In this episode Tyson speaks to Electra Japonas, Founder & CEO of The Law Boutique and Co-founder of oneNDA, giving a candid look into her journey as an entrepreneur, lawyer and a mother.
The Law Boutique (TLB) is a legal consulting firm that focuses on providing legal services and solutions for businesses, with an emphasis on optimizing and streamlining legal processes.
oneNDA is aimed at revolutionizing the way Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are handled in the legal industry.
If you enjoyed this episode don’t forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast app or on YouTube, that way you’ll never miss an episode…
Tyson Ballard: Excellent. So, thanks and welcome Electra to the next episode of the Legal Dispatch. Really looking forward to the conversation we’re going to have. For those that don’t know Electra, which probably wouldn’t be too many in the legal industry. You’re the founder of The Law Boutique and the co-founder of oneNDA collaborating with other people.
And you can find Electra on Electra-Japonas on LinkedIn. I think it’s pretty easy to find. You just told me you do have Twitter, but you never use it, so I won’t reel out the Twitter handle. Welcome Electra. Great to have you.
Electra Japonas: Thanks for having me.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, no worries. I’ve been really excited about this one, actually. But maybe just to get us going in terms of the conversation today, maybe you can just tell us what you do and who you work for.
Electra Japonas: Sure, so I am a lawyer, I think. Well, I am a lawyer, but I don’t do any law. And I work for TLB, which is the company I founded back in 2017. The type of work I do is run the business, but I also do quite a few legal ops projects more on the strategic level rather than on the execution level.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. And the law boutique is English based, headquartered in London. Where’s your team based?
Electra Japonas: So we’re all based in the UK. We have offices in London Bridge.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah.
Electra Japonas: Yeah, we don’t have any international staff at the moment. We’re all just based here. And it’s quite nice for all of us to come into the office and hang out.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, nice. So, maybe you can start by telling me what does a day in the life of a lecturer look like? You know, in terms of when it starts to when it ends.
Electra Japonas: Yeah, so my day lately starts at about half four in the morning, not because I’m a super motivated person that wants to get up at half four and exercise. But because my one-year-old doesn’t like sleeping very much. So, he still wakes up really early.
I’ve got a sleep consultant lined up for next week to try and sort that out, but yeah, 4:35 a.m. Is when my day starts. I’ll wake up in the morning and then I won’t start working until about 8 a.m. that’s when I drop him off at nursery. And then I work until about 4:30 – 5:00 p.m. until I pick him up from nursery. Basically, my whole day is usually spent on calls talking to various people.
I predominantly do the sales for TLB and run some of the strategic projects. So, I’m either on a call with an existing client or with a prospective client. And yeah, lots of team meetings, but I spend a lot of my time on calls. So, that sounds like I don’t do much.
Tyson Ballard: No, but I think I was listening to a podcast with Mark Wahlberg just a couple of weeks ago. And he was talking about a book called the 5 a.m. Club. The book is with the theory that if you do get up around 5 a. m. every day, you get an extra 20 hours that the rest of us who sleep until around eight o’clock per week. In that time, you do something productive but what you do with that one-year-old, it’s a bit harder.
Electra Japonas: Telling you it’s not at all. It’s like reading a book.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, yeah.
Electra Japonas: About farm animals.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, yeah. But well, that’s obviously training the next generation, at an early age, getting up early. What are your morning rituals? Are you a coffee person? You talked about going to the gym. How do you get your brain working in the morning?
Electra Japonas: I used to go to the gym. I used to go to the gym first thing in the morning and I loved it. But I just can’t do that at the moment because of the baby. So yeah, I wake up and I just rely on caffeine at this point. Life after kids it really changes, like people say that and you nod. And you’re like, of course it does. But then you have a baby and then you’re like, ‘Oh God, okay, yeah, now I get it.’ So, my usual gym routine followed by a dog walk followed by an artisan sort of coffee, that doesn’t exist anymore. So, I just rely on caffeine from home.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, well, maybe it will come back at some point. Maybe.
Electra Japonas: 10 years.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I’ve got a 10-year-old and it has come back. After 9 years, I get to have my artisanal coffee every morning, which is nice.
