Happy Campers: Documendo

Documendo is a SaaS solution for creating and automating contracts and part of our community.

We talked with Anders Risager, Documendo co-founder about the inception of the idea along with stories about challenges they overcame and the lessons they learned along the way.  Documendo’s co-founder and CEO, Anders Risager, is a trained software developer with 20 years of experience. Before leaping into entrepreneurship, he held several positions in large and small IT companies.

The Inception

I started Documendo with the desire to make it easier and less expensive to create legal documents. The pre-existing services made comparing prices difficult, and filling out their templates were often painful. Documendo’s founder, Anders, experienced this cumbersome process firsthand and saw an opportunity to streamline it and make it digital.

As a joint venture, Anders and his partner designed an intelligent document solution to build a bridge between a lawyer and a client. Attorneys were offered the product as a white-label service, allowing them to choose from various templates and tailor them to their clients’ needs. It quickly became popular.

To maintain the value Documendo provides to its customers, changes to the law must be automatically updated in the white label solution. The company entered into a strategic collaboration with

Pingo Documents to create an automated editorial network to ensure the collection of documents is updated as the law changes. By doing this, the individual lawyer does not have to worry about automation or legislative changes.

As a result of identifying a specific trend in demand, Documendo has been able to pivot and refocus its product offering. Under the same brand, Documendo has recently launched another solution that focuses on creating business offers and customer contracts for regular businesses instead of only focusing on the legal industry.

Humble Beginnings

Documendo began in 2017 and got its first customer in January 2018. The company has been residing at The Camp for two years, having previously worked from home. When Thomas, my partner, joined Documendo, we needed to find a place to sit together. After looking at a few places, I entered The Camp and found the atmosphere completely different. Greenery fills the high ceilings, and the hallways teem with people. The Camp has hit the mark.

The Ideation

Several years ago, I had to write my own will and found the process cumbersome. I searched the internet to see what options there were and what the costs would be. In the end, I found a free template and filled it out myself, but I had doubts if it was correct, so I asked someone in my network to review it for me. As with any legal document, the details must be accurate. It seemed that when a process is this exhausting, that must mean there’s an opportunity to create a solution.

It had always been my dream to start my own company, but I lacked an idea. Despite my experience, I lacked a problem that needed solving. As a result, I began working to repair a broken process that would benefit others. I worked on it during the evenings and on the weekends, but several similar solutions were already on the market when we were finally ready to launch.

Thomas and I agreed at this point that developing a solution where customers could “shop” for specific documents was not the way forward, so we built a white label solution for lawyers. In just a few hours, any lawyer can have the ability to create all their necessary documents straightforwardly and quickly. This shift from B2C to B2B prevented us from selling to individuals but rather employed lawyers as a type of “distributor” of our solution. In that way, we acquired our first customers.

We then took our solution to legal industry conferences and showed it to lawyers; the solution was very well received! These conferences served as a way for us to validate the market while gaining sales leads. Normal sales channels made it very difficult to communicate with the decision-making partner. It’s not because they don’t want to speak with you, but they’re focused on charging for their time at a very valuable rate. Additionally, we tried cold calling, but it was ineffective for us. When these partners attend a conference, they have allocated their day for meeting and gaining new input. Therefore, they are more accessible than usual.

A bit of advice: if you cannot contact your clients, such as a lawyer or business partner, conferences are an excellent place to engage in dialogue. You do not have to hire a stand; just be a participant. Our team both hired stands but also attended some conferences as participants, and we were delighted with the results. Additionally, we were able to gain insight into what our competitors were doing to see what trends were developing in our market segment.

After our second year, we had a clear plan to expand internationally but soon realized that this would take far longer than we first anticipated. The entire sales process took at least six months with just one lawyer, which was a considerable challenge. We paused to consider how we could develop a solution that didn’t require a partner-level decision-maker. In other words, how could we sell “from the bottom up” instead of “from the top-down”? This question led us to create a partnership with Pingo Documents. Their product is extremely user friendly, shifting the target user and decision-making process from partner to lawyer or even secretary level.

As a result of our collaboration with Pingo Documents, we became software suppliers and focused on developing new features. Our business model converted into a SaaS model, and by doing so, we have been able to move away from the legal industry and focus on new client groups.

Experience = Discovery + Learning

It has become much easier to sell Documendo together with Pingo Documents to lawyers. Additionally, we discovered that our product is most valuable to smaller companies with few employees.

Initially, onboarding these clients was too expensive. There was too much back-end work. Now that we offer our product as a SaaS solution, onboarding costs have been reduced to almost zero.

As a result of our partnership with Pingo Documents, we can also focus on integrating other systems, making the solution even more robust. We shifted focus to what we do best, which is developing software and developing solutions. Collaboration with Pingo Documents has enabled both of our organizations to complement one another. Pingo, for instance, has allowed us to access several new markets; sales were not one of our strongest areas. On the other hand, we have incorporated a new integration regarding money laundering, which is an essential sales parameter for Pingo.

After realizing that we had built a SaaS platform that made it easy for lawyers to streamline their document handling, we asked ourselves: why not launch a SaaS solution to help other companies quickly generate automated documents? Since April 2021, this new solution has been our primary focus.

In addition, we are exploring other industries and areas where we can automate and streamline the handling of documents. We haven’t settled down yet, but we’re in talks with several major players both in Denmark and internationally.

Further Exploration

We are very open about exploring new industries. When customers and networks tell us they would “prefer if you could do X’’ or “you should get in touch with Y”, we talk to them. There are often ongoing projects that we can get involved with and help solve. A bit random, but structured nonetheless.

Since managing documents is a challenge for every industry sector, we have focused on each area for 3–6 months at a time to learn more about the buying process, pain points, etc. Without this structure, it is easy to jump from one option to another without understanding whether a large enough market exists.

So far, we have grown Documendo organically but are now preparing to raise a round of funding to hire salespeople. This shift will enable us to expand into new industry sectors faster and more efficiently. We will still maintain our partnership with Pingo, but we have realized that we must build some sales muscles to focus on partnerships or a distribution model to scale.

Rich or King

The experience gained by growing Documendo organically has taught us many lessons. If we were starting over, we would have likely hired people from the beginning to focus on sales and raising capital.

When we started, we chose to retain ownership and grow organically. The decision to do it all by yourself is a huge mistake! I think that’s why 9 out of 10 startups fail. If you want all the ownership to yourself, you will most likely not have the necessary resources and a team with the required competencies from the start. Putting together the right team with competencies such as development, sales, marketing and financing while making a fair distribution of ownership will motivate everyone to pull through.

We are now in a situation where we have a good product that is already on the market. To maintain our position, we must now focus on further sales and marketing. As they say, hindsight is 20–20, but we have grown wiser and gained a lot of experience to draw from as Documendo enters its next phase.

Now that we have developed a scalable solution — we’re just getting started.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

  1. I would rather own a percentage of something very valuable or 100% of something that is not worth anything. Get your team in place from the start and share ownership to motivate everyone to pull through even when the going gets tough.
  2. Sales are hard work! Start as soon as possible and build an effective sales organization. B2B sales just take a long time compared with B2C.
  3. Structure randomness while listening to the market, your network and existing users. Work in a structured way to test a segment/user group. If a customer group is challenging to reach, figure out how/where you can get in touch with them. In our case, it was an industry conference.