Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2020’s companies. Click here to view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch.
It’s all systems go for Kansas City-built Stenovate, as the legal tech startup nears public launch with just the right mix of “rocket fuel,” Lauren Lawrence explained.
Elevator pitch: Stenovate is a project management solution for legal professionals to organize transcripts and collaborate efficiently, streamlining workflow to save time and increase revenue.
• Founder: Lauren Lawrence
• Founding year: 2018
• Amount raised to date: $340,000
• Noteworthy investors: Karen Fenaroli (Fenaroli Minerva Investment Fund), Fountain Innovation Fund
• Programs completed: Pure Pitch Rally award recipient, ElevationLab through Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center, Digital Sandbox recipient
• Current employee count: 2 executive team, 5 contractors
“My North Star right now is getting to launch and [things] will be really exciting in 2020 altogether,” Lawrence, founder of the collaborative legal transcript service, said in anticipation of the startup — her first venture — making its public debut in a climate of high demand, with 860 waitlisted users eager to become paying customers when Stenovate goes live in February.
“We are so excited to see what happens next month,” the founder said, optimistic for what 2020 holds and grateful for the support of the Kansas City organizations who’ve helped her down the founder’s path — specifically citing the Fountain Innovation Fund as a source of impact and inspiration.
“When you’re a startup, you’re just trying to keep everybody paid and all the wheels moving, so it’s a really exciting step to have someone like the Fountain Innovation Fund behind us — not only with their capital but with their support and mentorship,” Lawrence said of the Maggie Kenefake led effort, housed within the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
Stenovate secured the fund’s second investment in early January, positioning the startup for team growth as it begins to move beyond contract help and adds a like-minded partner, Lee Zuvanich, to the mix.
“I really believe we’re going to see a huge increase in our productivity and velocity because now two people are fully dedicated [to the company,]” Lawrence said, offering insight into the role of Zuvanich — a long-time tech advocate and active supporter of groups such as Kansas City Women in Tech — who is expected to help increase workflow and aid in the development of a path forward for the startup, as its strategy shifts beyond the platform’s launch.
“I really believe she balances me as far as strengths and weaknesses and it’s just so exciting to have her,” Lawrence noted.
While Stenovate was designed in the courtroom, geared toward solving a real problem for Lawrence who worked as a stenographer, its platform has a much wider reach — discovering that has been part of the fun of the startup grind for Lawrence, she said.
“Our product is mostly utilized by freelance reporters who work in depositions and then edit and proof from home,” she explained, noting the company will expand upward into new markets in the year ahead.
“We’ve taken a much different approach than anybody else. … This is just one of the most exciting experiments for a community that really needs better business tools, and we’re so happy to be providing those services.”
New product features and updates to the original platform are expected throughout 2020 — taking into consideration the results of beta testing.
And although building a startup from scratch is tough, Lawrence is encouraged by the support Kansas City has shown her.
“I think they’re critical,” she said of programs for founders and support organizations in the metro.
“The players that help provide resources, like the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center and things like Pure Pitch Rally and Digital Sandbox are really great for getting visibility and helping to establish funding.”
Continued participation in such programs as well as rising demand with customers is what Lawrence believes will lead the growth-stage startup to its most successful year on record, she said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.