The pandemic has opened a box of Pandora concerns to consumers, canceling flights, closing gyms, and meeting monthly membership commitments. To the Do not pay, a company that created dozens of bots to help consumers fight for their rights, has led to increased demand from the crisis. "We have done well before, but our business has really grown since the crisis began," said Josh Browder, founder and CEO of DoNotPay.
Browder is the UK-born entrepreneur behind a "robot lawyer" better known for helping consumers fight parking fees. Browder is based in San Francisco and has grown steadily since launching its first website back in 2015 to help Londoners contest parking tickets. Based on rule-based automation, Browder has created an algorithm that uses historically successful appeals as a template to automatically generate new appeals for new applicants. This relieves the struggle against the system. Today, DoNotPay is a multi-purpose platform that works for consumers who want it Cancel memberships and subscriptions, fight against companies, sue robocallers, apply for benefits, claim damages and much more.
Browder said VentureBeat requests have increased 50% from the previous month and certain categories are going through the roof as the physical world has stalled in recent months.
“People really wanted to get airline reimbursements. The gyms have been closed and people want to cancel, ”said Browder. "Certain categories of disputes, such as canceling gym membership, have increased almost 30 times."
To benefit from this growth, DoNotPay announced today that it has raised $ 12 million, based on a valuation of $ 80 million, in a Series A financing round led by the existing investor coatue management, who New York-based investment firm behind a number of well-known startups, including Uber, Lyft, Box and Snap. Participants in the round include Andreessen Horowitz, the founding fund of Peter Thiel and Felicis Ventures, all existing investors and Day One Ventures. In this round, DoNotPay's total funding is more than $ 16 million.
According to Browder, one of the advantages of Coatue and Andreessen Horowitz is that they are particularly good at helping startups find the right people – for which DoNotPay will use the lion's share of its new funds. The company currently has eight employees, all but one engineer, and is now aiming to triple the number of employees, while still focusing on technical talent.
"We're hiring more engineers and everyone will only produce new legal bots," said Browder. “We see this very mathematically – an engineer can produce X bots. We have a list of 50 new products we want to build. We just want to keep producing them. "
A problem with 25 million people
“Throwing out” new products may sound a bit blasphemous, but says a lot about the extent of the possibilities. Corporate bureaucracy and harassment are widespread in society, and Browder wants to do everything. "Large companies have teams of lawyers, so we want to get consumers to fight back, and we have to do everything we can to do that," he said.
In the five years since its launch, DoNotPay has launched more than 100 individual bots that can be divided into six categories:
- Customer service disputes: e.g. Right to compensation for late flights, cancellation of gym membership
- Hidden money: e.g. Bank fee refund, birthday rewards, loyalty benefits
- Free trial card: Users can register with a for free trial versions virtual credit card This will automatically cancel membership when the free trial ends
- Skip the queue: DoNotPay makes customer service calls and notifies the user when an agent is available
- Small Claims Court: Prepare all necessary documents and records for the Small Claims Court and a script that the user can read in court
- Traffic and parking complaints: The original bot from DoNotPay supports users with parking ticket complaints
While it is open to tackling almost any legal or bureaucratic process, the company operates within certain limits. First, a problem must be largely solvable online rather than being in court. However, as mentioned earlier, it can help prepare a script that a user can read in a small claims court. More importantly, a large number of people must be affected to justify building a robot representative.
"A problem must affect more than 25 million people," said Browder. “We want to do things that really affect everyone, and everyone was delayed by a flight. Everyone wants to cancel their gym membership. We only cause most of the problems in the mass market. In addition, we can only do things that can be fully automated. So a robot lawyer will never help you get a divorce because you have to go to court and fight and robots can't fight in court. "
While much of the DoNotPay engine is essentially rule-based, the company uses machine learning in the form of natural language processing (NLP), which is supported by IBM's Watson. For example, DoNotPay has a ToS (Terms of Service) scanner that users can use to identify unwanted clauses in the small print. Users simply upload a ToS document to DoNotPay and a bot reads through the text and marks anything that seems uncomfortable, e.g. B. A forced arbitration clause that prevents a user from suing a company in court.
The park contest bot can also interpret statements entered by the user, such as "I paid for parking" when creating the legal defense.
According to Browder, rule-based automation fits well with the systems that DoNotPay wants to tackle.
"I like to think of the law as the operating system of society," said Browder. “Ultimately, it's just a set of rules – (DoNotPay) goes through a decision tree to assign you to a legal defense, notes some details, and uses all of that to automatically generate a document that contains it, or send it to the government these big companies. "
Apple popularized and protected by trademark law The phrase "There is an app for this" after the boom in the App Store contributed to this more than a decade ago. However, the mobile lawyer, the fine print and the red tape cutter are a fairly unique app category that DoNotPay has almost single-handedly developed over the past five years. This leadership position – and its target market – are attractive to investors.
This is the assessment of Niki Pezeshki, a Felicis Ventures partner who has invested in both financing rounds of DoNotPay. "DoNotPay is truly a business-driven company committed to expanding legal rights for underserved communities," he said. "People have apps they can do almost anything with, but consumer rights are one of the last untapped options."
DoNotPay is not yet profitable, but it doesn't bleed a lot of money, as its Silicon Valley colleagues often did in the early years. Browder said his company is now at break-even and will be fully funded through a $ 3 user subscription per month. Browder plans to stay on this path and maintain user trust.
"We always plan a direct relationship with our customers and can commit to never selling data or ads," he said. "We plan to be that Costco earn money only with our subscription. "
DoNotPay managed to generate some controversy a few months ago when it launched a new Chrome extension that allowed users to share online subscriptions without revealing their password. Google got the extension just a few days after launch, apparently because DoNotPay used Disney screenshots to promote the extension. When COVID-19 began to affect people's lives, DoNotPay was forced in other directions, such as building a bot that helps US users submit unemployment claims.
The company is also working on a more comprehensive Chrome extension that includes the entire product. Therefore, it will wait for the product to finish before starting again. The new Chrome extension sounds like a compelling offer. Browder says that it works proactively for users in the background and can automatically request compensation from an airline if, for example, the WiFi doesn't work on a flight. The company's recent cash injection will facilitate this function along with a number of other new products designed to help consumers fight the system.
"Our next focus will be to help people clean up their criminal records and lower their property taxes," said Browder.
DoNotPay is currently limited to the United States and the United Kingdom. However, it is currently being tested in Australia and Canada, although other markets may be on the radar. "I think DoNotPay can work wherever the rule of law exists," added Browder.