, that you funded on customers [inaudible] walk. Give us a little insight into that.
Joe Tiano: 00:40:59 Sure. So yeah, I was you know, I, I had the good fortune with the practice that I had had built when I was in private practice to be able to sock away a ton of now and when a ton, you know, I mean enough to got us through. I wish I could say that I was a multimillionaire, but that’s certainly, it wasn’t the case then. Certainly is not the case now. Mmm. But you know, you just kind of evaluate sort of where you are at at the time. What’s important to you from a, from a, and from a familial point of view, you know, if it’s important to put money into fancy cars and fancy trips, you know, my thought is, you know, maybe entrepreneurship not really the route for you, but you know, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re willing to sort of invest in yourself and that’s, that’s frankly what you said.
Joe Tiano: 00:41:57 It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, you’re foregoing, it’s an opportunity cost. You’re foregoing the dollars that Mmm. You would have made doing my case. You know, being in a law practice and, and, and you, and you’re basically, like you said, you’re at times working for free or you’re under compensated. But in large measure, you really ought to look at it as though today you’re investing in yourself. If you’re, if you believe in what you’re doing and you’re passionate about what you’re doing and are solving a real problem that exists in the marketplace, the dollars will come. It’s just a question of having that one way. And, and modifying your lifestyle to make sure that, you know, it comes before your personal burn rate runs out,
Brandon: 00:42:43 But you knew, just to interrupt you there, you knew what your burn rate is. I mean, you, you sat down and said, this is what my mortgage is, my car payments are, this is what my food is. It’s with the kids soccer practices in school. Like you knew what that number was, right?
Joe Tiano: 00:43:00 Yes, yes. And, and, and, and I had a long conversation with my wife about, okay, she was in a mess. She’s been 1000000% supportive from, from the get go of, of, of what we’re doing. And I said, look, this is what I think it’s going to entail. You know, we might have to take a second mortgage out on the house. Heck, we might even have to sell the house. And she’s like, I believe in you because you believe in yourself. And she’s been incredibly supportive. I, I think for when you did show your house. Yeah. Well true. True story, right? Yeah. Yeah. you know, it’s been a good thing cause we, you know, we’ve moved across country from high cost of living area in in Washington D C to a lower costs of living urea and in Scottsdale, Arizona. But yeah, closer to family.
Joe Tiano: 00:43:56 I mean there’s, there’s a whole bunch of different reasons that kind of go into those sort of transitions. But, but I, I, I think anybody who’s thinking about being an entrepreneur, they’ve got to really give some deep consideration. And I know you and vet have been through this too, you know. Yeah. The entrepreneurial journeys euphoric at times and it’s desperate and lonely at other times. Mmm. But people sometimes forget about someone’s spouse or partner who is just as equally invested and involved in the process. And in anybody who’s considering it, you know, really ought to give some consideration and remember, you know, you’re bringing other people on this journey with you and make sure that they’re fully supportive and they buy into the process. Well,
Brandon: 00:44:46 Yeah, I think a, I was thinking back to your place in Virginia and even after, and Joe can attest to this, even after I had sold a company, I was still bombing places, staying on that last company that I did and bombing places and staying at Joe’s house. And you know, I think those are the things that, that
Joe Tiano: 00:45:08 People don’t, the
Brandon: 00:45:12 You know, they see the, the outward stuff and
Joe Tiano: 00:45:16 Secretly, secretly, and I’ve never told you this, this before, but you know, it’s always good to see you personally. But on a professional basis, I can’t begin to tell you what a great mind-meld a brain dump sounding board. You were drainage. I know you were doing it to save money or to be, you know, circumspect about how you’re spending money. But I got so much out of those visits where you just kind of gave me a different perspective on how to look, look at the entrepreneurial journey, position a company for success. I mean, you got there. And you know, anybody who has half a brain will know that it’s great to learn from. People says, sorry to interrupt you, but I just thought it, you gave me way too much
Brandon: 00:46:02 Credit and I, I think the listeners should know that Joe is way too humble and what he’s done. So I don’t want to [inaudible] okay. Take credit for that. I’ve had fun. And I think, you know, you know, I, I just want people to be successful. I mean, but I think one of the things that people, and I show some of those pictures is, and you know this, like Yvette and I lived in a little 1400 square foot house in Easton, Maryland for a really long time to manage the burn. And, you know, I got to do some cold things and, and whatnot. But Mmm. You know, those are the things that entrepreneurs don’t think about it. And I think you’re, in your case, you know, you knew what the burn was and I know you didn’t sell your house because the company, there were other factors, but it certainly was one of, of many like, Hey, let’s manage our costs and not live in this asinine place for no good reason. Right?
