Finding the right co-founders to grow a startup is often a challenge. Just ask entrepreneur Randy Campbell, who has launched ShopLaw, an online platform that helps people find a lawyer to meet their needs and budget.
The serial entrepreneur has spent two years researching the market for his Fredericton-based business and trying to bring consumers and lawyers onto ShopLaw’s platform.
Now he is using that validation to attract co-founders. It’s different from hiring employees. Campbell is looking for people to become part of the business and have a greater exposure to its risks and rewards.
“It’s very challenging,” he says of the process. “When I started ShopLaw I was advised to validate my idea. The more evidence you have that this can work, the better. Talented people have opportunities thrown at them all time. They don’t want to work on something that isn’t of benefit.”
He set out to find five co-founders with different technical skills and positive but realistic expectations.
“It’s all about resiliency, which means being able to adapt and respond quickly and effectively to changing circumstances,” he said.
“You’ll likely find that many of your assumptions may not be true. You may find the economics of the business demand you excel in tasks you are not prepared to excel in. It’s critical to have someone that can focus on overcoming that barrier.”
To spread the word, he relied on his network and launched a co-founder recruitment webpage at randycampbell.ca.
He posted on relevant websites such as AngelList, Founder2be and reddit.com.
He’s currently working on trial projects with three potential co-founders and is looking for a chief technology officer and a senior salesperson.
Campbell has learned from his earlier experience as a co-founder of YouMeal.ca, founded in his native Charlottetown.
That startup set out to deliver healthy meals to busy families.
“We started with a designer, a programmer, a business strategist, and partnered with a chef,” Campbell said.
“After a few months we had 400 families on our waiting list . . . Soon we realized that the core competency of the business was delivery
“We learned the business required technical skills in optimizing delivery routes and reducing delivery cost.
“ The website technology wasn’t complicated. We didn’t need to have over half our equity stuck in those technical skills . . .”
Before studying business and law — he has an MBA from University of New Brunswick and is currently an articled clerk at Cox & Palmer in Charlottetown — Campbell taught outdoor leadership and led wilderness therapy expeditions.
Those experiences taught him about teams and the common problems that arise. These include leaders not appreciating the work of team members and not communicating expectations clearly.
Like good co-founders, a good team boosts resiliency and creates accountability, he said.
“They’re there to tell you if you aren’t doing what needs to be done in the short term.
:In the long term, it’s only the client’s voice that matters, but their voice is hard to hear sometimes.”
Campbell believes the Canadian market is ripe for a business such as ShopLaw, which aims to improve access to justice, which he says is hindered by a lack of transparency around legal costs and services.
Ventures like ShopLaw are few in Canada, he said, although the market for online legal services is competitive in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“There are many people who are not accessing the legal services they need or desire because the shopping experience is too onerous,” he said.
“Typically, people shop for legal services at a stressful time. Any barrier can be the end of the road. People may live without making a divorce official or without a will, resulting in family turmoil, or without a proper business agreement, leading to conflict.”
So far, Campbell has bootstrapped his venture with his own funds and loans from sources such as the Business Development Bank of Canada, Futurpreneur and the Community Business Development Corporation organization. He is currently seeking investment.