Maybe kind of changing the topic a little bit, but what do you find the most interesting and challenging part of your role?
Electra Japonas: Interesting part of my role is talking to different people within the industry and finding out what their challenges are and trying to find creative ways to solve those challenges. Because they haven’t actually been solved before by anybody. So, trying to figure that out and feeling empowered within an industry, that’s quite nascent. And being able to move the needle in terms of innovation is the thing that really makes me tick.
I’m a creative person and I went into law because I thought that it would give me stability and money. And because I’m Greek Cypriot your parents’ kind of push you down a path a little bit. And when I got into it was never creative enough for me. So, doing this is ticks all the boxes. Because I do like law, and I get the value of what we do. But having the opportunity to help people do it better and be more effective in ways that haven’t really been considered before is really cool.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, well. What kind of things? When you’re saying ways that haven’t been considered before, what are some examples of some of the things that you guys have done?
Electra Japonas: Examples of things that we’ve done. We’ve worked with tech companies to kind of help them figure out how their products should work. So, we’ve done some consultancy on that side, on actual product side, which I love doing. We’ve also helped, teams leverage their existing product. So, legal tech is often a bit like the wedding industry where if a cake, I say this all the time, if a cake is 20 quid in Marks and Spencer’s. And then you buy a wedding cake, it’s 500 quid. Because it’s a wedding cake. It’s a bit like that in legal tech. So, you’ll get a workflow tool that’s 20, 30, 40 thousand pounds a year, but you can do the exact same things with say JIRA or another Asana or whatever workflow tool you want to use. And often finding ways to leverage existing tools on the cheap is a really challenging fun thing that we’ve done quite a lot. And we’ve got some amazing things like legal front doors that are comprehensive. And yeah, I love that.
Tyson Ballard: So, I’ve heard you talk on some other podcasts, in terms of how you’ve had always this inner entrepreneur. You were at Disney, doing mainly contract roles before you started The Law Boutique.
What was the inner conversation you had either inside your head or with your partner that said like, enough of this. I’m going to go and start my own company. When was that and how hard was that to do? And what was the conversation you had with yourself?
Electra Japonas: I’ve never really wanted a traditional career. I’ve never wanted to get on the ladder. I didn’t really have any interest in politics. And so, when I started working, my aim was always to kind of test the waters and see what’s going on in different types of organisations. And to not really follow that traditional career path.
So, I started off working really amazing organizations. And within about a year, 18 months, I was done. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I thought I can’t have a CV with like 10,000 jobs because every year I want to change jobs. And I felt like I got to a point where I wanted to move a bit faster, that wasn’t really available to me. And maybe in my older age now, I wouldn’t want that. But when I was young, I had this incredible kind of energy that I miss now. But yeah, I wanted to do more and more and more. I didn’t feel like there was the environment for me to do that. And I thought I can either go from job to job or I can suppress my feelings and just stay in jobs where I’m not necessarily happy. Or I’m feel like I’m not fulfilling my potential, or I can just start my own business. And if I start my own business, then every time I feel restless, I can put that energy into growing the business. And in Cyprus, which is where I’m from, it’s very normal to want to be an entrepreneur and to want to start your own business. Whereas I think that in other bigger countries, you don’t necessarily need to do that in order to have a fulfilling career or good income.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah.
Electra Japonas: So maybe because I was raised with the idea of it’s a really natural thing to start your own business. I was never scared of it. And I always thought that would be the thing that I do. And I was always very entrepreneurial anyway. I used to sell stuff and I was a nail technician at uni at one point to make more money. So, I always wanted to do my own thing. And then I got married and I thought, usually when you get married, you then have children. So, I’ve done the married bit, now I can either go straight on to have children, at which point I think my life will change, I was right, and I probably won’t have the time or the energy to start a business. So, before I have children, which I was never also sure that I wanted to do. But before I consider that chapter of my life, I should just start a business now. So, I was 30/31/32 at the time, and I just thought, go on just start a business. And if it doesn’t work out, I can just go back to work that’s always something that I can fall back on is going back into a job. And it’s a very cool thing to have on the CV that you try to start a business and it didn’t work and so now you’re back in the workplace. So, I didn’t see that I was taking any risk, really. And so, I just thought, YOLO do it.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, yeah, it’s great. Obviously, you’ve got over the 18-month hump in your own business, the one year to 18-month hump. With every business, you have many learnings and successes and also failures. Well, what would you consider as your most favourite failure that has maybe set you up for success later in your business?
