Behind the Scenes at the CBA's "The Pitch"

Canadian Bar Association conference in Ottawa August 12, 2016. | Photo by Blair Gable

At the beginning of May, an interesting email landed in my inbox from Aron Solomon. He was encouraging Loom (along with the rest of the LegalX crowd) to apply for a startup competition sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association.

Fast forward three months and I was standing on stage, about to pitch my legal tech product to a room full of lawyers, VCs, and industry experts. Rap music was blaring. Robotic stage lights were shining behind me. Lawyers in their very best business attire were lounging in stage-side beanbag chairs. Audience members were chowing down on the popcorn thoughtfully provided by the CBA, anticipating a show (and maybe some serious startup drama). There was a luxury car hanging out at the back of the room.* And for one brief moment, I thought, “What did I get myself into?”

When I got Aron’s email, we had been in beta for about three months, and were eager to have a platform to gauge market reaction to our product. So it was with great excitement that we read the June announcement from the CBA that we had been selected as one of the five ‘The Pitch’ finalists from 32 initial submissions. We were in good company, as Beagle, Blue J, Knomos, and Rangefindr made up the rest of the field.

This was the basic concept of The Pitch: Five start-ups, five judges. Seven minutes to pitch, followed by a five-minute question and answer session. And may the best pitcher win.

We had about a month and a half to prep for the competition, and on occasion it involved some seriously comical moments. One day that will definitely go down in Loom Analytics history was when we got an email from the CBA asking us to provide a short video describing our company. The kicker? The deadline was in 48 hours. Not only were we in the middle of trying to meet a product release deadline at the time, but we had exactly zero pre-recorded footage and had to run around looking for an employee with a decent-looking manicure in order to shoot a clip of someone interacting with the product. Then we struggled with trying to dub my voice over a video shoot on a windy day in front of a courthouse in Kingston (this had… mixed results). We got the video in just under the wire -- and still had to submit a corrected version the week after.

And in the lead-up to The Pitch, CBA National was publishing interviews with all five companies. My team and I got into a protracted battle about how I should answer the question, “What do you think is the best thing since sliced bread?” I wanted to say ‘Moore’s Law,’ and they adamantly thought I should go with something a little bit cooler. You can check out the interview to see who walked away as the winner of that fight. (Hey, I have an engineering degree! I’m a tech geek. No shame.)

Of course, in the midst of all this prep, we had our noses to the grindstone trying to expand Loom Analytics’ data coverage, introduce a new report, as well as lay the groundwork for new features we’re planning to launch in the near future.

So August 11th, the day of the dry run, came up fast. Really fast. And I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that our reaction upon walking into the boardroom where I was going to pitch was, “...whoa”.

Talk about production value.

On the actual day of The Pitch, my family, including my kids, my mother-in-law, and my husband, the co-founder of Loom, were in the audience, along with my management team of Lisa Kadey and Nicole Watts. I was pitching first, as decided by a random draw the night before.

The draw was done by the official 'The Pitch' youth representative (aged two).

This was perfect because, I’ll be honest -- any position other than first would have had me getting more anxious with each passing presenter. I’ve done plenty of presentations and public events in my time, but not usually while squinting into a rack of Source Four stage lights, and definitely not in front of a panel of judges. When Aron introduced me, I stepped onto stage and was visibly nervous for the first ten seconds. But then something clicked. I was here on stage, with nothing to lose. And then I was comfortable. In fact, it felt like I was back at my desk on a cold call with a C-suite exec of an insurance company telling them what Loom was about. The train had left the station, and all I could do was keep going. Once the seven minutes were up, I could rest easy.

The rest of the presentations were great, and it was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy them knowing that my part was done. When the results were announced, we were absolutely thrilled to take home The People’s Choice award, which was decided on by audience voting. Cian O’Sullivan’s excellent pitch impressed the judges and netted the top prize for Beagle (and we’re sure his mom is proud!). But the event wasn’t just about the awards. If we take a broader view, The Pitch really was a win for the entire Canadian legal tech sector, which in many ways is still in its infancy. It signalled a serious commitment to fostering technological innovation from the country’s largest bar association. Perhaps even more promising, the audience response was extraordinarily enthusiastic and contradicted the still-pervasive stereotype of tech-phobic lawyers.

Canadian Bar Association conference in Ottawa August 12, 2016. | Photo by Blair Gable

Huge thanks to Aron Solomon, Jason Moyse, and Farah Momen of LegalX and Leslie Lenton of the Canadian Bar Association, who all worked tirelessly to put together a seamless, top-notch event. I hope we get to see a new iteration of The Pitch next year, and I’m excited to see how far the Canadian legal tech industry will progress by next summer.

*(I still want to know why the car was there. Feel free to send me a message if you know.)