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How to make your startup idea a reality: Barrister-turned-CEO

Anastasia Santoreneos
·4-min read
How to make your startup dreams a reality. Source: Supplied/Getty
How to make your startup dreams a reality. Source: Supplied/Getty

When Australia went into lockdown in March this year, the legal industry, which has historically been conservative, faced a predicament it had never faced before: it needed to go online.

Three years ago, Melbourne barrister Laura Keily founded a company that would move the industry in this direction before its time, but it wasn’t until Covid-19 came along that it really hit the ground running.

“I’m a barrister and was a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer, and when I moved over to litigation I realised there was a big problem,” Keily told Yahoo Finance.

“It was a well-known problem: access to court systems and resolution at an affordable price.”

The company, Immediation, is a secure and confidential dispute resolution platform that allows people to access the system more effectively through the internet, and leverage a talented pool of mediators and arbitrators that they may not otherwise have had access to.

But while the legal industry has been rigid in the past, Covid-19 forced it to get with the times, Keily said.

“You have no alternative but to do things virtually, therefore it will work and it does work,” Keily said.

“It’s really changed people’s mindset about what’s possible. [Lawyers] can have clients who are remotely located from them, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for their practice.”

Since March 2020, more than 6,000 users accessed Immediation for the first time, in live matters in Australia and internationally in over 30 countries.

Getting it off the ground

Keily knew she was onto something, but realising the concept into a fully-fledged operation is its own beast, she said.

But others knew she was filling a gap in the market, and her first investment came from a friend who believed in the idea.

“Someone actually offered me money before I even realised that I should do this,” she said.

“The first half a million happened sort of naturally, and then we had enough money to build the platform, but not enough to go to market.”

It was the next round of funding that was more difficult, she said.

“Trying to find the right investors who were prepared to invest seed off the back of what was really just an idea, but we raised $2 million through convertible note rounds over two years,” she said.

More recently, Immediation raised a further $3.75 million, backed by rich-lister Alex Waislitz’s Thorney Investment.

“It wasn’t a walk in the park, but I’ve been able to convince them that I’ll be able to make it work.”

A genuine problem

If the idea you have conceived is an answer to a genuine problem, investors will back you, Keily said.

“The idea and the problem are real, it’s not something I created because I wanted to be a venture-backed entrepreneur,” she said.

“When I explain the problem to people in the business, they understand the solution because they’ve suffered, or they’ve faced a similar thing.”

And the same goes for other entrepreneurs.

“If you’ve got a really sensible solution to a really big problem, and you can show that you’re the person who’s going to deliver it, that’s what will make it easy,” she said.

Be authentic

When trying to convince others to invest in you and your brand, you need to be authentic, Keily said.

“They see straight through any bullshit,” she said.

“You have to be able to present a concise story that’s authentic, and that you can actually back up. Once you can do that, it’s easy to get them interested if they believe in you as a founder.

“It’s really about getting that story right, and making sure that it’s real.”

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