Wellwishers' Newsletter, August 2016
In last month’s letter, we said: in July
- we will meet angels and funds in Singapore as part of our fundraising campaign;
- we continue to develop our industry–academia research partnership; and
- we continue v2 product and v3 research and development.
We did all these things!
In August, we aim to confirm commitments toward our Angel Round Tranche 1 and pull the trigger on v2 development.
Beginning with the end in mind
In July, we forecast our funding rounds from angel to IPO, outlining valuation growth and eventual dilution through to a target of a $5B IPO in 10 years.
The fundraising plan now looks like this.
Do we really plan to get to a $5B IPO in 10 years? Is that even possible? Well, yes; we wouldn’t be taking external funding if we didn’t think we could do it. The legal industry as a whole is worth $400B annually. Corporate contracts are about $80B. So why not a $5B IPO?
Our angel round will occur in two tranches. First we plan to raise about $250k. Later we plan to raise up to $1M, at different valuations at each tranche – about $3.5M pre for the first tranche, then $6M pre for the second tranche.
Our seed round will follow when we have demonstrated product/market fit with some revenue experiments, at about $10M pre. The pre-money valuation for our Series A is targeted for $20M. We may skip the seed round depending on market conditions.
Remember Glengarry Glen Ross? The AIDA diagram? Yes? Now you’re thinking with funnels!
We reached out to 76 potential investors by email.
50 wrote back, for a 66% initial conversion rate. We sent them decks and spent most of July in meetings and calls. A few more have been scheduled for August.
We received 7 “too early, try again later”, and a few others went silent or timed out.
Now we have 20 potential investors who have either expressed strong interest (“send us your term sheet”) or have made soft commitments, from a “count me in” over the phone to a handshake to a signed letter of intent. That’s a 26% conversion rate which is pretty good.
Some of these commitments do not have exact dollar figures: for instance, one fund usually writes cheques at the $1M level and above, and needs approval to invest smaller.
Still, we are able to estimate the total value of hard commitments to date at $325,000, and soft commitments at $1,050,000 (all figures SGD).
Now, we can’t justify taking $1M all at once: it would distort the cap table. So we will ask investors to spread their commitments across the two tranches. That way they can decide whether to come in earlier, when the startup is extremely risky, or later, when it is merely very very risky. Our milestones are pegged to problem/solution fit and early product/market fit.
(For the stages of customer discovery vs customer validation in the customer development process: Steve Blank’s presentation; my #64SF model breaks it down with even finer resolution; but also see Lean & Fat Product Thinking and Product-Driven vs Customer-Driven for broader perspectives about why Lean is not for everyone.)
We got a grant of US$8,888 from string.technology (“String Labs”). While the dollars are certainly appreciated, the grant mostly symbolizes a vote of confidence from an industry pioneer. You can read more about this in their press release and in coverage on e27.
To actually receive the grant money we had to open a bank account. That was painful.
We applied for a SPRING TECS POC grant. This grant may reimburse up to $250k. That means that the $250k that we raise from angels could go twice as far – think of it as nondilutive 1:1 matching.
Other Media Coverage and Public Appearances
- Artificial Lawyer interviewed Alexis Chun.
- Virgil presented Legalese at the Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop (back in May).
- Meng presented at the Singapore Haskell Meetup. (notes)
Research into L4
People ask: “will lawyers use L4?” Our answer: why not? Students entering law schools in 2026 will have learned to program as children; law schools then might well be teaching L4 as a core requirement.
Back in March, we invited a lawyer from Australian law firm kwm.com to visit us at our summit. We shared our L4 prototype with them; they went back and used it to express a simple ISDA interest rate swap
So lawyers can learn to program! I mean, a law firm with a Github account? Wow!
We also recruited a logic theorist to work with us on the hard CS problems.
We had a friendly call with Barclays, who have been pioneering smart contracts with R3. We reviewed the slide deck from the June Smart Contract Templates Summit. We concluded that we are neither too far ahead nor behind the sweet spot of market/technology innovation.
We spent a very productive afternoon with a professional UX designer shaping up our front-end spec. We recruited a UI designer to work with our front-end lead. We identified a third-party dev shop to build the back-end, pull everything together into a user-ready product, and run the devops needed to support production on our MVP.
- Product revenue: $0.
- Non-product revenue: US$8,888 or S$12,000.
- Expenses: S$1,400.
Forecast for August
- Meng visits Silicon Valley to check in with some potential investors there. These meetings should lead to commitments toward our Seed and Series A rounds.
- We will get our v2.0 product fully spec’ed and baselined for development kickoff. We will get a quote from an outsourced vendor.
- We will send out term sheets and definitive documentation – all generated by Legalese! – for review and possible execution.
- L4 will continue to develop.
written at Food for Thought, Botanic Gardens, Singapore