Ten years ago, cloud computing was still an emerging, unproven concept in the business world. But tech industry veterans and lifelong friends Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau saw it as an amazing opportunity.
“It just seemed so obvious that this was the technology of the future, and we knew that these kinds of waves of technology disruption only come a few times in a lifetime,” says Newton. So they wanted to jump in and thought the legal sector—mostly untouched by technology—was the best fit.
In mid-2008, he and Gauvreau launched Clio, a software-as-a-service enterprise that made its goal to help law firms spend less time on administration and more time with clients.
Finding funding during the financial crisis proved tough, but eventually it came, and Clio has grown into an unqualified success, employing more than 200 people and offering a suite of services and applications—from time-tracking and document management to task management, bookkeeping and billing. Today more than 150,000 lawyers are using Clio software in firms of all sizes in 90 countries around the world.
Being the first mover in what became an exploding category brought growth for Clio, but also many copycats. Clio has had to work hard to evolve its brand and expand its services to keep an edge on competitors.
“We’ve done a very good job of helping our lawyers regard us as partners . . . not just as a provider of practice management software,” says Newton. For example, Clio publishes the “Legal Trends” report that provides lawyers with invaluable benchmarks and key performance indicators. And there’s the Clio Cloud Conference, which attracted 1,000 attendees last year to a two-day event: “Sort of like the Burning Man festival of the legal industry,” is how one impressed attendee described it.
Another strategic decision was positioning Clio as a platform, not just as a software product. Much like Salesforce has done with customer relationship management (CRM), Clio wants other developers to produce specialty applications that run on top of the underlying Clio infrastructure, says Newton.
Clio first opened up the platform in 2012 and in the past year “really doubled down” on its positioning, introducing a new application programming interface (API) that presented additional opportunities for developers. There are already 70 integration partners, and they expect that number to rise.
To further encourage developers, the company created the $1-million Clio Development Fund to invest in start-ups working on the platform and offers a $100,000 prize to the developer who can create the best new Clio integration product. “We’ve already seen it spark a huge amount of growth and interest in the platform,” says Newton.