Recent grad Jenushika Jeyakumaran co-founded Aleri after hearing about hearing about a problem that a criminal defence lawyer had preparing for trials. She and her co-founder David Paul quickly took that insight and turned it into a real product that is currently helping lawyers with their cases. They initially bootstrapped the company and then got additional funding with a $30K grant from the Accelerator Centre (part of the Jumpstart program), with having a goal of raising more money to accelerate their traction.
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Tell us how the idea of Aleri started. How did you end up creating a product in the legal space? (not typically a space you think of innovating in)
Aleri was born when my co-founder’s dad, a criminal defence lawyer, told us about a problem he experienced during work. Preparing for trials - particularly his cross examination, was time consuming, tedious and difficult because there was no specialized tool for lawyers to use. There was only generic programs like MS Word or Google Docs, which were not engineered for lawyers. He ended up deferring to using large physical paper pads (the kind that teachers often used) so that he could see everything in one place. It became really evident in that moment, of the gap that existed in the legal market.
The three of us decided to address the problem and create the solution. We had a criminal defence attorney (aka a subject matter expert), a software developer and me - a communications and marketing specialist, covering the essential roles needed to kickstart our startup company.
Why did you not work for a bigger tech company or startup before launching Aleri?
Throughout University I worked for bigger organizations like TD and RBC, really enjoying it. However, I found one of my biggest sources of joy to be working on my own company. I like the challenge. I really enjoy interacting with leads and clients. It's just really exciting making and selling your own product. The process of the startup journey has been an amazing personal experience. Also, I figured, if i was ever going to start a company right now in my 20s is the perfect time.
How did the founding team come together? How do you go about recruiting other team members to join?
I met my co-founder, David Paul, while working at my RBC co-op during my final year of university. We met our other employees through our personal network, and then found co-op students by networking with school program coordinators.
Have you noticed a difference in being in tech and a female co-founder, than say you male counterparts?
I find that there’s a huge sense of support from tech communities and within the Tamil community being a female tech founder, which is awesome. :)
How long did it take for you to generate revenue? What is the revenue model?
I think 3-4 months to start to find our footing and get into the rhythm of doing outbound sales. Also, I was still in my last year of school when we started, so it wasn’t until after I graduated that I was able to focus full time on Aleri. Our revenue model is subscription based, charged on a per user, per monthly basis.
Are you a bootstrapped company? If so, are you looking to raise money? What would make you raise money?
Initially we bootstrapped, then we got funded with a $30,000 grant from the Accelerator Centre, as a part of the Jumpstart program. We are definitely looking to raise money. I’d love to have the resources to do full blown marketing and to hire a bunch of people to expand our team.
How has COVID-19 impacted your businesses? How have you adapted?
We actually launched in March 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic. It’s impacted us because if it wasn’t for COVID, we’d probably be out there in downtown Toronto meeting people face to face. Trials are now online, which actually has actually been a positive thing for our company because more and more lawyers are leaning on technology to support them.
Where do you see Aleri in the next 3-5 years? Where do you see yourself in that same time period?
I see Aleri growing its user base across the world, partnering with bar associations and hosting its own tech events. I can really see Aleri becoming an industry standard tool, and even being used in law schools as an educational tool. I envision Aleri becoming a community and not just a product.
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What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I love spending time with my dog Matcha and my family. I also like eating and learning about Japanese food, and my most recent fascination has been drinking and learning about white teas. I really like making my own ‘DIY’ drinks and recently learned how to make bubble tea at home. I also enjoy listening to Gary Vee and other entrepreneurship thought leadership content in my spare time.
What is a failure you’ve experienced in the last 3-5 years that you’ve learned the most from?
I would say burnout, because there were times during Covid where I just felt completely burnt out and busy, but not necessarily productive. It was hard because when you spiral it can feel hard to climb out of, and also when you’re not accomplishing the tasks you need to do the day feels like a write off. That's the worst feeling, when you feel like you’ve just wasted time and you’re not progressing to reach your goals.
How have your family and friends supported you through your journey?
In the beginning nobody believes in you. Basically everybody told me to get a 9-5 to fall back on. I don’t agree with the notion of having a fallback plan. I tuned out the noise, and I knew I would have to show, not tell my family. My siblings initially didn’t agree with the idea, but they quickly got on board. My mom, surprisingly, always had my back. The biggest person who I had to convince was my dad, but I understand that his anxiety comes from having a survival mentality and so I don’t take it personally.
I now have the support of all my loved ones, although, It’s easier now because we’ve actually made progress. But you have to be overwhelmingly confident in yourself, because nobody else will have that confidence for you.
What do you think you would tell 16-year Jenushika looking back?
I would honestly tell myself to start learning marketing and sales at 16 so that i could be crushing it and be a marketing guru right now.
What is your favourite book(s) you've read recently or a podcast(s) that you've listened to recently that's had an impact on you?
These are the podcasts I like:
- Jay Shetty’s podcast ‘On Purpose’ taught me the importance of having awareness. Being aware of your thoughts as they pass and having more deliberate practice of gratitude can seriously change the trajectory of your life.
- GaryVee’s podcast taught me to not give a fu*k about what other people think. He also taught me that your 20s should be a high risk time period of your life, where you explore your interests and “taste” different hobbies and ventures.
- Gretchen Rubins podcast- ‘Happiness by Gretchen’ teaches me practical ways to infuse more happiness into my life (i.e refusing to engage in negative self talk)
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
Here are the beliefs that have shifted my mindset completely:
- You can have the life of your dreams. You’re past is the past, but your future is like an untouched blanket of snow. It can be whatever you want it to be.
- You don’t have to be incredibly talented. You just have to be incredibly consistent
- A quote from Nelson Mandela - “there is no passion to be found in playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
How would you describe the impact that the Toronto Tamil community has had on you personally and on your business?
It’s really amazing the support that I’ve received from other Tamil people.
For example, I was on clubhouse for only 2 days before I received an overwhelming amount of support from people in the Tamil community who just wanted to give me free resources or offer me nuggets of wisdom and advice. I didn’t even seek it, it was just offered to me. It means a lot to me to see the Tamil community just wanting to help each other out.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
I love eating the end of a good ‘roll’. I think a lot of people can relate to that one :p
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