NetDocuments: How a Culture of ‘Winning Together’ Built a Unicorn
This article was published in the Summit 2021 issue
by Josh Baxter, CEO, NetDocuments
Every great team, company, or individual has an origin story. We’re spoiled in Silicon Slopes because so many greats have their roots right here in our backyard. In fact, if we get in our time machine and travel back to the early 1980s, we’ll find that a few critical categories of technology were created on the Wasatch Front, including the network operating system, word processor, and legal document management.
While document management for lawyers is certainly among the least sexy technologies invented by our fellow Utahns, it is a mission-critical tool within any law practice. In 1985, local brothers-turned-entrepreneurs, Ken and Lee Duncan, partnered with Alvin Tedjamulia to form SoftSolutions which became the de facto standard for large law firms to organize and secure their sensitive documents.
Fast forward to 1994, SoftSolutions was acquired by WordPerfect which was then sold to Novell, leaving Ken, Lee, and Alvin itching to improve on their past success. Long before the terms ‘cloud’ and ‘software-as-a-service’ were coined, these risk takers knew they wanted to provide legal professionals access to documents “through the browser” and in the “net,” speeding the pace and easing the burden of legal work. Out of this vision came a company deeply rooted in innovation, security, and a desire to change the way legal professionals worked—NetDocuments.
During the subsequent 15 years, the team at NetDocuments faced unprecedented challenges.
The legal industry initially was not interested in moving their content out of their datacenters and were too risk averse to trust the cloud. To keep the business funded, the three founders maxed out personal home mortgages to make payroll and asked employees to run without paychecks for months. Inspiration, teamwork, and the promise of breaking into a new market fueled the team. Every employee so firmly believed in the vision of what NetDocuments could become, that, despite these challenges, each one stayed to grow the business.
In 2017, I was fortunate to join NetDocuments at a time it had just surpassed $35MM of annual revenues. Of the original 12 employees, ten remained, adding to the 75 others that comprised the company at the time. Some of the largest law firms in the world trusted their files to the NetDocuments service, in addition to nearly 1,500 others around the world. The path was set for exponential growth of a technology the legal industry was beginning to see as paramount to its success.
The last four years have been a rocket ship ride for us. Locally, as well as globally, skilled technologists, developers, entrepreneurs, and cloud computing enthusiasts have joined our team, taking note of our growth and continued emphasis on recruiting driven, expert professionals. Today, our employee net promotor score is in the 50s and climbing every year. The team has been able to take a platform built for storing, organizing, and securing content, and expand on it. Indeed, the solutions we offer today allow lawyers to form tighter relationships with clients, collaborate more effectively internally, and keep pace with their corporate counterparts. As some have said, NetDocuments is viewed as the place where legal professionals do their work, or the ‘Salesforce.com for the Legal industry.’
Today, NetDocuments supports nearly 3,500 law firms around the world, stores over 11 billion files, and serves more than 175,000 legal professionals. The company, which now boasts 350+ employees, just passed the $100m revenue mark. The success of the last four years culminated in an investment recently from Warburg Pincus and Cove Hill Partners at about $1.4b valuation, making NetDocuments Utah’s newest unicorn. This investment is a testament to the incredible vision and hard work of a long line of NetDocuments employees, customers, and partners.
As we look to the future, we see a time when anyone working on a legal matter (lawyers, clients, or otherwise) can enjoy a seamless work experience, where NetDocuments operates as an invisible partner in their daily processes. To make this vision a reality, our expectation is to hire 300-500 more employees in Utah over the next few years, eventually building a business where thousands of Utahns can create flourishing careers.
After such steep growth it could be easy for us to rest on our laurels and consider the work done. But our humble beginnings are deeply rooted in our company culture. I once heard Alvin say, “NetDocuments’ culture is grounded in the humility of a startup while having the confidence of a market leader.” This humility is what keeps us hungry, while the confidence keeps us innovative. What’s more, we’ve never lost sight of the teamwork it took to build this business into the unicorn it is today. As we continue to expand, and more and more talented professionals join our team, we look forward to the diverse experience and depth each of them can add—ultimately creating an even stronger organization where we can win, together.
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*Read the latest issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine, Summit 2021