Electra Japonas: Favourite failure? The thing is I don’t understand the concept of failure really. To be honest with you, I think that everything’s just an iteration. Something didn’t work so you do something else. And nothing’s really even a success because what does that even mean? That’s not the pinnacle. So, everything is just an iteration. I don’t have that binary view of success and failure. I’ve done loads of things wrong though, that I realized I should do differently. One of the things that I did wrong a lot is, I made myself a single point of failure within the business in terms of what we deliver. So, we were doing lots of data protection work and I was the most experienced data protection lawyer in the business. Then all the escalations came to me and any horrible breach or anything like that I needed to deal with. In the meantime, I was trying to run a business. So, making myself an integral part of the delivery was wrong because if you do that you will not focus on the growth of the business. And as soon as I realized that I need to let opportunities go because data protection is a big opportunity that we have let go because of various reasons. But one of the main reasons was that I was the main person that was doing that work.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah.
Electra Japonas: And bringing in people that are really good at it is very expensive. I decided to let that bit go. So, understanding that to gain opportunities, you need to let opportunities grow is probably a massive learning for me and something that I did wrong loads to begin with. Because when you start a business, you want to make sure you survive first and foremost. So, you’ll do anything that anyone asks. You’re like, ‘Yeah, sure. Do you want me to translate this document for you to Greek? Yeah, I’ll do that.’ What’s that got to do with the business? You know, it’s nothing to do with where you’re going. This is the problem with bootstrapped businesses. It’s a problem but it’s also a benefit because you get to be quite prudent in the way that you think, spend your money and the way you go after opportunities. But effectively having to say yes to stuff to keep the lights on. To do the things that you want to say yes to is such a chicken and egg. And we’re still in that situation because we’re still a small 12-person business. We’re still trying to grow. But we still have to say yes to stuff that we don’t necessarily want to do, because that brings in the revenue to allow us to grow. Ultimately, that’s taking up our headspace, our time, and our energy. So, it’s always this conflict.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, it’s an interesting one, I guess. Because I think probably when you started the business, it was maybe one or two years in that, it was really heavy on GDPR, right? It was quite a trend at that point in terms of all the repapering and those kinds of projects. Did you start your business with a true north in mind? Or has it evolved over time? Or did you basically just start a business with a plan of what you wanted to do? Because obviously it seems like The Law Boutique now is a brand, which is really well respected in the market for playbooks and templates for design thinking for optimization. But then you’re talking about data protection work that you have to do to almost wash your face. How do you as the CEO define that strategy and keep on if you don’t have a true north to keep evolving or keep ahead of the trends? Obviously, there’s a lot of hype around AI and things like that at the moment, how do you navigate that space personally?
