RightNow Group is an innovative LegalTech company that provides “Justice-as-a-Service.” There are three specialized business units within the Group – Geld-für-Flug, Bahn-Buddy, and Unfallzahlung24 each dealing with a separate area respectively: compensation for missed flights, compensation for delayed trains, and compensation for damages from car accidents.
We've talked with Phillip Eischet, RightNow Group Co-Founder, who shares his vision of how personal experience and focus on the customer can help grow a successful company. We have spoken about the growing popularity of LegalTech and so called "ConsumerTech" which have yet to change a lot of things in the way legal and other industries work. Phillip also tells how the dedicated Kyiv-based developers found by Grid Dynamics in tandem with the rest of the team fulfill the vision of RightNow and why augmenting a team works better than project-based outsourcing.
Q: The service you provide looks really exciting: can you talk about your startup and what it does? What makes it unique?
RightNow Group is one of Europe’s leading LegalTech companies. We are active in the field of consumer claims purchasing, which might sound complicated but it actually is very easy for the customer. When you face a legal problem such as not being able to take a flight, or you have a delay when you travel by train, you are often entitled to a refund. But most of the time, you wouldn’t go to a lawyer or do it on your own, because it’s just $20 or 25 – so it is not worth your time to do it on your own.
Most probably, you wouldn't want to deal with airlines, because the legal claim you are entitled to is typically not high, so we call it rational disinterest. There’s a lack of interest for the consumer to pursue the claim on their own, because it is not efficient, and this is why RightNow Group buys legal claims from consumers. You get your money within 24 hours and you’re done with everything – you can keep your money, you can go on another trip, you can go to a restaurant – whatever you choose to do. You can spend the money because you can keep the money.
Even in the unlikely case we are not able to get the money from airlines or from train companies, you can keep the money you receive from us. This is what I think is unique about RightNow – we purchase every customer’s legal claims within 24 hours without any risks for them in a digitized process. This is what RightNow Group is all about.
Q: Do clients have to pay a fee?
Our model works as follows: the customer doesn’t have to pay any upfront fees. If the customer submits a case with the value of €50, we make an offer of how much you would receive from us. For example, we would offer you €45, of course the gain will be 50 minus 5, but it’s totally up to you whether to accept our offer. If the offer is accepted, there are no other fees. No hidden fees, you just get the money and in my opinion it is a very customer-friendly experience.
Q: Does the refund you provide cover situations when it’s not weather conditions or some technical reasons that make the flight impossible, but rather the personal decision of an individual to miss the flight?
That’s an interesting question I am frequently asked. Of course we had thoughts on what should be our focus and we decided we didn’t want to deal with the cases when the airline does something bad, such as situations when the airline cancels the flight, or the flight is delayed. These are the cases we do not deal with, because there are a lot of companies in Europe, in particular 50 in Germany, already solving such issues. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the others and decided to focus on customer-initiated cancellations. So whenever the customer cancels their trip, we help them.
For example, you book a flight from Berlin to Barcelona and then you read a weather forecast for the weekend and it’s raining in Barcelona. So maybe you decide "If I can get my money back, maybe I better cancel the flight and postpone my trip for another weekend." Surely, if you contact the airline, such as Wizz Air with this question, they would tell you "Sorry, the flight is non-refundable, you cannot get any refund.”
From a legal perspective, it is wrong and this is why you can send your claim to us and get the money – you’re happy and can book a flight for a sunny weekend. For us, it does not matter what is the reason for the customer not taking the flight. You can be ill (hopefully not), have a change of plans, choose a different destination, etc. Yet, on our website we have a field where customers can leave a comment and sometimes they write something like “Well, I broke up with my girlfriend" or "I’m expecting a child” when submitting their case – it is sometimes funny what people write there, but for us it is not relevant.
We had thoughts on what should be our focus and we decided we didn’t want to deal with the cases when the airline does something bad, such as situations when the airline cancels the flight, or the flight is delayed. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the others and decided to focus on customer-initiated cancellations.
Q: What are the territories where your services can be applied?
Currently it needs to be a flight to or from a German speaking country – Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. If you take a flight from Kyiv to Dusseldorf – it applies, for the flight Kyiv - Barcelona it currently does not apply. Of course we are planning to expand our business. This year we are planning to enter new markets, as there are a lot of interesting markets in Europe – Spain is a nice country, but we also consider the Nordics. I expect that we will be able to go to new markets and help consumers there.
For us, it does not matter the reason for the customer not taking the flight is. You can be ill (hopefully not), have a change of plans, choose a different destination, etc.
Q: To what extent do you see claims management being fully automated? In which areas of the legal services industry is automation in your opinion impossible or unfeasible or in other words where do you see the limitations of LegalTech?
I think that the key to any attempt to automatize is that you ensure to a certain extent that the claim can be standardized. For example, let’s consider another field, if you are to file a suit against your neighbor because he destroyed your garden (it’s popular in Germany), that’s a very individualized and very personal claim, so that is not something you can work out with the help of LegalTech.
We are looking at highly standardizable claims, because from a legal perspective, it is totally the same claim if you cancel your flight from Kyiv to Barcelona or from Berlin to Munich. That is always the same situation – there is a flight you cannot take, which requires a refund.
