Speaking with Puneet Tiwari, CEO and co-founder of Evichat, a tool for lawyers to collect, review, and redact IM chat evidence from client mobile devices and social media accounts, at Clio Cloud Conference 2018.
Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with?
Puneet Tiwari: I’m Puneet Tiwari, CEO and co-founder of Evichat
Kevin O’Keefe: And what does Evichat do?
Puneet Tiwari: Evichat helps attorneys collect evidence from their clients’ mobile devices and Internet cloud accounts.
Kevin O’Keefe: So it’s not collecting the evidence via mobile devices, it’s collecting the evidence that’s on the mobile device?
Puneet Tiwari: Exactly, exactly.
Kevin O’Keefe: And you guys are located where?
Puneet Tiwari: We’re in Toronto, Canada.
Kevin O’Keefe: What gave you the idea to do this? I mean, you weren’t walking down the street or in a coffee shop thinking, “I got to be able to collect evidence off mobile devices to lawyers.”
Puneet Tiwari: No, you’re absolutely right Kevin. So as an attorney, I found almost all my clients were sending me screenshots of conversations, whether it was their spouse harassing them or their employer, harassing them. And I was just overwhelmed.
Kevin O’Keefe: Really? So these were texts conversations and they’re sending you screenshots. One after another of these long conversations.
Puneet Tiwari: Exactly. Well, they’re supposed to be one after another. But I couldn’t tell what order they’re supposed to go in. And so I was pulling out my hair and I got together with my co-founder, who happens to be my cousin, and he said, “you know what, I could build something that fixes this” and here we are.
Kevin O’Keefe: That’s off the wall. How long ago was that?
Puneet Tiwari: That was about a year and a half ago.
Kevin O’Keefe: What type of work were you doing as a lawyer?
Puneet Tiwari: So I was working at a small general practice firm. So a lot of real estate law, but a lot of litigation as well. Employment Litigation, family litigation and general, civil and commercial work.
Kevin O’Keefe: How long had you been practicing?
Puneet Tiwari: About three years.
Kevin O’Keefe: How’d you enjoy the practice of law?
Puneet Tiwari: I enjoyed it very much. There’s a special feeling you get with, you know, when you help a client out and they shake your hand and thank you – and don’t mind paying you for it. It was very enjoyable.
Kevin O’Keefe: So you weren’t sitting there for 18 months, two years, going, “I can’t wait till I start a legal tech company.” You thought you were just going to practice law forever.
Puneet Tiwari: Absolutely. Yeah, and it just came to me and I was tired of complaining to myself.
Kevin O’Keefe: So how did your cousin know that you had this issue? Were you complaining about it? And he overheard it?
Puneet Tiwari: That’s exactly right. I was complaining about it and asked if he knew any method to collect them. I was actually looking for a solution I could buy. I was willing to pay a monthly fee to have this done, and he couldn’t believe it didn’t exist already.
Kevin O’Keefe: And what did you expect the solution to do, that you were going to go out and buy, that you couldn’t find?
Puneet Tiwari: Just exactly that. Collect text message conversations from the cell phone.
Kevin O’Keefe: Interesting. As I’ve talked to founders, it’s always from I had this problem and I couldn’t believe this. So how’d you guys get started? What do you do?
Puneet Tiwari: Well after we decided that we were going to try and solve this problem my co-founder, he’s an engineer from the University of Waterloo, which is Canada’s MIT, so he has a lot of startup experience. He sat me down and asked me, “hey, so what do you envision? What does it look like in your head?” So I just gave him some verbal diarrhea and next thing you know, he’s come up with sort of screenshots on a piece of paper of how it might work and then we worked on those kind of paper wire frames until we were happy with the solution and then we got to building it.
Kevin O’Keefe: Normally I don’t into details, but I am interested in this. So what does a person do then? So you’re the lawyer, working with the client, and then does the client have to put something on their phone that captures information so it can go on to the lawyer? How does that flow work yet?
Puneet Tiwari: So, sort of like that. So a client walks into your office and is telling you they want to send you their screenshots. The lawyer simply sends them an invite to download the Evichat app on their phone, they download it on their phone, select the platform, contact, and message thread, and hit send.
