The legal industry is among the largest in the United States, with an industry size of over $437 billion. And with this huge industry size, it comes with no surprise that lawyers offer some of the most expensive services in the world.
Frustrated with the inaccessibility of legal services to the common man, 21-year-old founder and newly-minted 2018 Thiel Fellow Joshua Browder became dedicated to ubiquitizing them. I had the chance to interview Joshua and hear his story about what compelled him to start his company, DoNotPay, and pursue it in lieu of finishing his Stanford education.
At the time of this writing, DoNotPay has raised over $1.1 million in funding from prominent investors at Andreessen Horowitz and Greylock Partners, saved clients over $15 million in legal fees, earned Joshua a place in the Forbes 30 under 30 List, and features in top media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, BBC News, Guardian, CBC, Telegraph, Business Insider, ITV, TechCrunch, Daily Mail, NPR, Bloomberg, NBC, ABC, CBS ‘This Morning’, Telemundo and others.
Steven: Could you introduce yourself to those of our audience who may be unfamiliar with your work?
Joshua: I’m Joshua and I founded a company, DoNotPay. Our mission is to help the common man not have to pay for lawyers. Our platform uses AI to replace lawyers in filing legal paperwork, and help our clients appeal parking tickets, as well as work on paperwork for immigration and divorce. We have grown our services to cover over 100 legal areas.
Steven: How did you get involved in the technology industry?
Joshua: Well initially I jailbroke my phone and got into app development quite early-on. I thought it was quite interesting that in every other industry employees would have to work for an extended period of time in hopes of rising the ranks in a company. But in technology there would be a sort of exception, where anyone really can create an app and raise money for it to impact people.
Steven: Totally understand your interest in business and technology, but why law? It’s generally hard for an undergraduate to have experience in law, so why did you choose this subject area to work in?
Joshua: Jack Abraham from the Thiel fellowship once told me that if you’re not in industry then you’re less constrained. When I turned 18, I started driving and got a bunch of tickets. After the 4th ticket, my parents said told me that I had to start paying for them. I had no money at the time and definitely couldn’t cover the costs of these tickets, so I had to figure something out. I wrote appeal after appeal to get my tickets cleared, and by the 10th one, I basically realized I was submitting a variation of the same appeal time after time. So I realized that I could automate the process to save time. The idea for DoNotPay started with this personal problem that I had.
Steven: You were a CS and Economics major for three years at Stanford, and we just learned how you fostered your interest in law. How did these three interests come together?
Joshua: Legal services are a commodity, and they’re incredibly expensive. I had programmed since I was 12, and wanted to learn more about the economics of why legal services, though so automatable, were so expensive and unaffordable.
Steven: How did you transition from being a developer to becoming an entrepreneur.
Joshua: Personally, I think when we’re building a company, focusing on development and making the product as good as possible is the best way to go. By having customers who can vouch for your product, it becomes easier to market later on, hence the business side. But without an amazing product it is definitely much harder to do everything else. So focus on development instead of the business side, to keep it concise.
Joshua’s 3 Tips for Young Entrepreneurs Looking to Build a Successful Company:
- Learn to Code: Nowadays it is very difficult to be a successful founder without knowing how to code. It’s also difficult to raise money without a technical founding team.
- Look Past Trends: Don’t get caught up in the trend. In 2016, trends like Chatbots were predominant. But it’s important to predict something coming in the future rather than something that is already popular.
- Find Mentors: Mentors have the experience to advise you against pitfalls in business that they may have faced themselves.
With Joshua’s tenacity and vision in discovering new trends, as well as his technical programming abilities, the Thiel Fellowship, and network, we are bound to hear more about Josh’s work in the future, whether it involves transforming the legal industry or otherwise.
Steven is the founder of ProjectileX, Managing Editor of Youth Business Collective, Fellow at Stanford’s Designership Institute, and Member of the Youth Skills Initiative at Global Business Coalition for Education.