A recent post of mine drew a lot of attention for stating that the number of legal startups had nearly tripled in two years. Relying on the Angel List roster of legal startups, I observed that the number had grown from 412 two years ago to 1,094 as of the date of my post, reflecting nearly threefold growth. (Just since my post, another nine companies were added to the list.)
Over at Associate’s Mind, Keith Lee did what I should have done. He took a closer look at the Angel List roster. He found that it includes some companies that no longer exist. Worse, it includes entities that clearly are not startups, such as law firms, private investigators and notaries.
Prompted by Keith’s post, I conducted my own review of the Angel List. It confirmed that the list contains many entities that shouldn’t be there. In fact, after I removed the junk from the list, I had whittled it down to just 375 actual startups.
At the same time, however, the Angel List omits companies that should be there. Just off the top of my head, I added some companies that I noticed were missing, bringing the list up to 408 companies.
Keith’s conclusion was that there is not an explosion in legal technology. The fact of the matter is, his conclusion is no more valid than its opposite. All we really know is that the Angel List is not a reliable data set on which to base any conclusion. It is not reliable today and it most likely was not two years ago when I took the baseline number.
In short, bad data tells us nothing, positive or negative, about the true extent of the growth in legal technology startups over the last two years.
A List of My Own
So, in the interest of having a more accurate list of legal technology startups, I decided to build my own. And I’m asking for your help.
I’ve added a page to this blog where I’ve embedded a spreadsheet listing the names of legal technology startups. I created this list by removing the junk from the Angel List list and then adding names I noticed missing from the list. I’m sure there are still many companies missing from the list and there’s probably also still some junk in there.
Please help me. If you know of a company that is missing from this list, please let me know and I will add it. Likewise, if you see a listing that shouldn’t be there, let me know and I’ll remove it.
Some notes about this:
- What is a startup and when is a startup no longer a startup? I don’t know that there is a universal definition. I added Avvo and Clio to the list. Should either still be considered a startup? “A company five years old can still be a startup,” Y Combinator accelerator head Paul Graham told Forbes. “Ten [years old] would start to be a stretch.” That same Forbes article quotes Warby Parker co-CEO Neil Blumenthal: “A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” I like that.
- Keith’s post criticized the Angel List for including companies that are now closed. On my list, I’ve left the companies that have closed or been acquired, noting this in the Status column. The fact of the matter is that many startups fail. An accurate picture of legal startups should include those that come and those that go, in my opinion.
- The list is a work in progress. I plan to add more descriptions and hyperlinks as time allows and to try to keep the list up to date.
Again, if you know of a company that should be on this list, please let me know. (Email me at ambrogi-at-gmail.com.)
Maybe this will give us a more accurate picture of what’s really happening with legal technology startups.