Electra Japonas: I think that when you start a business, you start to get involved in all these startup groups, founders, accelerators and YC and their podcasts and everything. Everyone says to you, you need to have a plan. You need to know where you’re going. You need to know how you’re going to get there. I don’t believe that. I think that you need to test the waters when you start. And I think you need to MVP your business. You need to iterate, right? So, you try something. You kind of have a vague idea of where you’re going to go or where you want to be going towards. But that might be completely unfeasible. That might be a mental idea, right? You know that, until you try it. So, anyone who goes, I’ve got this rigid North Star, this is where I’m going. I think that is mega risky because you can fail. Because if you’re so wedded to that end goal, and you see that end goal. The signs are there that the end goal doesn’t make sense, but you’re still gunning for it. In some instances, it might work, but in many instances, it won’t work. And, again, aligned with the design thinking principles, which I think is in my DNA, you need to iterate, and you need to take feedback from your environment, from the market. And from there, you need to plan out what you want to do. Because my biggest objective was to build a successful business in the realms of law, the legal space, and particularly in the realms of legal innovation. I didn’t exactly know how I was going to do that or what I was going to do to get to where I was going. I just had a vague idea of what I wanted to do, the impact that I wanted to have. And then I felt my way through speaking to as many people as I could to understand what they wanted, what was needed, where the gaps were, what the key points were to build a business that solved those pain points. So no, I didn’t know exactly where I was going. I’ve never done a proper business plan. I’ve started several, never really finished them because I get stuck on the detail. And then I go, does this really even matter? Like, I feel like someone’s just telling me to do this and I should just do this, but I haven’t done a proper business plan ever that I’ve stuck to. I’ve really gone like that. It’s definitely not been a straight line. So, to begin with, I was reviewing contracts and I started off by working with other founders who have no money. So, if you’re starting a business for founders, it’s a very difficult market. But I was working with these founders, and I was taking their T’s and C’s, like say for example, a business coach. That was my first client ever, Ruth. It’s lovely. Ruth was a business coach, and she had all these different packages, and I created this template contract for her that was really beautiful and easy for her to operationalize. To swap bits for other bits. And she loved it. Then she started referring me to all these other business coaches. And then I had this network of people that kept sending me work. And then I had problems with people wanting to pay me more than sort of five pounds. So, then it got to the point where I was like, I don’t really want to be doing this work. I want to work with companies where I can make a bigger impact on a larger scale. So, I started working with Scaleups. And that’s when I made my first hire as well, Kavisha. That’s when I realized that I could do more at that level. I can solve more problems. And this approach that I’m taking can be expanded. So, I went in initially to review their contracts for them because they had too many and doing it in a really commercial sensible way. And then I was like, guys, the reason you’ve got so much work is because the way you work is very arduous and manual. I’ve built this business with zero money. And I had to be really savvy with the way I was automating the contracts I was creating for people. I built all these automations with things like Zapier and Google. And the things that were on the market slash free.
You can leverage this knowledge and you can build out your tech stack with existing technology that you’ve got to help you work better. And that was my value. That’s what they really loved. They liked the fact that I took their contracts off their plate. The fact that I was helping them scale. So, I thought, A, I love this work. I could do this in my spare time for free, to be honest. I loved it so much. And then, I saw that there’s something here. I don’t really know what it’s called though. Then I found out it was called Legal Ops and I started doing this work everywhere I went. I was like, and by the way, I can help you sort your processes out as well. But in the meantime, give me your contracts and I’ll review those too. So, I’ll take off both problems.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah.
Electra Japonas: And to begin with, I was obviously suffering from imposter syndrome because I thought. This is a bit of a weird offering, right? This is a weird combo that you’re doing here. What are you? Are you a lawyer or are you this other thing that I don’t even know what it’s called? Slowly, I thought there is value in what I’m doing, so I’m going to start calling it names, not in a bad way. But I’m going to start branding it so that people can articulate what I do and how I’m doing it. And then, it worked. So here we are, but we’re still doing contract review because there is value in that. But we explicitly say that our USP is that we will also optimize your processes as we deliver that contract review. And some people say, I don’t care about that bit. And others say, love it. That’s why we’re going to go with you.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, nice. I mean, one of the things you’re talking about there is that obviously you want to build a successful business and have impact. When you think of the word successful, who’s the first person that comes to your mind and why?
Electra Japonas: Beyonce. She’s quite successful. And I think that the reason that people like this are so successful is because they’re a bit obsessive about what they do. And they love it. I think that’s important. I think that if you go into something just to make money which obviously is everyone’s goal, right? Because without that, what’s the ultimate upshot? If you’re not making money, you can’t survive. And it’s very demotivating to know that you can have a job with literally 10 percent of the stress of having a business because it’s very stressful having a business. Particularly when it’s not going well, or if a customer’s upset, or if something’s gone wrong, it’s very stressful. So, you want to make sure that you’re able to, to sustain yourself and to have an income that you’re happy with and that you feel like you deserve.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah.
