Speaking with Mary Juetten, founder of Traklight, which helps clients identify, manage, and protect valuable intangible assets including IP, at Clio Cloud Conference 2018.

Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with?

Mary Juetten: Hi, I’m Mary Juetten from Traklight.

Kevin O’Keefe: What is Traklight?

Mary Juetten: So Traklight is something that you can use to do a business legal checkup, like, how are you doing? What kind of risks are you facing as a business, whether you’re an inventor with a business idea, all the way up to mid-sized company that doesn’t necessarily have a GC already.

Kevin O’Keefe: You’re also a lawyer.

Mary Juetten: I am a new lawyer.

Kevin O’Keefe: How’d you get the idea for Traklight? Where’d that come from?

Mary Juetten: So I went to law school – there’s just a bit of a gap – So I went to law school from 2008 to 2010 and in 2010 I took two classes. One was on intellectual property and business and the other was doing technology law in a clinic situation. So I used to joke it’s the only time I was ever going to practice law, but I did learn to never say never because I took the bar in 2018. But when I was sitting there with my clients in the clinic, there was a client who had created a patent and he had two other people with them and they hadn’t assigned the patent and they hadn’t created an entity, hadn’t done any of this, and I was like, it’s not about the fact that they didn’t understand IP. It was about the fact that they didn’t understand how to build a business. So I thought, well, there should be some way that an everyday person can have a checklist. So I don’t know. Have you ever read that book by Atul Gawande called “Checklist Manifesto?”

Kevin O’Keefe: Nope.

Mary Juetten: I read it way later. But it goes through how checklists really help us. So what Traklight is, it’s like a TurboTax approach. So you get screens and you check all that apply. But it’s basically a large checklist for starting up and running a company.

Kevin O’Keefe: So how does Traklight operate? Does it operate online, where people go through a web-based atmosphere?

Mary Juetten: Yes. It is a SaaS software as a service. We have a free business, legal risk checkup.

Kevin O’Keefe: How’d you build it? You’re not a technologist, are you?

Mary Juetten: No, no, no, I’m originally an accountant, so that’s how I got the TurboTax approach to software and I’ve been a big consumer of technology for 30 something years. I was enthusiastic as an accountant as they brought in technology, which is why I don’t understand, as a lawyer, why people aren’t more enthusiastic about it. So what I did is I used Excel and I created kind of a mock-up, what I called the Alpha version and I had eight people that were building companies. I printed it out for them, all the questions, and they wrote on it and they told me like, I don’t understand this question, etc. And what I offered them is if they did it, I would then give them like a free kind of IP audit, because that’s really what Traklight is, but that’s like a terrible tagline because no one wants to be audited. So then it worked in the sense that people got information from it. So I went in and I wrote out all the rules in business law, like as a business analyst and then I turned it over to people to code and so there were some spectacular founder horror stories associated with my experience of coding.

Kevin O’Keefe: So this time, when you’re sitting there sketching this out on spreadsheets, asking them to mark up the copy, and tell them what they don’t understand, whatever. Did you know you wanted to build something?

Mary Juetten: Yeah, I wanted to start with, “is this even going to work?” Like you know the whole Steve Blank approach. From day one, I knew there was a problem but I didn’t know exactly how to solve it. So I thought well, if we have this kind of online questionnaire…

Kevin O’Keefe: You figured it out. So you go out and find people that have to code this thing and develop it. Where did you start? Just tell the stories of the highs and the lows of that.

Mary Juetten: So I went to someone who’s a relative of mine – super smart guy – but this is when I learned there’s people that are IT infrastructure people, and coders. So this is 2011, so I just asked, could you just build this? And he was like, Oh yeah, sure. And then he goes, I’m going to build it in Drupal or something like this and I’m like, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Anyways, so that didn’t work out. Then I hired these software developers and they got sort of down the road with it and I had this vision of what it would look like, which matches what it looks like now. And it was just this long list of questions when they coded it. And I was like, no. So that happened.

Kevin O’Keefe: What would you tell somebody? I mean knowing that, and you were talking to somebody over coffee or a drink and they’re saying, hey, I’m thinking about starting something. I’ve mapped this thing out, I think it can work after bouncing stuff by, but I’m not a developer. Where do I start? How do I find one? What do I do? Because a lot of the people here who I talk to and it’s like their buddy is a developer, or their cousin. They have these close friends. I didn’t have one of them when I started.

Mary Juetten: My thing is, no friends, no family, zero. Like I just think that’s bad for business, not just based on this project that I did. So what I did is I found somebody who had a reputation within the community – and this was all in Phoenix, Arizona. At the time, they were just starting to open incubators – this is like 2012. So I did find somebody, and we got a Beta version launched and everything, and then that person disappeared. With our code and everything. The same day that we won this huge Success Magazine contest. The same day. So I took a class by this woman out of New York called Tech Speak for Entrepreneurs and it actually teaches you what you need to know to evaluate a developer and to understand. And when I look back now, I was completely stupid because like I just recently bought a new car and what did I do? I went out and educated myself on the car, but somehow with developers we feel like we should not question them. So you should interview them, you should test them, you should do small projects and get them to do something and see if you like it. That was the mistake I made with the second people.

Kevin O’Keefe: When you originally got it up, how did people find out about Traklight? How did the word get around?

