Startups

With a $4.5M seed round, SaaS startup Common Paper is going live

A year after Jake Stein and Ben Garvey decided to build a company to streamline legal contracts in tech transactions, they're launching to the public. Here's how the cofounders and technologists knew they'd found the right investors.

Common Paper cofounders Ben Garvey (left) and Jake Stein.

(Courtesy photo and photo via LinkedIn)

Year-old Common Paper, the SaaS company created by technologists Jake Stein and Ben Garvey to streamline legal contracts in tech transactions, launches Tuesday to the public after about six months in a beta phase. The news comes paired with a $4.5 million seed round.

The round was co-led by Boldstart Ventures and Uncork Capital, with participation from a group of angel investors, including the CEOs of Carta and UIPath, the founders of TechGC, and Philly-based Crossbeam’s Bob Moore. Much of the round will go toward supporting the 2022 RealLIST Startups honoree’s growth: On Monday, its eighth employee joined the company, and cofounders will be hiring a senior engineer in the coming months, they told Technical.ly this week.

The founders also have plans to expand the type of contracts Common Paper offers. The startup creates standardized, open source contract templates, and its software platform leverages the structured data in those templates. The system makes its easier to create contracts, negotiate and integrate with the rest of the business. Right now, it offers standardized NDA and standardized cloud services agreements.

They’ve been testing the product with a few dozen beta users, they said, but the product’s structure itself lends to some unique marketing opportunities. Because it’s all about legal agreements between people or companies, each user essentially introduces Common Paper to whoever they’re doing businesses with.

“The use of it is inherently viral,” Stein said. “You don’t sign a contract by yourself, and one of our users sends a contract, they’re introducing someone else to  Common Paper. Today, we’re really focused on a great user experience for both people.”

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While they’ve been learning from their beta users for the last several months, including folks over at Crossbeam and fellow Philly tech company Guru, launching to the public is bound to lead to an influx of feedback in the coming days and weeks, they said. It’s both exciting and a little “nerve-inducing,” Stein said.

Stein's in his third role as a founder and is no stranger to raising a round, but he said his best advice came from cofounder Garvey.

“We’re going to learn a lot. And some of that is ‘there’s this bug’ or hearing about features people need,” he said. “It’s really valuable, it can be uncomfortable, but it’s the path to leading the product forward.”

Stein’s in his third role as a founder following exits at RJMetrics and Stitch and is no stranger to raising a round, but he said his best advice came from cofounder Garvey. It was his idea to write down their best-case scenario before starting conversations with investors, so if they walked away from a conversation feeling really great, they’d know what they were optimizing for.

Ultimately, the pair was looking for investors they felt they could really trust. Different firms offer different things, from the obvious — capital — to experience, advisors or connections. Stein and Garvey were looking for (and found) folks who were experts at working with early-stage SaaS companies and were “solid humans we feel great about.”

Garvey noted that as a technical cofounder, his conversations with investors often involved making sure he understood the solution they were putting forward, not just building it.

“I think they wanted to make sure I was just as invested in the problem,” he said.

In the next year, the pair plan on rolling out more agreements and getting feedback from their committee of attorneys. The “big picture” vision is to be the go-to API for these kinds of contracts, integrating with other software to make the often laborious process an easier time for everyone involved. They also look forward to bringing their eight-person team together IRL sometime soon, though they plan to stay a remote company.

“We’re really excited to build something new that has an impact on how people do business together, and speed up this process we feel is underserved,” Garvey said.

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