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INNOVATORS VS COVID 19

Supporting Your Startup’s Mental Health during Lockdown

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Richard Mabey Juro

We talked to Richard Mabey, CEO, and co-founder of Juro, a contract automation platform that enables your team to create, execute and monitor routine contracts at scale and here is what he said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?

Richard Mabey: We’ve been really fortunate to stay largely healthy through the pandemic, and the vaccination roll-out is well underway in the UK now. We’ve faced many of the everyday challenges around childcare and home working, but happy to say we’ve been able to cope reasonably well and support our Juro colleagues through the unprecedented events of the past year.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Juro.

Richard Mabey: I trained and then practiced as a corporate and M&A lawyer with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, one of the UK’s ‘Magic Circle’ law firms. As time went on, I realized quite how much of my colleagues’ and my time, as well as our clients’ money, was spent not on legal advice but the process. 

Contracts were some of the worst offenders, with lawyers spending so much time chasing Word documents and tracked changes around endless email chains. It’s the same for lawyers in in-house legal teams – instead of working on high-value commercial projects, they find themselves buried by NDAs and other routine contracts.

 I decided to do something about it – learning about the product at LegalZoom and studying for an MBA at INSEAD. There I met my co-founder, Pavel Kovalevich, and together we founded Juro to create the all-in-one contract automation platform that makes contracts work for everyone.

How does Juro innovate?

Richard Mabey: Legal teams still largely live in Word, PDF, and emails. Most of the contract software platforms that tried to address this still rely on Word files and PDFs, which always lead to issues around version control, unstructured data, and inflexible workflows that slow contracts down.

Juro takes the end-to-end contract process entirely in-browser. So everything from contract creation from automated templates to negotiation, signature, storage, renewal, and analytics, making sure teams at high-velocity businesses can agree and manage documents in one unified workspace. 

Uniquely, Juro incorporates a flexible data layer that means contracts and metadata are live synced, so you can query contract data at any time. 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Richard Mabey: We’ve been fortunate that we were well equipped for remote working before coronavirus became widespread. And given the nature of our product, usage actually increased during the height of the pandemic as businesses needed to agree to contracts remotely, finding the limits of basic electronic signature tools, and without being able to rely on a wet signature. We launched a free version of our Basic plan to help smaller businesses automate contracts through the lockdown. 

Internally, our people team has worked incredibly hard to ensure the company is still aligned and united. We’ve also made sure we support our employees and their mental wellbeing as they continue to work from home for such a lengthy period.

· We developed our time off policy to account for additional circumstances, such as mental health or caring for a new pet

· We implemented a Slack-based mental health platform to combat the unavoidable impact that extended lockdowns have on our team’s mental health

· We’ve kept our team events going, such as team drinks on Fridays and team lunches on Thursdays, to maintain a sense of normalcy

· We allocated a #WFH budget to every employee so they can improve their home working setup

And much more. It’s a challenging, ongoing process that we need to review frequently.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Richard Mabey: The biggest challenge we’ve faced internally is trying to stay focused and that, now more than ever, we say no to things we can’t take on. With the lines between home life and work-life completely blurred, it can be hard to disconnect. Pushing back on tasks that aren’t a high priority is painful, but during the lockdown, when it’s so much easier to burn out, I think it’s necessary. 

I’m also encouraging employees to accept fewer meetings to prevent Zoom fatigue – no-one wants to spend their day in back-to-back meetings. While video calls replicate face-to-face interactions, they aren’t necessary for everything. Sometimes, phone calls, voice notes, Slack messages, or videos in Loom are better.

 We’ve always had remote employees, and our Product and Engineering teams work from Riga, Latvia, so crystal clear communication has always been essential. Over-communicating is definitely better than under-communicating.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Richard Mabey: Our current tech stack has set us up well for remote working, as we already collaborate constantly between our Riga and London offices. Pre-lockdown, we were using Slack, Zoom, Miro, and Trello, amongst others; these tools have helped us through the crisis in terms of keeping us aligned and organized. Our business also lives in Notion – this is where we update meeting notes, policies, handbooks, resources, and much more. 

Of course, we’re also using our own platform to create, agree and execute contracts, and as a result, we haven’t had to slow down on hiring or closing deals during the lockdown.

I also set out a block of time every week known as ‘office hours’ – it’s essentially an open Q&A to everyone in the business. If there’s a problem or a question, colleagues can join the call and ask. It’s a great way to be more approachable during a time where back-to-back meetings can be the norm, and it helps me direct my time to the people who need it most.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Richard Mabey: We’re mainly competing against legacy systems such as Microsoft Word. It’s been the go-to platform for contracts but hasn’t really developed over time – so now, we work in an automated world, but contracts in Word have yet to catch up and are manual, unscalable, and incredibly frustrating to create, negotiate and sign. 

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of collaborative tech amongst our core markets. Staying in the game just involves iterating our product so we can help even more businesses make contracts more human.

Your website?

http://juro.com/ 

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