Electra Japonas: But ultimately, if you’re not doing something, and this is, might sound cliche, if you’re not doing something that you’re passionate about, it’s very difficult for you to muster the motivation to go through the motions of being a founder. So, what I’d say is if you’re choosing a business, either be really in love with the business building process because that’s your passion or love your product. And ideally, if you love both, then you’ve got a better chance of being resilient through the ups and downs, because you do meet founders that don’t care about the product, they care about the business and that’s absolutely fine because they’re obsessed with the business building process.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, and you see that in Beyonce that she finds pure joy in actually just singing?
Electra Japonas: I think she’s a performer and she watches back every single one of her concerts and finds the areas that weren’t perfect. She does a retrospective in the software world, that’s what it’s called. So, she does a retro to see where the glitches were, then she fixes them. And she trains people and herself to get it right the next time. And when she does something, it’s holistic, she’ll put on a show. It’s a show, it’s not just her singing, it’s everything that goes with it. And that holistic flood of your senses thing that she does is really what makes her stand out.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, she was amazing. I saw her in Barcelona, a couple of months ago. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the music, I like it, but I was blown away by the show. Yeah, absolutely.
What if you were to give a TED talk about something that is not in your area of expertise, what would that TED talk be about and why?
Electra Japonas: It would be about motherhood, I think, because it’s been the most life changing thing that’s ever happened to me. I thought that starting a business was difficult because it really was and that you’ve got to dig deep, and you’ve got to have a very high pain threshold to start a business. And then I became a mum and your whole world shifts your role within the world and the hierarchy in which you sit. If you think of the world as an org chart, you move and you don’t realize that that’s going to happen. The way you perceive yourself, your relationships with your closest and your nearest and dearest completely shifts.
Tyson Ballard: In what way?
Electra Japonas: In so many different ways. You see the world completely different and at least that’s what happened to me. I saw that. Women have got it really hard, much harder than I thought. And when I became a mum at the beginning, I was like, I have got so much respect for every mother in the world that has gone through this journey. We should be talking about this more and raising awareness, that sounds quite fluffy, but raising awareness around what becoming a mother does to you in the society that we live in. And the expectations that are set upon you. I know that this is a narrative that we’ve all heard, and we’ve probably gone, ‘yeah, of course’, intellectually, I completely agree with what you’re saying. But until you experience and feel it and see the way that we’re not supported, particularly in the UK, when you first become a mother. And the lack of ceremony around this enormous thing that happens to you. When you get married, you have a party, a massive wedding, then you go on honeymoon. There’s a ceremony and a ritual around that union. And then when you become a mum, it’s like, right, go back home now. There’s no ritual. Go back home and just crack on. By the way, you’re going to be completely isolated for a long time, because that’s how it is. And then you’re just meant to just continue with your life as if nothing happened. It’s crazy to me that it’s just so down to date. And it’s like can you just go back to work now and just perform exactly the way you were performing previously? And it’s like, hold on! Who am I? So, your existential questions around your identity, your priorities and it’s completely dismissed by our society.
Tyson Ballard: And yeah, it’s a big responsibility, right? Like in that moment when you come home from the hospital, and you’ve got this like little human. I remember thinking because when we gave birth to our first in Sweden and that moment of where’s the instruction manual or where’s the standard operating procedure for this? Like people really trust me with another person’s life. Like it definitely is quite overwhelming as a parent and definitely a big burden as a mother. Typically, I would say. The first year is always a crazy roller coaster because even as a dad, there’s not much we can really do right. Because they’re so reliant on the mother in that first year. Do you think that’s something a little bit different in Cyprus in terms of the support and the ceremony that you have around family and children. As another Mediterranean, I know family life is different for us like there’s a lot of support. Everyone lives together. They’re very rarely living more than 10-15 minutes away. Grandparents are super heavily involved, etc. So, do you think that is quite different between the UK and Cyprus?
