LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER
Welcome to Justice Bid! Let me begin by thanking you for your interest in JB. This section is not your conventional “About Us” page, and that’s because we don’t consider ourselves conventional. Everything we set out to do as a company is all in the name of positioning our clients for success.
In order to learn more about JB, it’s helpful to begin by looking at what gave rise to the “official” birth of the company. I grew up in the business world, studied business in both my undergraduate and graduate programs, and built a diverse portfolio of businesses my entire life. In an effort to curb the significant legal costs I was incurring in my projects and businesses and to further polish my business skills, I decided to enroll in law school, full-time, while running my businesses. I wanted to take control of my legal work, manage its quality, and reduce my legal spend, by doing the work myself. Disrupting and creating value have always been goals of mine, and that’s exactly what I did for my own businesses. With JB, it is no different.
BIRTH ERA: In 2009, relying on my business and law experiences, I identified an opportunity that few at the time saw coming. While legal procurement was just starting to become a “thing,” many frowned upon it (as they simply saw it as a race to the bottom). I embraced it as a change that was coming, and coming fast, but to an industry unaccustomed to and unfamiliar with formal procurement. So, in August 2010, I incorporated Justice Bid, in anticipation of the evolution of the industry. It would only be a matter of timing as to when I would get JB going. As our industry was introduced to “legal services procurement,” my vision went well beyond discussions of RFP issuances. I knew that for Legal Services Procurement to be done well, certain ingredients would be required, chief of which were technology, people, and expertise. I set out to solve the problem, and to do it in the same way I built out all my other businesses – by talking to people first. Customer Discovery was an integral part of JB’s growth, and remains so to this day. I talked to friends, colleagues, and providers who worked for and with Fortune 500 corporate law departments and Big Law. I asked questions, learned, and soaked up as much as I could. While many scoffed at the notion of legal services procurement, let alone technology for it, it was just a few years later that many eventually came around and saw the need for what I was referring to.
FAILURE ERA: Now that I was confident people were experiencing the legal services procurement pain, it was time to actually solve it. I know many shy away from discussing their failures, however, I’m not one of those people. In fact, I embrace them, share my stories, and look to grow from them and help others not make similar mistakes.
When we started, we attacked the “right” problem, but used the “wrong” solution. In 2012, we launched as a “marketplace” – an open forum for corporations and law firms to post their project needs, and then vendors and suppliers could search for opportunities and bid on them. Very quickly, we discovered that wasn’t working.
While many would have completely walked away from this failure, the commitment to my original vision was undeterred. I ramped up my conversations with in-house counsels, law firms, technology providers, and others. This time, not only talking about the problem, but also about my proposed way of solving it. I had confidence the solution we would build would be the silver bullet to solve the problem. After a lengthy, painstaking, and failed process of trying to bring technology development of this complex solution in-house, I finally succumbed and decided to outsource the majority of the development function. It was that, along with the formation of some strategic partnerships, that allowed us to leap forward in the development of Justice Bid’s SaaS-based legal services e-Sourcing solution. We also joined one of the world’s most prestigious incubators, 1871, in Chicago (www.1871.com). Being in a tech ecosystem that has reputable corporations looking to work with startups and innovate, that offers seasoned mentors and highly informative and interactive workshops, and that has world-class university partnerships, we positioned ourselves to go into our “beta” with significant momentum behind us.
BETA ERA – PART I: During out beta, JB offered corporations an easy-to-use, intuitive SaaS technology to issue e-RFI’s, e-RFP’s, and to conduct e-Auctions. We got feedback, iterated, improved, and expanded our beta to even more corporations. Wash, rinse, repeat. That was our beta mantra. Deploy, get feedback, learn, iterate, and grow. The process proved invaluable. Hence, why we intentionally dragged out our beta for years. Throughout our beta growth, the learning piece was at its core. Because “legal” was a new category to procurement, we knew that we needed to do more than just offer technology. Corporations were on all ends of the spectrum when it came to comfort and familiarity with “legal services procurement.” In some companies, procurement professionals were tasked with running the events, other companies it was the legal department responsible, while yet at others, it was a combination of both. So, to best serve our clients, we needed a team that understood all roles. And, we knew our offering had to consist of more than just technology – we needed people and expertise behind it.