Joe Tiano: 00:46:52 Well everybody thinks when people think of burn rate, they think that’s like your corporate burn rate. But I mean there’s also, there’s a personal burn rate. There’s not your day costs. There’s, you know, there’s crushing your savings are taking on, you know, a second more. I mean there’s just, there’s a personal burn that no one, I don’t know, maybe it’s a dirty little secret that nobody likes to talk about that there’s a personal burn. But let me test you. There’s a personal burn there is
Brandon: 00:47:19 And it burns. I, it’s the first question, Joe, that I to ask everybody. I asked you to the first question. Well, when I, whenever I’m helping somebody,
Joe Tiano: 00:47:29 I’m like, what’s your personal burden? And everyone looks at me like, why are you asking me that? I want you to give me advice on my business. They don’t even understand it, that I am, you know, and you give that same advice, right? Like how long do we got Joe? Do we have six months or do it, cause if we had three or six months, like you gotta go back to that firm and get your job. Yeah, no, that’s right. It’s you know, I, I always like to use that, that metaphor about bacon and eggs where, you know, the the chicken was involved but the pig was committed and you know, you gotta be committed to, to, to try and to get it off the ground and everyone says, fail fast and yada, yada, yada. You know, from my perspective, failure wasn’t an option. I didn’t have a plan B. So you know, it’s a, the fail fast is, is I think a negative way of saying pest as the market. Constantly iterate, try things if they don’t work, try new things. I think be creative. Re-Imagined the way you’re positioning and packaging yourself, your company, your products, your technology. It’s you know, just Nope. Think expansively. Yeah. You know, constructively.
Joe Tiano: 00:48:50 Yeah. So, Joe, you have two kids who are getting older now and obviously you’re married. So what is it? I mean, what is the day in the life of Joe looked like? Not the one that’s on Instagram or Facebook, although Joe, I haven’t seen on there, but [inaudible] occasionally sends me, Oh, you’re on LinkedIn though. You are on LinkedIn. I see you on LinkedIn a lot. Occasionally, sometimes sends me a text message with a picture of himself. Mmm. But what is that like? What does a day look like? So you equate your, you quit the law firm. Yeah. You go out, you’ve got at that point, I don’t even think you had raised any money. You’re financing this yourself. You’re financing yourself yourself, and you’re a dad and a husband. So like, tell me what that day looks like. Yeah. Well, it’s it’s, it’s intellectually stimulating every single day and it re, it requires, requires an entrepreneur to be nimble.
Joe Tiano: 00:50:10 Do you use time wisely to not waste time? Mmm. And you know, to kinda be sort of a Jack of all trades, you know, the way I kind of look at it is, Mmm, the first thing people want to do when they start a business, they want to hire people in it. And you gave me the advice, don’t hire anybody. So John, to hire these sales people right out of the gate. I said, what did they say? You got to make the first 20 sales yourself. Do you follow me on that? Is that right? You are absolutely correct and you need breaks along the way. But you know, a typical day, you know, one day I might be working product one day and it not me, you, I mean I I I know a little bit of your day cause I stayed with you a lot, but like you get up at X, Oh sure.
