I have added a new affiliation with a second startup company, again in the B2B space. As part of my participation in a seed-investment round, I am now mentoring/advising DirectDep. The company offers a cloud platform that enables law firms to book individual court reporters for depositions in real time, with many additional time-saving and quality-improvement features enabled by the technology. This is a description vetted and approved by the company. What follows is my own opinion.
The market for court reporting services is highly fragmented with thousands of independent contractors. Complex business litigation (as contrasted with local slip-and-fall cases) often involves depositions taken in several different locations. Lawyers managing this kind of work need ways to connect with reliable, vetted reporters nationwide who have skills (and vocabularies) specific to the job at hand. DirectDep enables this process at no charge to law firms, billing reporters a simple fixed fee per deposition-date booked.
I would characterize the company’s strategy as one of partial disintermediation. To win a substantial position in the market for complex litigation, DirectDep does not need and does not want to take business away from the “agencies” that currently represent groups of court reporters in individual markets. It simply needs to make it easier for these agencies to put the best reporter for the job in front of lawyers, and make all the logistics and economics work better for all. Achieving a respectful win/win/win for law firm/reporter/agency is at the core of the strategy.
As with my previous investor/advisor relationship, I am involved because the business makes sense to me and because I admire the management team. Scott Gilly and Bob Sellers are both experienced technology-business executives who understand it’s more important to develop and serve actual customers than to raise venture capital. Scott has experience and interests in adjacent legal markets that make him perfectly suited to enter every large law firm in the nation and identify the key decision-makers. Bob, whom I met in the course of my incubator work, is taking on the reporters and agencies side of the sales cycle. I find this team ethical in their approach and frugal in managing their cash, both important factors to me.
The company is exhibiting this week at the annual meeting of the National Court Reporters Association in Chicago. Wish them luck!