- Josh Browder came up with the idea for DoNotPay, an automated legal assistant for small legal claims, after he had received and tried to fight over 30 parking tickets.
- Browder found an opportunity to automate the mundane and repetitive process of writing letters to fight the tickets, and dropped out of Stanford to become a Thiel Fellow and build out his idea.
- On Wednesday, DoNotPay announced it raised $4.6 million in seed funding led by Felicis Ventures with participation from Index Ventures, Founders Fund, Highland Capital, Tuesday, and Coatue Asset Management.
- Browder told Business Insider that although many of his classmates want to work at Facebook or Google, he was passionate about making the fight for justice against corporations and governments easier for all people, “from VCs to homeless people to everyone in between.”
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Josh Browder was writing letter after letter to protest the 30 parking tickets he had amassed since getting his driver’s license at age 18. As a college student, he couldn’t afford the payments, and was writing to appeal the fees on the basis of financial hardship — which meant he wrote almost identical letters every time a ticket appeared on his windshield.
Soon, the Stanford computer engineering student realized that it wouldn’t be too difficult to automate the cumbersome process. Using his own tickets as the basis, he was able to create a system to generate a new letter whenever he needed. Soon, he was farming out the software to friends at Stanford to help fight their tickets.
By 2015, he was seriously entertaining the thought of turning his creation into a full-blown business, and in 2017 raised $1.1 million in seed funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. By his senior year in 2018, he was officially announced as a Thiel Fellow, a program created by investor Peter Thiel’s epynomous Thiel Foundation that pays students to drop out of college and work on an idea full time.
“A lot of my classmates at Stanford want to work at Facebook and Google. The fellowship is a lot of people working on amazing ideas,” Browder told Business Insider. “I don’t want to be one of those people who work at Facebook, I want to work on something that gives justice to people and encourages it.”
Read More: Here’s how this founder convinced Silicon Valley heavyweights Paul Graham and Peter Thiel to invest $5.8 million in his startup — without using a pitch deck
On Wednesday, Browder’s venture, now called DoNotPay, officially announced its first venture funding with $4.6 million from Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures, Thiel’s Founders Fund, Highland Capital, Tuesday, and Coatue Asset Management.
“I’ve been doing this for a while with no resources so we’re looking forward to expanding and helping more people fight for their rights in general,” Browder said.
Browder’s ambition is undeniable. With the influx of cash, he has already mapped out several areas of consumer law that DoNotPay could help automate. Browder says DoNotPay currently operates in 100 different areas of local and municipal law, and is eyeing some key areas of expansion like landlord complaints, different types of traffic tickets, and general consumer rights issues.
He gave the recent example of DoNotPay’s expansion into helping users sue companies that get hacked and leak personal data. That service was launched in the wake of the Equifax data breach and ensuing lawsuits. He said some customers were able to win up to $9,000 in small claims court against the credit bureau using DoNotPay’s services.
The value proposition is simple, Browder says. DoNotPay takes a complicated, repetitive, and mundane process that would typically require an expensive lawyer and automates it using machine learning technology.
He said the company works with paralegals to identify municipal codes or other hyper-localized laws, like parking limits, and injects those into the model he’s developed. If someone comes to the app and has an issue that matches an existing code, he said they can automatically generate a letter or complaint for free. DoNotPay makes money through a subscription service a user can opt into if they would like the company to file the complaint on their behalf.
“We see this as a universal problem,” Browder said. “Everyone from the VCs that use our product to homeless people and everyone in between. Unfortunately, a lot of people are being ripped off by corporations and governments so we are going after a mass market.”
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