Sunday October 25, 2020

Making It Work: Bundledocs takes its chances to expand as demand takes off

After less than a year in business, the legal software start-up provides a service for more than 700 law firms around the world

4th October, 2020
James Hogan, chief technology officer, Brian Kenneally, chief executive, and Lisa Walsh, marketing manager at Bundledocs which was founded by the trio. Photo: Darragh Kane

It has just closed a €600,000 seed round and built up an enviable client base of more than 700 law firms around the world, but Bundledocs’ growth has been as much down to chance as to strategy, Brian Kenneally, its co-founder, maintains.

“We didn’t do things the right way starting out,” the software start-up’s chief executive admitted.

“We developed Bundledocs without really knowing if the problem we were solving for legal firms in Ireland would be shared by others overseas. We didn’t research the market. It turned out that they did [have the same problem], but we only discovered that after we launched.”

Kenneally co-founded the company in Cork late last year with Lisa Walsh, its head of marketing, and James Hogan, its chief technology officer.

Originally from Ballinlough in the south of the city, the 57-year-old had worked with both Walsh and Hogan at Legal IT, another Cork company supplying software to the legal sector.

They developed the original version of Bundledocs about five years ago for O’Flynn Exhams, a local law firm, but had little idea at the time of its commercial potential.

“They asked us to develop a piece of software that would bundle legal documents together for circuit and high court cases. That’s how the seed was sown,” Kenneally said.

“We made the product and put it up on Microsoft Cloud to see if anyone else would pick it up.”

As it turned out, the second customer to sign up to Bundledocs was Gilbert & Tobin, an Australian law firm with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

“At that time, I think we felt we’d gotten really lucky,” Kenneally said. “We thought ‘if we can sell this to a law firm in Australia from here in Ireland, why can’t we sell it in Britain?’

“We went after the British market, and I’d say at this stage we have about 500 firms signed up over there."

In all, Bundledocs has more than 700 customers in 34 countries, including law firms and in-house government departments in Ireland, Britain, Australia and the US.

These customers include Beauchamps in Ireland, Paris Smith and Fisher Jones Greenwood in England and Burness Paull in Scotland.

“Our marketing budget was about 50 cent starting out. We had to make the best use of our resources. The key for us was search engine optimisation [SEO], and Lisa has been incredibly good at that,” Kenneally said.

“Whenever anybody used certain words in an online search, Bundledocs appeared top of the list, regardless of where they were located. That’s really how our customers started coming across us.

“They came to us. We didn’t have to go to them. SEO is your friend and it’s the cheapest friend you’ll ever have.”

As demand for Bundledocs grew, Kenneally, Hogan and Walsh adapted the platform for different markets.

“Law firms in New Zealand have a completely different set of protocols to law firms here in Ireland, so we adapted the product for them. Then we adapted it for Scotland, and so on,” Kenneally said.

“It’s cloud-based, so it doesn’t matter if you’re based in Bantry here in Cork or Sydney over in Australia, you’re using the same product. It’s just been adapted for different jurisdictions and it’s also a software-as-a-service product.

“That means you’re not tied into it. Traditionally, with legal software suppliers, you’d be required to sign a contract for a year or more.

“We offer a monthly rolling contract. You can dip in and dip out and stop using it whenever you want to. We’re not debt collectors. That’s how we’ve done it.”

Demand for Bundledocs had risen by more than 40 per cent in the last three months, Kenneally said.

“That’s really the Covid-19 effect. We’re not sure how long it will last, but legal firms that would not otherwise have gone paperless have now had to do so,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us. We’d be mad not to jump on it. The difference now is that we have the confidence to take on funding.

“Two years ago, we knew we had a good product but that people had to find out about it. What Lisa did with SEO was kind of remarkable. Once you gain that early traction, it’s a lot easier to grow from there. That’s the key.”

Bundledocs employs five people in Cork and opened an Australian office in Sydney earlier this year. It will create five jobs over the next three months.

“The big targets for us now are the US and Asia-Pacific,” Kenneally said. “What we’ve created is a completely paperless workflow. We’re in a perfect position to help paper-heavy legal firms move to digital communication.”

Bundledocs has raised its €600,000 seed funding from Enterprise Ireland, the state agency, and private investors.

“We need the funding for sales and marketing, particularly in Asia-Pacific and our next target, the US. We also need good developers and good developers don’t come cheap,” Kenneally said.

“Our rate of expansion has gone from a trickle to a flood. The last thing we want to do now is stagnate.”

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