Julie Saltman, CEO and Co-founder of Standd

Q: Why does the world need your company?

A: M&A deals create trillions of dollars in value every year around the world. But these deals take a ridiculous amount of work to close – months of long, tedious days, and millions in consulting and legal fees. And every day a deal is in review compounds the risk that the deal won’t close. In fact, the vast majority of deals fail – which can cost firms hundreds of thousands or millions in sunk costs. Part of the reason this process is so costly and risky is that this work is currently being done by hand, and supported largely by generalist tools like the Microsoft Office suite of products. 

Standd is built specifically for the full deal review workflow, from first touch to post-close integration. Our product can do weeks of tedious, technical work in minutes. Our proprietary analysis engine surfaces insights, risks, and opportunities at every stage of the deal process with more accuracy than anything else in the market, and Standd is a collaborative platform that allows all parties in the deal to move the process forward more efficiently. So we’re not just helping teams move faster, we’re giving them the tools to focus their resources on the deals that have the highest returns.

Q: How did you decide to go for it and start your company?

A: My path to entrepreneurship is somewhat unusual. I spent most of my career as a civil litigator with the Justice Department, where I handled high profile, regulatory and constitutional challenges to federal programs. But I always had an entrepreneurial streak, and I ultimately left the government when I was recruited to join a startup in the cannabis industry that wanted a regulatory expert on their founding team. That company failed fast, as they say, but I learned a ton about what it takes to build a successful company. I decided I wanted to start my own company to solve a problem I was passionate about – but this time, I took the time to research and develop the right problem, solution, and market, and then intentionally form a winning team.

Q: What has been the biggest obstacle or win for your company so far?

A: We had a pretty significant pivot shortly after Techstars. Our product was initially an insight generation tool for litigators to analyze huge amounts of written data. We launched our MVP with beta users shortly after demo day, and immediately started seeing very spiky usage. We learned that our users didn’t really understand how to fit Standd into their daily work – or what it could do for them – and that we weren’t solving a massive, daily problem for them. We did hundreds of customer discovery calls and learned two key insights: (1) nontechnical users like lawyers or finance professionals need a workflow tool to fully leverage the power of cutting edge technology like Standd; and (2) the value our product provides is more aligned with the needs of people doing deals, not law firm litigators. We rebuilt our MVP to be a full workflow solution for deal review, and started selling to buy-side companies (PE, wealth management, growth equity, etc.) and immediately got signal that we had hit on a serious problem and had the right solution for it. Since that time, the number of daily active users in Standd and the rate of their usage has skyrocketed.

Q: Do you have a favorite hack for surviving life as a founder?

A: One, boundaries are crucial. Even though being a founder is both a job and a lifestyle, it’s so important to carve out time for yourself – time with loved ones, time outdoors being active or doing whatever helps you recharge – so that when you are working, you are focused and productive.

Two, you need grace and humor to do this work. Many of us in this industry are over-achievers who hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. But (as I often remind myself) that’s not the right way to approach working in startups. I frequently tell my team, if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t taking risks. So be kind to yourself, learn what you can from every mistake, and try to find humor in tough situations.

Q: How did your background as an attorney influence your journey as an entrepreneur?

A: There are lots of ways that being a trial lawyer is actually really good training for being an entrepreneur. I am used to working hard towards tight deadlines, running high performing teams in intense situations, thinking strategically and analytically, and positioning against a competitor. But one really interesting way I think my previous work has been helpful is that I am a good presenter. I’ve won a bunch of pitch competitions (Geekwire named our pitch the best at Techstars Demo Day), and speak confidently and handle questions and objections well before any investment committee. It’s because I’m used to arguing in federal court – and whether it’s an audience of 300 or a final pitch before a big name VC, there is no group of investors that’s as difficult and capricious as some of the judges I had to appear before.