Joe Tiano: 00:50:58 You check your email, you take, you dress the kids you know, play soccer with game. What does that look like? So, you know I, I get up ultra early simply because I’d like to have a couple of you know, hours to, what time is that? Four 30, five o’clock. I want to check my emails on a read what the market’s stilling in my, in the legal industry. I want to keep abreast of, you know, I’ll get 40, 50 emails, not from customers, not from clients, but from listservs, from, from industry rags. I want to keep up to speed on what’s going on in the industry. So the easiest way to do that is to basically, you know, do it in the morning before you get before you get the day started, so to speak. Then I’ll spend time with my kids, you know, a seven and 11.
Joe Tiano: 00:51:50 I’ll, I’ll help them get ready for, for school. And I drive them to school most mornings simply because it’s the best way for me to get my day started. It’s a little bit of time to kind of think about what I’ve read in time to plan today. Then we’ll have you know, it’s, there’s a bit of an entrepreneurial schizophrenia that you go through were no days identical because what you’re always trying to do is execute on strategy and while you’re executing on strategy, you’re also chasing the next door that’s going to the next dollar that’s going to come through the door. So, you know obviously you work on, on, on, on product for a couple hours every day, work on marketing for an hour or two every day. You know, you said you got to make the first sales as the entrepreneur.
Joe Tiano: 00:52:42 I mean, it was at the point where I was making cold calls. I mean, it’s just, that’s, that’s part of the gig. Can you still do that today? I’m not afraid to. But we’ve gained enough market traction that I don’t have to. So you have inbound come in now we’re, we’re getting inbound in, in, and we know exactly at this point who our target market is. It’s, it’s not like, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s not like most companies, we’ve got about 3,500 [inaudible] for our product. We know exactly who we, who they are, but we didn’t know that out of the gate. You figured it out and made a lot of mistakes along the way. So, you know, part of it’s investor relations or in the course of the day I’ll get an email or two from an investor saying, how are things going?
Joe Tiano: 00:53:31 And I basically, you gotta respond to your investors. Mmm. And do you take a break at an, at lunch? Like do you say, Hey noon, I’m walking away from the computer or Nope, my, my break is in the afternoon so my kids will get back, you know, three 30 and I’ll hang out with them for an hour or two. We’ll eat dinner and then I’m working again and then I cut it off at some points. Cause I need to spend time with my wife and I want to spend time with my wife. Mmm. I’m not willing to kind of give that up. And so, you know, at some point between, you know, nine 30, 10 o’clock [inaudible] the computer goes down and it’s Joe and Meredith time. And it’s, it’s important because does she know you, you, you’re on a journey with somebody else and you can’t ignore them along the way. You can’t make them feel like the entrepreneurial widow.
Brandon: 00:54:24 Yeah. I tell people [inaudible] and maybe you can back me up on this. [inaudible] And I do the same thing. I, I get up early like you and I’m
Brandon: 00:54:35 [Inaudible] but in the evenings, you know, it’s one of those things that I try, I always, if I’m lifting, I try to lift in the afternoon. Yeah. And if I ride my bike, I do it early. But the if I’m sitting at my computer and I’m, even if I’m in the middle of an email and it’s, I look up and I’m like, God, I really didn’t spend time with the better, whatever that is, I just get up. Or if that’ll come down to let the dogs out at whatever time, and I just get up. Like, is that something that you do too? Like even if you’re in the middle of something, I mean, it can’t be that important ultimately, but,
Joe Tiano: 00:55:13 Well, it’s not that important. Ultimately. I, I, I th I like to just, this is a personality. I like to start things and finish things. It’s just who I am. And maybe because of just a character flaw rather than a character.
Brandon: 00:55:26 Oh yeah. It’s not flawed and not good or bad. It just is what it is.
Joe Tiano: 00:55:30 But but I always allocate time for, for family and for health. You know, it’s because I’m no good. My business L or dead. Uso, you know, I try to keep up with exercising and doing all the things
Brandon: 00:55:46 You do that, why don’t you exercise and what are you doing now? Are you lifting? Are you walking? You run in? What are you doing?