Electra Japonas: Completely different. And whereas before I was super grateful for the fact that I get to live in London, and I’ve got all these opportunities around me, and my main priority was the business. It’s such a high, it’s like an adrenaline rush every single day when you’re running a business that’s growing, whether those adrenaline rushes are on the up or the down. But when I became a mum, all the things about Cyprus that I didn’t really appreciate before became paramount to me. So, the fact that we live much more communally, there is a massive sense of community. We are very involved in each other’s lives, which some people find intrusive and as do I, to some extent. It’s so helpful to have that structure around you. And even the way that a baby is perceived in a restaurant is very different. Everything’s very family oriented. Everything is much more chilled when it comes to being a parent. Whereas here it feels like you’ve got the adults that are living their lives and then you’ve got the adults with kids that are living their lives. And the two worlds don’t really ever collide as such. It’s delineated these two parts of the community and I find that very difficult because in my heart I’m still a girl from a tiny Mediterranean island. When everywhere you go you know people and you’re enmeshed in other people’s lives. And there’s that support network around you, which I did not have here. Plus, my whole family lives in Cyprus. So having a baby here without my mum, without my aunties, without my grandmother was very difficult. So, the isolation that I felt was out of this world. I think that triggered in me an understanding of who we are as tribal people basically. We’re not meant to do this by ourselves.
That’s why it took a toll on me the way it did, because you’re not meant to do this by yourself. You’re not meant to do child rearing without your village, as they say, and then you end up doing it because that’s how society is structured. And there isn’t even the necessary amount of ritual, ceremony and appreciation for what mothers, and I’m sure fathers go through stuff as well, but for mothers, because, especially because I breastfed, it was very isolating.
So yeah, haven’t really spoken about this before, Tyson. So going deep.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. It’s really interesting, personally for us. One of the reasons why we left London as well. We in Portugal, the way that we treat children is just completely with open arms wherever you go whereas I did find in the beginning in London we weren’t having the same interactions that we were having with strangers, with friends, with family, etc. So, it’s something to think about. Do you think since COVID everything is remote. I know at SYKE, we’re a hundred percent remote always have been, we’ve got team members in Tajikistan that are amazing and doing great things. Obviously, there’s challenges between building community and family, when I’m talking about family, I’m talking about work family too. Do you think you would ever consider taking TLB and your endeavours remote and expanding that?
Electra Japonas: I don’t know, I think about this three times a day? I don’t know.
Tyson Ballard: Is that when you look out the window and see the grey skies?
Electra Japonas: Maybe, maybe. I don’t know. I think that the education system here is much better. I think that the structure within society probably lends itself to better outcomes when it comes to people’s futures. There are challenges with Cyprus as well that I don’t know if I want my children in. They’re still a bit behind the times when it comes to things like equality and acceptance of diversity. And I’m not sure whether I’m ready for it because that’s one of the reasons that I left was because my mum’s British so I always grew up with this different mentality. And I was always I felt quite stifled by some of the ideologies in Cyprus that I didn’t agree with. It’s an amazing country and they love their families, they’re very close, hospitable, charitable, and good hearted. On the other hand, they can be a little racist and difficult when it comes to opening their minds to new ideas. So, for me to go over there with an English husband and children that are from both cultures, I don’t know if I want to do that.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, it’s a really interesting point. I’m on a leadership group at the moment, which is full of all really weird and interesting people. Like, there’s a lady who does films with Quentin Tarantino. There’s the head of the NBA team, Milwaukee Bucks. There’s an Australian rules CEO. Some guy with a Netflix TV show on resilience. Who else was there? Second in charge for Arsenal, Edu and weirdly all the thing that we have in common is that we’re all from a small town in the middle of nowhere. I’m personally from a tiny town, not quite in the desert because it’s on the ocean but may as well be, 150 people. And nearly every single person has got to the top of their goals in life career wise and also have beautiful families and everything like that. I do feel like there’s something that is driving you and I think you’re probably the same. You have this almost hustle factor when you are from a smaller town maybe because in countries like America, New York or London is amazing because we see it on TV shows and things like that, maybe that’s our exposure. But also, I think it was something that was sparked in me from my parents. I think probably those two factors are quite interesting to me in terms of the amount of amazing people that have come out of small locations where there’s not much to do but get out mixed with good parenting. I think it’s probably not to be underestimated to giving them everything on a silver platter like education and things like that. So, I think definitely something to bear in mind. You talked a little bit about how tribal we are and our basic instincts. Probably from the work that I’ve seen that you do, you’re very collaborative, starting to build your own tribe, within The Law Boutique.