So with robust and proven technology in hand, my attention turned to building the right team to support the SaaS model and newly developed PaaS model – a team that had to have a global footprint, as most of our clients had (and would have) a global presence and global legal services needs. That team had to have extensive legal, business, and procurement experiences. Our legal technology was already coded in multiple languages, so we also needed the team to be able to communicate in the respective language of the client in order to help them effectuate their goals. And that’s exactly what I did: the JB team is now comprised of lawyers, businesspeople, and procurement professionals, across the world, and we currently speak 21 languages to assist our clients. We are all about empowering our clients and putting them in the best position to succeed. Our unwavering commitment to that is evidenced by how I have focused on building a company culture that asks ourselves, every day, “how can we focus on our clients and give them the best opportunity to not only execute their events and achieve their goals, but to do it with relative ease, knowing they have the right technology, people and expertise behind them in us?” We go beyond technology. We inject the human element, with significant expertise behind it.
As to our culture, I am one who does not believe in the tyranny of titles. At the end of the day, everyone at JB is on the same team with one paramount and relentless goal: to serve our customers (and we work to serve them). This is rooted in my personal faith and my servant leadership approach to everything I do. The job of making our clients successful became understood to be everyone’s job from those sitting at the front desk, to programmers and sales members, and everyone in between. I wanted our clients to experience that every day. The question I submitted to my team members everyday was: how can I help you? I didn’t want them stopping their work to submit reports to me. I wanted to know how I could help them solve problems so that we continue to make our clients successful. I wanted clients to bet on our passion and to buy into us as much, if not more, than our technology.
BETA ERA – PART II (BEYOND LEGAL): As we continued growing in our beta phase, I confirmed one of the theories I had early on: every company has their own way of doing legal services procurement. And yes, they might look to best practices for comparison purposes, however, at the end of the day, they want things done their way. While most technology didn’t accommodate for that in procurement, I ensured JB did, which led to our commitment to our clients that it’s not so much about best practices as much as it is about making THEIR practices the best for them and achievable via JB technology. I wanted them to know that our technology was built around their practices, not the other way around. Clients experienced legal technology with the agility to make their legal services procurement deliver, their way. So, what happened next surprised us. Because we were able to develop the right technology that had at its core the ability to be agile and flexible, clients began asking if they could use the solution for categories beyond legal, since it was so agile. Obviously, we said yes.
We began to see e-RFI’s, e-RFP’s, and e-Auctions for categories beyond legal. This led to Part II of our beta where we embraced the agility of our technology, and continued to build the technology and team to allow clients to go beyond legal. We worked on iterating the technology to make it yet more agile and expanded the team to add expertise in categories beyond legal – to serve clients well, and marketed this as a way to drive more value to them. At that point, I knew that corporations could not sustainably justify spend on and time learning new technology for EVERY category of spend at the corporation. What if there was a technology that had its core the ability to accommodate for nuances in each category and have an effect of category-specific procurement technology for each category. Brilliant? Maybe. But remember, we offered more than tech … we had the people and expertise behind each category. JB tech has, to date, been successfully deployed and used for over 148 indirect and 356 direct categories of spend (and growing), with countless numbers of case studies. Justifying spend on a solution like JB became more compelling, aside from the immediate ROI, and propelled us to where we are today: official launch, after an intentionally prolonged beta that took us to the next level.
LAUNCH ERA: This era is being written as you are reading this … and it begins with you! : )
If you feel you have a specific role in the next chapter of Justice Bid …
If you would like to be part of our Innovation and Disruption movement as this space grows …
If you have a question or would just like to start a conversation …
Reach out to us! In fact, I invite you to reach out to me, personally. Below my signature line you will find my LinkedIn contact link. Drop a note and connect with me. Alternatively, send me an email at email@example.com or call me at (312) 973-1777 x 800. Service is at the heart of all that we do, and is embedded in the culture of JB. I’m here for you, as is our team. Welcome!
Omar I. Sweiss
Founder & CEO, Justice Bid