Joe Tiano: 00:55:50 I’m going to the gym usually for about an hour. I’d, I block off an hour right around lunchtime and I’ll, I’ll go and I’ll get on a treadmill and a little lefthand. [inaudible] You know, it’s a, it’s, it’s, it’s good for the body, but it’s also good for the soul and it’s good for the mind. It kind of cleanses all of those things. So I think that anybody who says that work all the time is not where I really ought to be introspective and say, look, you should work at all times that you’re effective working for the sake of working. I mean, there’s, there’s no trophies given out for you know, working a lot. There are trophies in trophies in a form of success given out for working smartly and efficiently.
Brandon: 00:56:43 Yeah. Well, Joe, this has been awesome. I appreciate you sharing it. So can you, can we end with three HPTs, three high percentage tips for any entrepreneur who is either starting or growing their business, like where you are. You know, what are those [inaudible] whatever, whatever they are three high percentage tips from, from Joe.
Joe Tiano: 00:57:10 I think tip number one would be, don’t be afraid to fail. It could happen and embrace it. Don’t look at it as failure. Look at it as sort of a step along the journey. Mmm. The second piece would be, don’t forget about the people who helped you along the way. The Brandon White’s of the world the Tom records of the world my investors you know, this is, this is not something that anyone does alone. You know, people sitting in my position also often get the glory. Mmm. In many cases deservedly. But in many cases there are people along the way who, who, who made the person who sort of put up as a success story, the success story. There’s a lot of people behind it. And I guess the last thing would be just enjoy what you’re doing. What life short go solve problems. If what you’re doing is a drag on a professional basis and switch gears, it’s, it’s, it’s never too late to, to kind of follow something that you’re passionate about.
Brandon: 00:58:24 Well, that is awesome. Thank you for taking the time. I think we’ve cut out, I think you’re still on Pacific time out there in Arizona, but we’ll be cutting into your gym time, so appreciate you taking the time to be here. Joe. We’re gonna follow up with you in a few months. I want to talk with you about your whole fundraising strategy, which we didn’t talk about today, which is totally fine, but how you approach that. I know you have some really spectacular investors and how you were able to choose them and then structure your deal. So maybe if it’s cool with you, we’ll follow up with that.
Joe Tiano: 00:59:00 Sounds like a plan, right young man. Thanks [inaudible]. Yeah, and thank you for your time. Bye bye.
Brandon: 00:59:06 I hope you enjoyed that episode. It is a true inspiration to do something like Joe did. You should definitely check him [email protected] if you’re interested in following his journey. He also publishes some great articles on LinkedIn if you want to look him up and friend him, I’m sure if you wanted to ask him any questions about what he did, he be happy to answer those. So check him out. He’s on LinkedIn. That’s probably the best place to find them. And as I promised you, I have a cheat sheet checklist of items that I have come up with over the years when I’m making a leap to either start a new company or even when I was working at some other places and was going to leave of what needed to be done. Before I did that and I asked Joe after we got done the podcast to give me a few tips of his that he did outside of what we talked about in the podcast.
Brandon: 01:00:01 So I put that together. You can find the Crowdfunding Cheatsheet Checklist at: http://BrandonCWhite/2.
Brandon: 01:00:03 You can get that cheat sheet for free, check it out and go through that checklist. If you’re thinking about making the leap, cause I don’t want you to make any mistakes though. The last thing I want you to do. Make the leap and then it doesn’t work out exactly how you had planned, and then you find yourself in a really bad situation where you either run out of money, you can’t make the mortgage payment or something else. So check out the cheat sheet checklist. Go through there and make a plan on how you’re going to make your next move. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a review on whatever platform you’re listening to. I would be extremely grateful for that. I appreciate
Speaker 4: 01:01:12 You until the next episode. I’m rooting for your success. We’ll see you soon.
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