Just take us on a journey about what you’ve done with oneNDA, because that was obviously quite a landmark. Scary, big problem to embark on. It’s like starting anything. You’ve got to start somewhere. But were you overwhelmed by the response that you had? Because literally it was amazing, right? Where did that start, was it a conversation in a pub or somewhere, or was it a screen tear your hair out there’s got to be a better way to do this? What was the spark that started the oneNDA?
Electra Japonas: oneNDA was like wildfire. It just started and then before I knew it, it had taken off and it was incredible. It was just the thought that I had, I had it constantly. I constantly had this thought for years when I was reviewing contracts. I was like, oh my god, why am I reviewing exactly the same thing? But I reviewed this yesterday in a different contract, different wording, but basically, it’s saying the same thing. There’s got to be a better way of doing this. It can’t be that we’ve got hordes of lawyers, just reviewing contracts with the same provisions, but expressed in different words. It makes no sense. And then I talked about this alot. So sorry if you’ve heard the story before but back in 2020 when COVID hit, as I said, we did lots of contract reviewing for clients. So, we offer a subscription service and then people send us their contracts and we review it for them. We also sort their Legal Ops out at the same time. But our mission as a business is to optimize the way lawyers work. So, at the end of the year, by the way, during 2020, we quadrupled as a business. We were very small. We quadrupled because so many people weren’t hiring. So, they were using us to outsource their contracts because they couldn’t get any headcount. Which was great. But I was like, right, we’re all exhausted. What have we done? Because you know, when you’re going 100 miles an hour in a car, you can’t see what’s happening outside of the window. So, you stop, or you’re like, hold on, where do I come from? So, we did a review of all the stuff that we’d looked at over the course of the year, and we found that 63% of the agreements we reviewed were NDAs, which only accounted for 7% of our revenue. And I thought, I’ve reviewed a good chunk of this 63%, and I am bored out of my mind of reviewing NDAs. And they are all nearly identical, apart from a few that have got stupid things in them like penalties. I thought, why are we doing this? Why are we doing this? Look at other industries. I was in the space industry before. We had one contract. It applied to the whole European industry. Everyone started from that one contract, and it was frustrating to negotiate that contract because half of it was incoherent and it didn’t make sense. And I didn’t agree with it. But at least you know that there’s a starting point and that you’re all on the same page. And I thought, why hasn’t someone done that with the NDA? Like, we did it with the ISDA, why can’t we do it with an NDA? Surely, we can. So, I just went on LinkedIn, and I put out this thought, and everyone loved it. I was getting messages from people saying, do it, I’ll support you, you know. And then so we did it.
So, we said, we can get 100 people to sign up to this website that I built over a weekend on Squarespace. Spearhead it. And so, we got that. We hit that number within 12 hours from launch. And so, we thought, right, let’s do it. And then when I was doing oneNDA, it was such a specific problem, right? It’s small, right? It’s a small focus. It’s a narrow focus. Whereas when you’re building a business, there’s all these elements to consider what we do. We consult, we’re a consultancy. So, it’s difficult to have one product in mind and you’re just gunning for it. The simplicity of oneNDA gave me this energy, I know exactly what I need to do to nail this problem. I know exactly who I need to speak to, how I need to go about it. And that gave me such energy. It was like a magical moment, magical few months of my life because I had this clarity, focus and energy that I just wanted to just run with it. And I’m not joking, I’m a bit obsessive probably as a person now thinking back, but I was waking up at three o’clock in the morning and doing the website because I was so excited like a child about doing this. So yeah, I loved it.
Tyson Ballard: Nice and obviously you collaborated with a bunch of great people on that. And definitely extended your network. Just reflecting a little bit, you talk about getting up at 3:00 in the morning and getting up at 4:30 in the morning and things like that. I’m conscious yesterday was mental health day. Have you ever got close to a burnout and have you recognized it. If you have had a burnout, what would you say are your tips and tricks to either recognize it or avoid it or talk about it in your team? I’m just interested in a little bit of that because it feels like we’re circling around the topic at the moment. I guess we’re all a bit OCD too, right? Like I get obsessed about one thing and go super deep. If you do get excited, I think you probably put the blinkers on and everything else goes out the window. How do you kind of manage that space and protect yourself from burning out?
