Evan Schneyer, Founder & CEO, Outlaw
Evan Schneyer is CEO and Co-Founder of Outlaw, a contract platform that helps people close deals faster using plain English. He’s a builder of products and teams, having started three successful companies over the last decade. He believes that ideas are cheap and execution is everything. He loves coffee, video games, and Brooklyn.
Outlaw is a modern contract management platform that reinvents the end-to-end contract process: from legal authoring to document generation to negotiation to signing. The platform includes a plain English overview on every contract, which enables both sides to fully understand the terms of the contract they are signing, without needing to pore through endless legalese. This creates a fluid contract experience for both sides and ultimately helps people close deals faster.
AUTOMATED EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
[00:00:01] You're listening to scaling of services where we speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Axelle
[00:00:22] Welcome everyone. This is the scaling up services podcast I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host. I'm here today with Evan Schneyer from Outlaw. We're going to talk a little bit about the work he's done on contract and contract management in the platform he has developed. I like his intro here I'll give him his full bio in the show notes the piece I love is he loves coffee video games and Brooklyn. So my first question is favorite type of coffee. Any favorites.
[00:00:47] Just because I love coffee doesn't mean doesn't make it work I'll get good video games. Are you. Are you a big Fortunat player fortnight.
[00:00:55] I don't know flirt like I said I do I'll say I love. I do love my Dreux cold. To go. Oh does got one.
[00:01:03] I felt I fell in love with that last year. But hard time finding it. It's not at all the locations it's hard when it's but it's a treat when you.
[00:01:11] When you do find it but yeah I'll drink pretty much pretty much anything if when I actually refuse to drink something You know it's like seriously Ranko and I like it.
[00:01:22] Well look.
[00:01:23] Welcome to the pack doesn't like you so much for being on the show. You know I smoke a little bit before about some of his background and I think you'll be really great of and if we could just talk a little bit about kind of pretend outlaw some of your experiences that kind of lead up to the work that you're doing there and then we can talk about it when we talk about you know what it does and kind of your ideas around the challenges around contracts and documents and communicating that and certainly that's not huge in services and helping companies figure how to define Scoob and managing engagements and things but so give us the backstory.
[00:01:54] Yeah sure. It's funny I was just thinking as your as you're framing that question as an entrepreneur you're kind of constantly iterating on your on your like why are you doing this. What led you here and why are you doing this. So be interesting to look back on this and see it. My answer today is the same as in another year from now but my current version at least is that so I'm I'm the son of a retired corporate lawyer that I don't think that people will change. And so my dad my dad used to always give me just contract advice anytime I got it early on in my career when I would get a contract with anything from like an employment contract to just ending A's and partnership stuff I would initially run stuff by him and then I became more and more comfortable with myself and so kind of became the de facto contract guy in whatever business contacts I was and where people now send me contracts. So I became pretty comfortable with myself. But in unlike some problems I think the more comfortable with it I got the more frustrated with that I also got because every time I would either look at a contract for myself or or help a friend or help a colleague.
[00:02:58] I just felt like there's two parties here. Has more than two but generally it's two parties who have by the time you get to a contract you already have decided you want to do something together to be something super simple. Maybe it's an NDA and you've always been decided if you want to share information. One of the tenets of contract law is the notion of a meeting of the minds. Yet that mutual intent and I found the mutual and the mind have already met Tschiderer actually by the time they're actually looking at a contract the mines have met. That's been my experience. I think across the board and every contract experiences I've had. And yet the contract process has this tendency of at best. Kind of like you slog through it and at worst you know when you start digging in and you've got one or both parties frequently are not legally sophisticated. At best it slows things down and at worst it causes the deal to explode. People start digging in and asking questions and those frequently stuffs on one side or the other where the party is sending the agreement frequently has the stuff they don't even know that they're proposing or asking for and then the other side passes it to their lawyer.