Mary Juetten: So what I did with the Beta is I had gone to ASU Law School. I gathered an advisory board very early, my first advisor was sort of a mentor and then I gathered other lawyers and I got people to give us feedback, and I went into an incubator program which is where we were just after we launched. So I was able to go and do speaking and I’ve always been kind of a go out there in person and I wrote a lot, so the whole content marketing thing was familiar to me. And that’s how we got people to learn about it.

Kevin O’Keefe: How long has Traklight been in existence now?

Mary Juetten: I laugh, because it’s one of those things people think it’s like, oh, it just happens like that, you know? So I came up with the idea in 2010 and then it launched in Beta in 2012 and then we re-hauled the entire thing to be what it is now. Launched in the spring of 2014 and then we built upon it, coming up with charts and all these things. And then we’ve just launched a personal legal checkup and we’ve also launched a deeper dive into whether something is patentable, called Inovo Discover. So those things have kind of been going along. There was a big pause while I spent a lot of time on Evolve Law, which initially was so that I could promote Traklight within the legal industry –

Kevin O’Keefe: It took on a life of its own.

Mary Juetten: And so Traklight has always kept going. We have this free business risk assessment and when I look on HubSpot, the reports, we have so many universities. They come and people use the system, because it’s educational. So our market was the small businesses, then we switched to maybe attorneys and then – we still have a few attorneys who use it – now we’re focused on large white label versions for the bigger legal companies. And we’re integrated with Clio, and have been integrated with Clio since 2015.

Kevin O’Keefe: What was the time where you thought, okay, nobody is foolish enough to say, Hey, I’ve got it made, the business will be great forever. Because every week you think it’s going to die or something. When would you get to the point where you go, this is going to work? We can pull this off?

Mary Juetten: I think we got to various levels, like we can pull this off for this. It keeps changing, and in 2015 was when we made this big shift where we said we’re no longer going to spend money. We used to have like 15, 16 people. And we were like, no, this doesn’t make any sense. The cost of acquiring these customers, like the small businesses, doesn’t make sense. So we shifted to the white label, longterm partnerships and some days it feels like, okay, this is great. We have these companies like Paychex, but there’s so much more that we can be doing with it. So I don’t think I’ve ever had the day where I think, hey, it’s all good, it’s all done.

Kevin O’Keefe: It’s a never-be-satisfied attitude.

Mary Juetten: It might be.

Kevin O’Keefe: And the guilt level: We should have done this, we could be doing more.

Mary Juetten: I’m one of those people who, I don’t know if you saw the keynote on the stress topic. So I have been always thinking of the silver lining. Like with Evolve Law: it took over my life, I ended up jacking up my arm from all the travel and everything, but if it weren’t for Evolve Law, I wouldn’t have relationships and it’s not public yet, but we’re going to announce some cool pilots that we’re doing with really big companies that I never would have gotten to if it wasn’t for Evolve Law.

Kevin O’Keefe: Yeah. Which is true. When I was following you with Evolve, I had no idea that you had this other company and it was maybe four months ago, six max and I’m looking through your profile on Linkedin or something else. And saw Traklight and thought, what’s this? Is that a side thing that she’s doing? I really thought that that was some type of small hobby on the side as opposed to, well, this thing took on a big deal, but that’s closer to the hobby then this thing over here. But you’re right, you got known by lots of people and you’d be doing events with some pretty influential people in the room.

Mary Juetten: Exactly. And then I decided that for kind of our semiretirement, I’ve always said I’m never taking the bar. And then I sat down and did it in February, which, at my advanced age, that was not fun at all and I wouldn’t recommend it, but the day after, a woman that I’ve known for years, we went to law school together, she’s practiced tech law. She reached out to me, and asked if I could be a counsel, and added that they’d like to use Traklight. So I have Juetton Law, which is my Washington law firm where I have a free business risk assessment, the first part, but I also have a free personal legal checkup. And so I’m going to work on linking that to other lawyers, because now I’m a lawyer, and I can refer to lawyers. But I’m not going to charge. So referring people off that way. But with Nimbus Legal, which is that the place where I’m of counsel, we will use Traklight for the startups to work on that.

Kevin O’Keefe: What’s your one big bit of advice to somebody that’s thinking about starting a company? A legal technology company?

Mary Juetten: My one piece of advice is it is not for the faint of heart and doesn’t happen overnight. Ask any of these people – and it’s not just legal tech, it’s technology – it’s any kind of company you have to be able to pace yourself. It’s beyond a marathon, it’s a triathlon…

Kevin O’Keefe: And it’s okay, two or three years you realized you got some traction and that’s pretty fast actually. I mean even in the first year you just get a little slice. You get a couple customers, I mean we got to seven paying customers at the end of the first year. The next year we had like 37 or 69, I don’t remember what it was. In hindsight, people would think, well you must have starved, which we kind of did, but it was good growth and then you get to a certain level and it can’t keep growing that fast anymore. But you built something.

Mary Juetten: Yeah. And with us it’s like we keep changing what we’re doing, but we had at one point a multi-year contract for quite a bit of money with Infusionsoft where it was almost like we were doing services for them and providing software, but they were providing input into our product and, what Jack was talking about, the product market fit. It’s one of those things that we’ve got the white label version going now so that it can, it’s an educational tool that lets clients or members or whatever, understand what their legal needs are. And then at the same time it gives a report of all the questions and all the answers. So instead of sitting with a client for an hour saying, “so do you have a co-founder agreement?” And then they go, “what’s a co-founder?” And then you have to explain.

Kevin O’Keefe: And you can keep adding to it. Keep building out this profile of things for it.