Startup Corner: Contractinbox in focus

Contractinbox is a marketplace for B2B contracts and eDeals. Founder Heema Dawoonauth talks about global growth, looking for seed investment, and how not every law firm is happy to see legal tech succeed in a traditionally protected market.
How would you describe your company to a friend? is a global market for B2B eContracts and eDeals.
And if you had to describe it to a techy?
Contractinbox is a marketplace for B2B eContracts and eDeals, a  lead-gen cloud-platform connecting users and providers of deals, paperwork and services.
When were you founded?
We launched Contractinbox in the 4th Quarter of 2016, just before Christmas.
The MVP was actually ready in mid 2015. There were a lot of delays and distracting external obstacles. In hindsight, 80% of them were avoidable and so the lesson was learned at least.
By who?
By me: Heema M D Dawoonauth. I was born on the paradise island of Mauritius and migrated to the UK aged five. Aged 10, I decided to become a lawyer. Years later, I dual qualified as a barrister in England and Mauritius. I’ve always been a corporate gypsy or digital nomad, switching jurisdictions, legal titles and legal specialisations. Those switches equipped me with the know-how to found Contractinbox.
Who are your key managers/senior execs?
Heema with tech partners based in California.
What is your growth strategy?
We were built to scale globally from day 1. We already have members from different continents and about 20 countries. Contractinbox allows you to eContract globally. You can find or post deals. We are currently focussed on populating the site with quality members. Our traffic is organically international. We will be engaging in a more aggressive digital marketing user acquisition strategy.
 Have you received investment?
Contractinbox has been bootstrapped and self-funded by me from conception to launch. I’m planning to make our first seed investment pitch to VC’s this quarter (Q2 2017). Last quarter, I was approached by private equity investors and working on my pitch deck as we speak.
Who are your target clients?
a) Businesses that want to close international deals faster; b) Corporate services that are digitally enabled or want to be digitally enabled to trade worldwide.
Have there been any key changes in direction since you were founded?
We pivoted a few times. You have to keep up with technology advancements and user behaviour. We launched as a mobile responsive site first. Contractinbox is not an upload, download or template hosting site. We simply connect products and services via links. We have an agile and transparent business model, which  allows us to keep ahead on the runway. Stage 1 of Contractinbox is commercial. Stage 2 is where the real fun starts because that’s where we engineer our tech and develop intelligent contracting apps.
What are the key challenges you face in your market?
Not every global law firm is happy to see a LegalTech startup succeed in a traditionally protected market. Problems with contracts and running contract litigation is big business. Not every country wants trade in services to be digitally enabled. The challenge depends on how your communicate to the market. If you use words like “ contract”, it automatically triggers a defensive condition because  legal mysticism hasn’t faded yet. If instead you use commercial words like deals, it’s easier to connect with business. Rivalry is from all directions, big audit firms, consultants, legal and non-legal publishers to name a few. Luckily the market is polarised 50/50, so a business will either be innovative and willingly connect to us, or stick to tradition and not budge until they perceive us as the trend.
What are the most exciting developments you’ve seen in your market in the past year to 18 months?
Market reports indicate that well over 50% of legal purchasers are willing to switch from their traditional providers and that’s an exciting opportunity. There is also more openness to partner up. The fact that big brands are backing LegalTech startups is symbolic and forward thinking. It’s also exciting that industry focussed and disruptive startups such as ours are being approached by traditional or academic institutions, for example we were recently approached to find a use case for AI computational logic to determine disputes. Whatever the motives or outcomes, we take all moves towards exploiting the know-how of a business like ours as a huge compliment.
Tell us something that people don’t already know about the company?
Most people looking at would have no idea that it was me, Heema, who in fact customised the front-end, without any previous coding background or formal training. I think people don’t realise that we are not e-Commerce or a digital downloads store. We do not white-label paperwork, contracts, deals or services, we simply allow users to connect via e-Links. It’s simple, smart and easy.