Electra Japonas: Yeah. I think that for me, the thing that has got me close to burnout is not being able to express something that I feel or an issue that I have out of fear that other things will collapse. And so, feeling very tired, or feeling like I’ve overdone it and that I need a break, and not feeling like I can say that, is the thing that has led me in the past to nearly having a burnout. I actually think that after oneNDA I probably was low key burnt out because I completely overdid it, and I was really obsessive. But when you’re in that obsessive state, it’s very hard. It’s very hard to get yourself out of it because you’re loving the adrenaline and you’re loving it. It’s not like you’re doing it and you’re thinking, I’m knackered. I wish I didn’t have to do it. You want to do it, but then it’s like going out and having seven glasses of wine and you’re having fun when you’re doing it, but the next day you’re like, ‘God, why did I do that?’ But if you’re doing it, if you’re doing it every single day, you haven’t got a chance to go, ‘Oh, hold on.’ So, I think what I learned from that experience is that you have to stop. You have to stop, and you have to listen to the little cues that you’re getting. Like, for example, if you’re waking up at 3am, that sounds fun. And it was fun. But if you are doing that consistently, that’s not good for you. Yeah. And so, you should be thinking about being mindful of the fact that you are doing it. Do it. If you have to do it, do it. But it’s not sustainable. So, at some point you’re going to have to almost force yourself to stop and take stock and really evaluate how you are feeling because adrenaline can take over. And people pleasing can take over, and sense of duty can take over, and things that you don’t think you can express so you sort of hide under the surface take over. So, I think being mindful of that and conscious that you’re doing something, it’s not healthy, but it’s fun, so if you need to do it, do it, but know that you can’t do this forever. Self-awareness, I think is key.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah, I think definitely something to think about, especially for the more junior team members that have just come and are very hungry, want to soak in a lot of knowledge maybe not purely because they don’t have that knowledge, maybe it’s not as efficient later in your career. So, you’re taking longer to do things, but you don’t, you’re obviously learning. And it’s quite exciting. It’s definitely a topic that is at top of mind for me at the moment with some of the large projects that are going on, especially with our team. What about if you were to do it again or give advice to your younger self straight out of uni. What advice would you give to yourself, the 22-23 year old Electra?
Electra Japonas: Yeah, good question. So, there’s sort of personal advice that I would give to myself and there’s business advice that I’d give to myself. Business advice is start with your leadership team rather than starting with building a base of junior team members because you need the support. You need the support and sometimes you’re not enough. You haven’t got enough energy. You haven’t got enough knowledge. You haven’t got enough difference in perspective. So, it’s good to start with a leadership team. And I would probably start off by getting a co-founder, finding a co-founder from day one, rather than starting by myself. So that’s one thing that I would do differently. And the other thing, not to discredit the junior members in the team that have grown with TLB, because we’ve had people that have been with us from the very beginning, they’re still with us and they’re amazing. But it was very difficult for me, and I think it has slowed down the business growth to some extent because I just didn’t know enough, and I had to upskill in every single area. And then from a personal point of view, I would say it’s all right to not know where you’re going, because that can be quite frustrating. And at the time when I was doing it, I felt like I wasn’t doing it right. There is no right. Just, you’re going to have to see how it goes, and that’s cool. And be more patient because I don’t have patience. So just change your personality and be more patient, if possible. Try and be more comfortable with things not moving at the pace that you want them to move in. Because ultimately, we always think that things aren’t moving fast enough, but that’s as fast as they can move right now. So just be more accepting of things rather than always trying to influence.
Tyson Ballard: Yeah. Yeah. Really great advice. I’m devastated, but we’re kind of running out of time. Right. But maybe just one final question, which is maybe more of a fun one. If you were to choose a theme song to your life, what would be that theme song and why?
Electra Japonas: My song is Valerie by Amy Winehouse.
Tyson Ballard: Fantastic to speak to you. Really lovely conversation. Thanks for your time.
Electra Japonas: Thank you.