[00:04:04] There's so many different permutations I was told that situation when when you get a contract from someone and you see a term and you question them on the term and terminal like oh that's in there they don't even realize what they've sent you.
[00:04:14] Oh that's in there. Wait what does that even mean.
[00:04:20] Actually this place that we bought a year ago the seller had requires things of us as the buyers that she didn't even know she was requiring and it made it unnecessarily cumbersome which was not her but you know business sense that this is actually a good example of that where she was a forthright seller and we were it was an honest deal and yet it felt so much more. There was so much more attention and it was so much more stressful I think for both both of us. Then it should be when the mines have already met with the key thing for a real estate transaction price. You know like we had agreed on price by the time we got to contract. And yet there was this crazy private part of that as a mortgage but mortgage aside this crazy process of actually getting into contract and maintaining those that meeting of the minds stayed through an actual legal agreement. I had this kind of vague notion that this is frustrating. There is a better way and in my this is my second my second tech startup. The first one was acquired and we started in 2009 required him 2012 by TripAdvisor definitions. Thank you. I think that experience really started to gel the more the product idea and the business idea for what ultimately now became outlaw.
[00:05:33] Not that I'm really expecting too many people to start using outlaw or emanate transactions but I'm sure we'll hopefully we'll have one someday not too. But yeah I mean that that experience was really it was this very almost two discrete phases the first phase was like this glorified job interview where there was a lot of a lot of discussions kind of you know getting to that process of do we are we do we have mutual intent. Do we want to sell. Do you want to buy our know. Are we on the same page about what we want to do together. Do we agree on price and so forth. That's a maybe six weeks five six weeks to get from first discussion to terms the term sheet is a plain English version of the deal as it describes in English what it is that you guys are both agreeing to for an M and A transaction is not super short. I was maybe seven or eight pages but you know all three cofounders read the term sheet. We understood it. We read and then the next seven weeks after that was a process of blowing out the seven page term sheet into the 150 page acquisition Gaki. It said all the things you know five years now six years later you know nothing changed.
[00:06:42] All of the contingencies and what ifs and you know if them's almost none of them were came into play even and even if they had come into play frankly it was spelled out granularly enough in the term sheet that we would have known what to do anyway. So I think going through that process really just made me feel like. And the other the other piece about that was that we had counsel and everything about that point. But the the legal leaves in that deal was so cumbersome that I was the only one of the three cofounders who even read the transaction. And if that doesn't tell you there's a problem here that selling your business and not reading Anzacs action of your baby that you've just initiated and years working on and the legal fees are so just cumbersome and polarizing that people read. So that was really kind of what I remember actually even saying to some of my former team like right around the time of the acquisition I said I haven't been next. I know what the next one is. I wasn't I wasn't quite ready to jump right in the script but I did this the next. This is the next business. So let me know if you're interested too.
[00:07:50] So you did the deal so you realize this whole kind of contract process and that they get from a services point of view. I think this is really important because most product companies are companies that are running on a more product model. They have a pretty fixed agreement. You know you're not negotiating terms with every single person that subscribes to a service or general buys a license and generally you know most of these things are actually covered by the consumer protection laws as well. So it's not you're not actually negotiating a whole lot. There's a pretty set playing field but in services we were constantly negotiating master services agreements and you know scope of works and work orders and statements of work. So I mean this kind of back and forth is is pretty common yet on the services on that. So you had these experiences so like addresses those problems. So tell us about how it addresses those problems and in kind of how you envision the company and what you've been developing.
