Summer of Startups: Avvo

Today’s Summer of Startups Company Avvo is the layman’s guide to the legal world. Find out all about them, including some interesting thoughts on what makes a good start up employee:

Can you share the company’s elevator pitch with us?

Avvo’s mission is to help people navigate the complex and confusing legal industry by providing more information and better guidance than they’ve ever had access to before. Avvo helps people whether they are simply researching their legal issue, looking for personalized advice or actually need to choose the right lawyer. Featuring the world’s largest legal directory, Avvo rates and profiles nearly every lawyer in the United States, provides unbiased client reviews of attorneys, disciplinary records and offers a free Q&A platform where consumers can get answers to legal questions from attorneys for free.

For lawyers, Avvo is a great place for attorneys to set themselves apart from other lawyers and attract new clients.

How did the company get started? Who had the idea? Was there an “A Ha!” moment?

Avvo founder and CEO, Mark Britton, is a 17-year lawyer and the former top lawyer at Expedia. During his entire career he has helped family and friends make good choices regarding their legal issues. In 2004, Britton took time off from work to teach finance in Italy. Gone for a year with an Atlantic Ocean in between, people were still reaching out to him for help with their legal issues, particularly how to choose the right lawyer. At that time, Britton realized this must be a real problem for many people – not just those within his own network. After conducting preliminary research, Britton discovered the Yellow Pages was still one of the top resources for consumers. Anytime the Yellow Pages is a top information resource for consumers, you know there is a problem. Recognizing an opportunity to start something revolutionary, Britton returned to the states in 2005, assembled a team and began planning for the launch of Avvo in June of 2006.

Tell us about your funding history.

May 24, 2006: Round 1 (Series A) financing of $3M from Benchmark Capital

April 19, 2007: Round 2 (Series B) financing of $10M from Ignition Partners and Benchmark Capital

March 17, 2010: Round 3 (Series C) financing of $10M from DAG Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Ignition Partners

How many employees do you have? Where are they based?

Avvo has 40 employees all based out of the company’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington

How would you describe work life at the company?

The team at Avvo is a tight-knit group that has grown up under the work hard/play hard mindset. We have an unusually high concentration of young families – currently with 4 babies on the way – so lifestyle and company policy centers around flexibility to manage everything.

What do you look for in potential employees?

In general we’re looking for smarts and “startup DNA” which includes being a self-starter, risk taker, flexible, innovative and creative with the ability to thrive in a fast-paced, less structured environment. Other important characteristics include integrity and honesty, passion, willingness to work with a team, open and respectful through actions and words and accountable for commitments, quality of work and results.

For what positions are you currently hiring?

Software Developer

Vice President of Marketing

Data Entry Specialist

Do you have any advice for folks new to startup employment?

Working at a startup is exciting, rewarding and sometimes even unpredictable. Be prepared to wear many hats, be challenged to do your best every day and catch the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the team’s success. Important decisions made by committee that keep everyone happy through compromise are impotent. When debating strategies or tactics disagree openly, honestly and bluntly but get on the damn bus once a decision is made.

What’s the one thing you would like readers to remember about the company?

Avvo grew from concept to market leader in a period of 3 years.  We did this by simply building a great product that people really needed (in our case, the information to make their legal decisions with confidence).  That’s not a particularly sophisticated or complex strategy, but one that always works.

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