Kevin O’Keefe: So you’re in Toronto, you know, big city, and the only people that know about Evichat are you and your co-founder. How do other people find out about it?
Puneet Tiwari: Honestly our number one source is people on Google searching how to collect text messages from your clients and they land on our website.
Kevin O’Keefe: Really?
Puneet Tiwari: Yeah. And that’s what really showed us that we have something here. Because we put up a splash page way before we had a product and people were emailing us, “is this ready? Can I use this?”
Kevin O’Keefe: When did you stop practicing law and go full time with Evichat – assuming you are?
Puneet Tiwari: Yeah. So about March, 2017. That’s when Evichat took over, and my law practice was suffering, and so I made the switch fulltime.
Kevin O’Keefe: You can only be married to one spouse.
Puneet Tiwari: Exactly, exactly.
Kevin O’Keefe: Was there a period of time where you had to really bootstrap to get by? You went from having a paycheck as a lawyer, which can go up and down, but you’ve got a paycheck, to now you’ve got a company, and there’s no guarantee of anything.
Puneet Tiwari: Right. So that was one of the toughest things because we bootstrapped this whole thing. We didn’t go after venture funding or anything like that. We built this ourselves and we did get some family and friends funding, but everything else has been organic and bootstrapped.
Kevin O’Keefe: How’d you get by? I mean, just living.
Puneet Tiwari: Well, my wife is a lawyer so she’s definitely helping with that.
Kevin O’Keefe: You have to have a spouse who’s willing to do this crazy thing.
Puneet Tiwari: For sure. And you know what? It’s a risk, and there was a period of time where my co-founder was living on his friends’ couches, but things came together. So if you believe in yourself, you’ve got to take those risks and jump in the pool headfirst.
Kevin O’Keefe: Was there a low point where you can remember almost vividly like, oh my God, is this really going to work or am I going to survive?
Puneet Tiwari: There’s always those low points. But you have to sort of will yourself out of them. Just the other day a client gave us all this feedback back – here’s 10 things I hate about Evichat. And I thought, Oh man, we, what have we done? And then I emailed him back saying, okay, well would you use it on another file? He said, absolutely, I’m going to use it on every file like this I have, because it’s the best thing out there. So even though you know, he gave us all this feedback that I thought was a negative, it’s actually just a way to make our product better.
Kevin O’Keefe: Because you open those up and you’re going, “oh my God, what if everybody feels like this and all of our clients leave. Nobody’s going to use this again.” What was the point in time where you said, this is going to work? When was it that you thought “this is going to fly?”
Puneet Tiwari: Well, after our first iteration and our first handful of clients, we got a ton of feedback. We tried to implement those immediately and then our next round of clients said, how did you think of this? This is great. So talking to our clients and then giving us feedback and then always telling us, yes, we need this, we want to use this. That that’s what it really showed us it was going to work.
Kevin O’Keefe: The feedback from clients who were invested.
Puneet Tiwari: Yeah and that’s with any startup, you know, you have to look to your clients or potential clients: they shape your product.
Kevin O’Keefe: It is so true, because they’ve already invested in your company. They’re paying you, you just have to listen. People will try to make the product perfect before they launch it and I say, “well, you don’t know what people want, until people are paying.” And they have to pay. It can’t be free.
Puneet Tiwari: Absolutely, and I will probably say we’ve never had a free client. They’ve all paid.
Kevin O’Keefe: That’s great. If you were sitting on a panel and there’s a number of legal tech founders and people in the audience wanted to hear what the number one thing is that you would tell them, what would it be?
Puneet Tiwari: An audience of lawyers?
Kevin O’Keefe: Yeah. It could be anybody. It could be lawyers, or the people who are here. Jack is up on the stage with a room of 1500 people, a of people in the audience thinking, I’d love to start something too. I heard about all these cool companies. What would you tell them?
Puneet Tiwari: Ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is everything. So start today. Put up a website, draw out a wire frame and talk to people, and if you really want to do something, jump in. Do it.
Kevin O’Keefe: Thank you very much.