[00:08:44] Yeah yeah this is a piece that's really evolving. Like what what is the big like. The big vision line of what we're doing I think really what we're doing is trying to vastly improve the whole contract experience for anyone involved whether that's sender recipient outside counsel colleagues who may want to look at a provision and so I'm just really mapping out the whole thing and saying that as we've done that we've realized well it really sucks for everyone. So it's really like looking at it by different user types and different scenarios and saying how can we use technology and English to just improve this. So that's obviously a kind of a big nebulous statement I'd say where we started was with it we started with the piece of the problem that we talked amongst ourselves and that is as recipients receive and services are a great example where you've got that. So my co-founder Dan is a great designer and has a lot of experience in land just as most designers and doing freelance work. His typical experience is again he goes and goes for an interview. Maybe they look at his portfolio and then pretty quickly get to that meeting of the minds place where they say well we have this gag figure out rate figure out scope. And so by the time he sees a contract they've already agreed on rate and scope and it's basically OK let's let's sign it. But still he gets these contracts that are anywhere from four or five pages if it's a small company to you know IBM I think we saw there was like 40 pages just for sure like you know a generic MSA. And so had you know eyes glaze over stress and it gets visibly visibly stressed and then he forgets to me and I'm like this is this is crazy.
[00:10:25] So the recipient that the first pieces that piece of the overall flow that I think that also really resonates were people when we talked to it is that recipient experience even even more experienced business business people when they receive contracts you've got a Docusign link or something and it's just kind of this sinking feeling where you like. I'm excited to start but I have this kind of ridiculous process I need to go through where I sort of pretend to read stuff that I'm really not actually going to read and then ultimately cross my fingers and sides. So the initial piece that we set out to solve and that is partly why we put some of this emphasis on this plain English overview.
[00:11:05] Our current sort of slogan or tagline I guess is is close deals faster using plain English. Stemming from that recipient pain and also realizing that it's actually fairly straightforward to solve that pain.
[00:11:18] You know it turns out all you need to do to not give someone that terrible experience is put a cover on it. If you do an e-mail you know you'll know send email that says hey I'm really excited to get started. Here's the key terms. Just make sure we're on the same page. Please sign the attached contract so we actually find a lot of are a lot of our customers who are actually the senders which I'll get to in the second are doing exactly that. With that overview now you can actually get a lot deeper. You can start gradually explaining you know highlighting bits of the contract if you want to make sure that someone really does understand. There are lots of places where that makes sense and it can pay itself pay dividends down the line when you make sure you actually are on the same page about something that might come up six months later. So we set out we set out to solve this recipient problem. As we got in the market and started started getting customers we realized you can't solve a recipient problem directly because to do that it has to come from the sender and the sender is using the same process that they're using for everyone.
[00:12:17] You know that most others are using then you know unless we're going to do some elaborate natural language processing AI thing a feed in the contract and have to interpret what I think they meant to tell you.
[00:12:31] Yeah I mean and there are there are startups that you know I would love to get to that point someday. But that's like multiple years of R and D. Mean the real challenge of that too is that might be able to get to a you know 85 or 90 percent accuracy and helpfulness you know. But in a legal context that's not enough to get the about and it's neutral arbo. Yeah. So we realized pretty quickly like there's a we have to solve the senator problem. Unfortunately the sender also suffers not necessarily purely from the lack of understanding but they still suffer a lot from just how painful the process is.
[00:13:06] What's interesting in the services space is that small medium businesses actually have worse tools and consumers when it comes to contracts. If I'm a consumer and I need a lease for instance I can go on legal zoom or Rocket Lawyer and fill in some blanks and get some kind of what seems to be a decent generic standard lease you know.
[00:13:26] But if I'm any consultancy who just wants to provide my services and wants a contract behind it the odds are I've I've already done the work or I'm doing the work of engaging council to have my own flavor of my of my services agreement. But then it's just in a word. And when it comes to actually signing on a client I need to dig up that template fill it in and we see all all kinds of work arounds under the sun. Sometimes people have an image in them in a word doc people are. I mean I'm sure you've seen it's not even harsher it's more like the standard behavior that I get we're Dachs with someone else's signature block in it or with an f'ing number. I mean there's so many issues and and so the sender and awls and the other thing too as you get into like a mid-sized company. Frequently the people who are sending these out you'll have an H.R. person or an operations person it's someone who's dealing with these every day. But again it's not really legally sophisticated. And so it's second there's any question from the other side. It's like I don't know I have to have to run by Remote through and there's the point again you know.
