May 19, 2013 by huionn
The questions are copied from How To Kill Your Startup Idea.
1. Does your idea solve a problem that people actually have?
When my family visited a small firm to sign a document, we were waiting there for half and hour until the document is ready. A few week later, I went there to check the progress, it took the legal clerk and her colleague a few minutes to find the relevant file. I guess this is a common scenario for small legal firms.
I did ask a friend of my friend and emailed two tech savvy lawyers, the responses are affirmative (but the sample is too small to be conclusive).
(Nevertheless, over the year of developing and learning, I realize that there are much more in a legal case management system – docket control, calendaring, document assembly etc)
2. Is it possible for you to actually build the solution?
As I am the sole developer, it would be challenging to build the system myself. Fortunately, over the years of my career, I have always developed system singled handedly for the core of systems. So I guess it won’t be a problem.
However I found that a (complete) legal case management system is more complex than I think. Luckily, since from the beginning I choose to leverage from a few established open source platforms/frameworks. Now, the system is 90% complete and the codebase is still very maintainable (thanks to modular architectures of Nuxeo and NetBeans).
3. Is the opportunity big enough to justify the necessary investment?
The necessary investment is low as I am bootstrapping.
There are plenty of competitors in markets of legal case management/legal practice management software. There are a few which are great, but most are so-so.
In Malaysia, despite a few vendors in the space, the market adoption of the software is just around 5-10% (out of over 6000 law firms). I guess most law firms do not have technical staff to support a server and are reluctant to spend a large initial investment when there is no guarantee to justify the investment.
While I will focus on local market at the beginning, the market is not limited to Malaysia only.
(Actually I have alternative plan to port the application to other document and knowledge work intensive vertical market.)
4. Is there a plausible revenue model and path to profitability?
Monthly subscription model with free trial should be mutually beneficial to both subscribers and my business. Subscribers can use the service without hassles of upkeeping the server, backup and upgrade to enjoy more features. On the other hand, the business can get recurring revenue by providing satisfactory service.
5. Is the cost of acquiring customers lower than the profit you expect you will ultimately make?
Probably yes. By targeting at a niche market (small legal firms) with affordable recurring cost, I hope that it won’t need direct sales (which is very costly).
I wish to minimize on-going support cost by providing context sensitive help in application. In addition, I try to make the UI look intuitive to first time users, so that they are willing to take time to explore it.
“One helpful way to develop your own killer questions is to imagine a future in which your startup has failed and identify all of the possible reasons why. Your theoretical failures are answers to the killer questions that you should be asking now.”
- Legal firms do not trust IT to solve their problems (the system is perceived as unreliable).
- Legal staffs are reluctant to learn a new system (too complicated for them).
- It is not what they want.
- Competition from other vendors with similar business model.