Clio has become a major presence in Vancouver’s tech scene and has grown from a small firm with three employees in 2007 to more than 130 strong with offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and Dublin, Ireland. As I walked into their office I was quickly greeted by one of their staff who kindly fixed me a cup of coffee and informed Christopher Yeh, Clio’s Talent Specialist. As I slipped my coffee and welcomed the sense of invigoration brought on by the caffeine, I began to notice the extensive renovations that were underway. Seeing the completed renovations gave visitors a sense of professionalism and growth but the friendliness of the staff and decor showed guests that Clio still has the heart of a scrappy startup. It was during this thought that Christopher and Derek Bolen, Clio’s communications coordinator, arrived.
I was surprised by the amount of attention I garnered, but realized perhaps this is one of the reasons why Clio has come so far: They treat everyone who comes their way with great importance and proudly Canadian hospitality. After the initial introductions, we quickly settled into a meeting room and began the interview.
1. What is Clio and what industry are you in?
We’re a SaaS company that provides the leading cloud-based product in the legal practice management space. We help lawyers be awesome at what they do with an accessible, user-friendly software solution that incorporates time tracking, billing, document management, client management, and calendaring.
2. How did Clio go from two friends working together to a successful startup with three offices (Vancouver, Toronto and Dublin)?
Jack and Rian met at elementary school in Edmonton and have been best of friends ever since. Rian moved to Vancouver for work and Jack stayed in Alberta, but they always knew they wanted to start a business together. They were already working full-time jobs and were doing contract work on the side to make money for ‘business’ trips to Las Vegas. At the time, back in 2007-08, they happened to pick up a contract job with the Law Society of BC and their conversations led to discussions on how unfeasible practice management software was in the legal space for small legal firms. These firms did not have the capital to purchase and set up the servers that were required to run what was then the standard practice management software: unwieldy on-premise software. The conversation led Jack and Rian to a lightbulb moment that gave them the motivation to build a cloud-based platform to address the pain points associated with incumbents. Taking inspiration from companies like Salesforce and 37Signals, they coded the first version of their cloud-based software in Ruby on Rails—and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. Success is about learning from those who have succeeded before you; what qualities should Startup Weekend participants who wish to build a Saas (particularly cloud-based software) learn from Clio?
When Clio launched, it was the first cloud-based legal practice management software to market. Being the first mover was an advantage for the company as it was able to do business with a large and underserved market. As time passed we saw other companies throw their hats into the ring which reminded us to not rest our laurels. In the SaaS market it’s not necessarily about who’s first, it’s about who’s best, so it’s critical to iterate and improve upon the product and consistently add new features clients tell us they want.
4. Vancouver has been named one of the best places to create a startup. Can you please tell us what resources Startup Weekend participants can capitalize on in order to maximize their growth and momentum?
We’re incredibly fortunate to live in a tech hub like Vancouver that was grown organically from grassroots innovation. Vancouverites aspiring to be startup founders are a fortunate lot as they have access to homegrown mentorship opportunities that a lot of people yearn for. There are many intelligent and successful leaders within the Greater Vancouver area who are extremely open, accessible, and willing share their experiences. Lastly, Vancouverites are becoming less inclined to leave the city, preferring to build their startup here. The city has some great accelerators and incubators as well as becoming known for its pool of great talent, and while VC attention was scarce before, they have started to keep a keen eye on Vancouver-built companies.
5. How can Startup Weekend participants maximize their social media presence and marketing efforts over the 54-hour event?
Startup Weekend hashtags have always drawn a lot of attention and action during and after the event. Hashtags gives participants the opportunity to reach out to individuals and community influencers to gain visibility on the web they wouldn’t usually have had the opportunity. It’s also crucial to remember for participants to engage in discussions rather than use social media as a tool for a one way marketing push.
6. What are some of Clio’s upcoming milestones and events that excite you?
We held Clio’s second annual user conference down in Chicago on September 22nd where we made a great number of new feature announcements. We believe these new features will catapult the company to the next level. Locally, we’re growing at an incredible rate. We’re in the midst of our office renovations and our aim is to be identified as the next major tech anchor within the startup community. We’re hoping to grow into that role through mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs and startups and helping them succeed.