[00:14:33] Yeah and then you also have this this kind of weird passive aggressive thing that happens where like the other side wants to ask a question but they don't want to trigger that reaction of having it go to legal there's like this implicit threat that it's going to take three more weeks if you ask a question.
[00:14:50] I mean look I've I've seen it used as a negotiation tool where it's like well you know I could consider that change but then I'd have to kick it up the legal that's going to take three weeks you get to decide if it's worth it or you know it actually is.
[00:15:04] It's not a super productive. Let us see the changes.
[00:15:08] Yes. So so we. So as we started to look at that we realize centers have suffered from a whole slew of problems that are related as well. Then we kind of focused more on really building out the center tools and this really full fledged really kind of document contract template authoring environment that let us people can find variables and have always conditional clauses or include things based on me.
[00:15:34] So if it's an LLC then we need this. If we're doing business with an individual then we have this clause if it's with another business then we have this other clause and things like that. And just lots of lots of little bells and whistles that come into play really that word should have.
[00:15:48] But but doesn't it because it's such a horizontal tool when you actually say let let's build a word processor that is highly structured never breaks when it comes to numbering. If you remove a section there's only one numbering system so the rest of us the updates you don't get these orphaned. Yeah there's all kinds of stuff. Then when we can build when we know that it's a legal contract context.
[00:16:10] So it sounds like conceptually it's the one facet is I have a layer the layer that sits on top where I can put in nonlegal these versions or explanations of things I can put in notes and descriptions definitions and the other facet is that as a sender I can create a more sort of dynamic document or I can conceive of the different possibilities or are different versions of sections. Yeah.
[00:16:35] Now is the idea that when I have a particular engagement or particular deal that I'm no strike at that I go through and kind of select the options that I need for that part of the recipe for that particular deal and then it ends it sends them that version or it is does it actually give them options to be able to say All right well look these are pre-approved things that you could choose from.
[00:16:58] Yeah that's that's that's it you're striking on a subtle subtlety that is super important in the actual process in real life because that we get cases where it especially when there's like to when there is in-house counsel and then a separate when it's not the same person who is drafting the form of the agreement and sending it out. It's a major advantage for legal to be able to sort of pre-approved those different permutations and say you know here's the here's the four different structures of the contract that we that you are blessing and the and then the whole team. You know sometimes it's one person sometimes the whole team and make they are all now kind of unleashed which is really powerful and a salesman contacts for the salesperson to be able to make that decision on the fly and say Oh yeah I can agree to that. Let's do it. You know or to say you know if if you'll sign right now that I can agree to that.
[00:17:53] No I like that idea it's sort of the immediacy or you know kind of giving them the power to cut the best deal that you know the deal that needs to be cut for that particular opportunity and dealer customer and be able to say look yeah I've got options that are pre-approved. I don't need to go back I don't need to take a day to get back to you for a week to get this approved.
[00:18:10] And then the Lord asked. It also helps. I mean it also helps really weed out who is serious and who's not you know which is which is an interesting yeah actually it was that this was such a much older much older version of the product that was that was not nearly as polished as it is today.
[00:18:27] But I think the first scenario where where we used outlaw really live in the wild and saw what it was capable of was we closed.
[00:18:36] I have a parallel consulting business and we use that there for a client gig that we were pitching and being able to go from that could fluidly go in one discussion from hey this is what we're talking about doing. Hammering out the bullets and the other project too. All right here's the contract. It was almost like a dare.
[00:18:57] And I think the client didn't want to call my bluff. So we close we close a pretty significant gig in like a week going from like from first discussions the same deal. And it was because I was able to say all right you know if you're serious there's nothing else that needs to have. Like I've already got everything is templated we've already put in the custom pieces that we've already talked about. Everything else is really stock so I can actually draft it right on the spot as we're talking you know. There's only one step remaining.
