For early-stage start-ups, scaling up seems like tomorrow’s problem. But if all goes to plan, tomorrow will come, and it’s worth every bead of sweat getting the process absolutely right.
We spoke to three LegalTech CEOs to get their take on this important life step: Luminance’s Emily Foges, Tessian’s Tim Sadler and ROSS Intelligence’s Andrew Arruda.
1. Be adaptable and, more crucially, hire staff who are adaptable.
Tim Sadler: “You really need to be adaptable, grow and change alongside your company. This is a key factor to properly scaling a new business – you’re not going to need the same skills running a five person company, as you will for 50, and 500 people. You can go from being responsible for growing a product, to recruiting and growing a company, in the blink of an eye.”
Tim Sadler: Tim is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tessian, an email security platform that counteracts human error by analysing email networks and automatically preventing highly sensitive emails being sent to the wrong people.
Emily Foges: “When scaling up it is important to hire the person, not the job. At Luminance, we need to have people who are really adaptable. There’s no point in getting people who are very good at one thing because over time the role may move away from the one thing they specialise in. If you’ve got people who are clever and interesting then they will be able to deal with change.”
Emily Foges: Emily is the CEO of Luminance, an AI platform for due diligence, compliance, insurance or contract management. Emily has led the growth of the business, which doubled in size every quarter throughout 2017.
TS: “As well as dealing with the immediate challenges, you’ll need to constantly be thinking ahead. As a founder, I have a rough plan in mind for where I think Tessian should be in three years. Having a strong long-term vision for the company is incredibly important, but you need to be flexible about how you get there. The uncertainty about future outcomes is so vast that having rigid long term strategies makes little sense – no plan survives contact with reality.”
EF: “Senior management need to be just as adaptable as their staff. In the early days of a start-up, everyone is doing a lot but then senior roles move away from that. And it can be hard to move on from being the person who writes a proposal. But you need to let go of that. My job has become much more about ensuring there is a consistency of culture and a consistency of message, as Luminance is now operating across 23 countries.
2. When scaling you need the right investors as much as the right staff.
Andrew Arruda: “The process of scaling up often coincides with seeking or receiving investment. It’s important to remember that not all investment is made equal, as raising money from the wrong people can doom your company. If you are misaligned with your investors you will be building a product to hit metrics they may want to see but may not be the right fit for your company at that specific time. Choosing the right investors makes a critical difference.”
Andrew Arruda: Andrew is the CEO of ROSS Intelligence which produces artificially intelligent tools to help lawyers achieve more with their time. The company’s first product was a digital attorney, built using IBM’s Watson.
3. Stay true to your focus.
TS: “Many start-ups fail because they try to do too much too soon. Two problems you face are a lack of resources, and noise in the market. Cutting through the noise requires that you nail your niche by focusing on one specific thing, which also helps make sure you don’t overextend your bank account. Do one thing incredibly well, solve one problem better than anyone else solves it, and use it to penetrate a specific market. Then you can start expanding outwards.”
4. Protect your culture at all costs.
AA: “Remember all those sessions you did with your co-founder on company culture when starting out? Revisit them when scaling up because bringing in hires who don’t want to share in that culture, or are not aware of it, can tear the heart and soul away from your company.
“Culture is something that becomes harder to shape the bigger a company grows so my suggestion is to take time early on with new employees to codify them in your culture so they can be in no doubt abut the values and ways of operating your company is built on.”
EF: “You need to be able to recognise when a company’s culture is going to change in advance, and see it as a positive.
“At Luminance, we grew very fast. The team we had from the beginning included grads who were straight out of university and didn’t know anything else. But when a company goes from a small to an industrialised model, staff need to be able to find their superpower and focus on it. But of course still be able to adapt to further changes down the line.”