eQuibbly is an incredible idea founded in Toronto by Lance Soskin, a lawyer, investment banker and now entrepreneur.
The concept is pretty easy to grasp. eQuibbly is an online forum where two people can post their legitimate disputes. Those involved in the dispute can choose to post their dispute in a private room with just the two parties, an arbitrator or a mediator or, they can take it to the people, socially. The idea behind the public forum isn’t to bash either party but rather to get feedback and constructive ideas on how to solve the dispute.
With eQuibbly, no matter what your dispute is, you can take it to the platform and get people to give their ideas for resolution and then the public can vote on them. Did the plumber do a bad job on your shower and you want a refund? Did the dry cleaners rip your favorite blouse? Is the dog next door barking and driving you crazy?
Both parties in an eQuibbly dispute can state their side of the story and offer resolutions. Then get help from the crowd. It’s a lot easier, and even more fun than wasting lots of money with lawyers and courts.
We got a chance to talk with the team from eQuibbly about this great new Toronto startup. Check out the interview below:
What is eQuibbly?
eQuibbly is a free web app created to help people and companies resolve their disputes quickly and fairly online with the help of their social network and crowdvoting. eQuibbly offers two options: (1) Post a dispute in public so users of the site and the Parties’ social networks can post suggestions and vote for the winner of the dispute; (2) post a dispute in a secure “private virtual room” where only the arbitrators or mediators the Parties invite can participate in resolving the dispute.
This method of resolving issues between Parties is known formally as Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), which is a subset of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It provides disputing parties with an alternative to the government-run justice system, which often takes many months, if not years, and many thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands of dollars, to arrive at a resolution.
eQuibbly offers the Parties the option to have the outcome of their dispute be legally binding (with contracts signed online) or non-binding; this is decided at the beginning of the process.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Lance Soskin is the founder and president of eQuibbly. After completing J.D. & MBA degrees at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business, Lance articled with the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, was called to the Bar and went on to work as an investment banker for Scotia Capital in Toronto and the former Merrill Lynch in New York in Mergers and Acquisitions, and Corporate Finance.
What’s the startup culture like in Toronto?
Toronto is a vibrant, evolving area for startups. There are a number of start-up events and/or competitions held every month in Toronto. There is also a decent VC community, albeit somewhat more conservative than their American counterparts. But from what I gather it’s difficult to compete with the Bay Area, New York and Boston for the best start-up culture a city has to offer.
What problem does your startup solve?
Although both Canada and the U.S. pride themselves on having a fair and accessible government-run justice system, the truth is that for approximately 80% of the population, which has an income under $50,000, justice is neither fair, nor easily accessible. Hiring an attorney typically costs thousands of dollars and can run into the tens of thousands if a court case is necessary. If your adversary has a lot more money to spend on high-priced attorneys and delay tactics, you’re starting out at a huge disadvantage.
There’s also the cost, financial and otherwise, of taking time off work to go to a lawyer’s office or to the court a few times before trial even begins; time is a luxury most of us just don’t have. And then there is the aggravation factor of all the paper work and procedures one has to follow since the process is highly regulated and one small error could be fatal to a case.
There’s also the issue of time to resolution. Typically, cases take months and sometimes years to be resolved when using the court system, with little indication beforehand of where along the spectrum your case will fall.
eQuibbly addresses these issues and offers easier access to equitable resolutions for millions of people who would otherwise be unable to afford it.
What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?
I’m sure this is a common challenge for most start-ups: hiring great people at the right price. There are two sites I rely on to find independent contractors at reasonable prices: Elance.com and Odesk.com; they’re mostly used to find offshore contractors, but there are a lot of onshore contractors as well. I’ve also had success using my network on LinkedIn to find great people to work with.
But I can’t say we’ve overcome this challenge completely. Very recently, we learned that the web development company we use no longer has the capacity to service eQuibbly after taking on some clients with bigger budgets; this is after we spent about $50K with this company over the past six months. You learn quickly that you can’t count on loyalty alone. So if you know of any talented Rails developers, we’re looking for replacements.
Who are your mentors and role models?
There are several people whom I turn to from time to time. These include friends, family, former co-workers, and some in my extended professional network. Between them, I have a depth of experience to turn to on a wide variety of issues, which has been truly invaluable – particularly during the early days of getting eQuibbly off the ground.
What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?
Most of the world doesn’t know anything about me or eQuibbly, but I plan on changing that in the not too distant future. One thing that a few people know about me and most of the world doesn’t is that I was a national gymnast until the age of 18 and competed against other countries in a number of interesting locales.
What’s next for your startup?
Marketing eQuibbly and getting the word out that it is available for use is our prime directive. We’ll be concentrating on this for the next few months while adding more functionality to the web app. For instance, eQuibbly users will soon be able to search through a list of professional mediators and arbitrators on the site and invite them to arbitrate or mediate their dispute on eQuibbly.
Check out eQuibbly here at eQuibbly.com
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