[00:19:25] So this is great because I think one of the one of the fundamental principles I find when we look at service based companies when we're looking at scaling is how do we grow the whole idea of standardizing and operationalizing a lot of these kind of choices and decisions. You know getting it down to a couple of options that address the bulk of the market so that we can be more efficient because it's less work which I think is important. You know we're not having as much time on it from a cost point of view but I think more importantly what you're touching on is that it's the speed of sale and the speed of service and the speed of gas delivery is. Now I have now aligned to the whole sales process. Every process customer service process so that I can continuously improve upon that. And when I when I have that problem with a particular customer in a situation I can actually look back to what do I need to do differently in our process. Have to make sure that that doesn't happen again. How do we make into it. And I think this is a great example of how you actually do that in the early stage is decide OK look we're going to have three different pricing options and we're fine with any of them and but they're all things that we know we can deliver on and we can know.
[00:20:34] We've operationalized so we can successful be successful on rather than trying to figure out you know custom pricing scheme. You know I'm going to do a 30 day on this client or we're going to split into three payments and this one the third Pieman is going to be after delivery on this one and FAA approval on this one. I've seen so many things and just just trying to keep track of all of them yet and the financing of it I mean I think people end up you know one of the reasons people's accounts receivables are so low because the invoicing and collection is so complicated. But I like that whole idea of sort of standards. But I think it's important to say that there's still choice the field piece I like about it is that it's not that you're you're you know forcing a client only do one particular thing you're giving them options and you and you can create options that address very real situations in the market but you've thought about the options in a way that that you're equal like you're equal with any any one of those and you're fine with them and you make sure that you can deliver on it.
[00:21:30] Yeah exactly. And it really reduces the madness on their end to a perfect example is we have a real estate customer who as they were onboarding they sent us what in their mind was there nine templates and it was nine different. It was actually all their engagement letter. So you know that first touch point with a client. When the broker when the agent says okay we're going to represent here and sell your property and they have nine templates and Armand's and we looked at and said Well this is at most three top rates because there's there's one for a townhouse with one for a condo and there's one forgot the other one is commercial. And then within each of these three variations they had three Sudbury. So it's like three by three. And we said you know these templates are 95 percent identical. You know you're managing them and trying to coordinate these you know the common language across all these. But there's only one is one variable you chain you choose the property type you know and and so that that not not only that really make it doesn't just make first move their sale it also makes for less error. Yeah it just it makes it it just the whole thing the whole thing easier.
[00:22:42] Well I think and I think that the whole idea of less era that you can actually you can design your operations and train your people to be able to deliver at a very high quality level again and again and again when you can reduce the variability the dynamic variability of level of these options and you know from my point of view and when looking we're looking for companies how do we go from a couple of million to tens of millions to 100 million like you absolutely have to do that because if you get if you have complexity at a million and you try to go to 10 you just multiplied your complexity by 10 as much as you multiplying your revenues yet really figuring that stuff out too.
[00:23:19] So if someone is interested in learning more about don't law about the product about what you guys have been doing on the contracts how can people get a hold of you get to learn more about the product than the business.
[00:23:32] Definitely go and go on and you know take a look on the site on get out La dot com and if you're interested in and actually potentially onboarding as a customer I'd say probably just email me honestly as much as I hate emails.
[00:23:45] Different people will be sold later it's different for you absolutely yes. Just Evan that get out LA dot com and I'd be happy to do a demo onboard armored vehicle.
[00:23:54] Perfect and I will make sure for everyone listening and watching this will show the notes those links some of your e-mail address will be on the notes here so they can click through on that. Evan this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for being on and I'm quite excited to keep in touch and hear how the product goes.
[00:24:10] Right. Thanks a lot. Thanks have a great day.
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