To answer your question, I think all areas where you have standardizable claims are perfect for LegalTech. It is also a prerequisite to establishing a successful business in LegalTech, because most of our claims are not worth hundreds of euros. Of course if there was a lawyer checking all the claims manually, the LegalTech model would not work at all.
In our model, the judge at a court is the first human being to see the case, because we make sure the process before is fully automated. We can also send standardized letters to the airlines, but yet, the first human being involved is the judge who reviews our case.
We are looking at highly standardizable claims, because from a legal perspective, it is totally the same claim if you cancel your flight from Kyiv to Barcelona or from Berlin to Munich. That is always the same situation.
Q: Digitalization is finding its way into legal services under the umbrella term LegalTech, which is the direction you've chosen. How do you see the future of this fairly new market?
It is a very interesting topic and I have to add one thing to what you said, because LegalTech is a very broad term, we consider ourselves a LegalTech company, but not only that. In the process of development of our company, we devised another word combination, which describes the idea behind our services even better, and we call it ConsumerTech. Because in the end, we’re using technology to enable the consumer to claim their rights.
So it is a mixed approach: we have a ConsumerTech directed at the client – buying claims, making sure you get paid, and LegalTech – after reporting the claim, we enable our lawyers to be very efficient and make sure the judge is the first human being to see the case in question. It can be compared with frontend and backend from IT – frontend is the ConsumerTech and backend is LegalTech. We are probably the first and only company using the term ConsumerTech, but I am confident it will be a huge term in the future.
FinTech and LegalTech are very technical words for consumers. Speaking about LegalTech in a broader sense, since at least half of our company is considered LegalTech, I am personally convinced that LegalTech will be the next FinTech. There was a FinTech hype starting in Germany and Western Europe in general 6-8 years ago. During that time, the first unicorn companies valued at more than €1 billion emerged in the industry.
There were also a lot of discussions about the regulatory side. Because it was something completely new, it required changing the way banks worked, how we paid for things, and even the political system, and I think we could make LegalTech follow the same path over the next few years.
I have talked about Western Europe but I also believe it is the same in Ukraine – legal spheres tend to be very old fashioned. In Germany, judges still use physical documents, everything is offline and done manually, so it is a big industry which still works just the way it worked 30 years ago.
If you go to a lawyer – maybe you can contact them by email but that’s it. I know many lawyers, and all of them still print out everything they get in a digital form and put it into files and they say “We’re so digital, because we use email.” The point is that LegalTech is still at its very beginning and it is to make a steep growth curve similarly to FinTech. I believe there will be many other companies starting in the LegalTech area. Because there are so many things concerning not only legal claims purchasing, but also digitizing the way lawyers work.
There are different fields within LegalTech and I think there will be a bright future. If you look at the US, they are usually about 5 years ahead of us, there are a lot of LegalTech companies already operating. It will take some time for them to come to the scene, because it is a game change, but I’m looking forward to the next 5 years, I think we can expect a very favorable future.
We consider ourselves a LegalTech company, but not only that. In the process of development of our company, we devised another word combination, which describes the idea behind our services even better, and we call it ConsumerTech.
Q: What are the top LegalTech companies in the US that inspire you?
In the US, there are big LegalTech companies, but they do not focus on the customer the way we do. If I looked for inspiration, I would look at FinTech companies. For example N26 – it is a German banking service, which revolutionized how banking works.
Nowadays, you do not need to go to the bank anymore, you just open your app and manage your expenses. I like this model because of its customer focus. So the biggest goal is to make sure the customer is having a great experience, which is also our main objective. There are a lot of models in other sectors that we can learn from.
Legal spheres tend to be very old fashioned. In Germany, judges still use physical documents, everything is offline and done manually, so it is a big industry which still works just the way it worked 30 years ago.
Q: What things should companies planning on developing software or online services in the LegalTech industry consider besides the actual development process?
I will try to answer without mentioning the technical part, though technical development is the foundation for everything, if there is no tech, there’s no automation, no efficiency, and thus, no business. Besides tech development, I think it is very important to observe legal regulations, because sooner or later you will reach a deadlock if you just do something without thinking about what the current legal frameworks allow you and what the potential obstacles are.
Familiarity with legal frameworks is important not only for LegalTech, but for every other industry as well. And I think what matters in the end is sales, because you can have the best product, the best technology, but if you cannot sell the product, you have a problem.
That is why I am a big proponent of staying as close to the customer as possible to learn what their needs, thoughts, and fears are. To get this information, I personally like to read the emails from the customer support system, as it helps me to learn so many things about them. I sneak into the customer support system of our company to see what fears and complaints the customers have.
I believe that complaints are the most useful feedback you can have. This is the only way for you to learn from your customers what needs to be done to make your company better. To sum things up, besides having very good technical foundations, you need to emphasize sales and customer orientation.
I am a big proponent of staying as close to the customer as possible to learn what their needs, thoughts, and fears are. To get this information, I personally like to read the emails from the customer support system, as it helps me to learn so many things about them.
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Q: What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur under 30? As a young entrepreneur with a successful product, what lessons have you learned?
There are a lot of challenges, and we’re also learning from our own mistakes, sometimes we had to acquire missing knowledge by doing. We started our business during our studies, so our first job was already being a manager of a company, which of course was challenging.
To remember the days when there were only 3 of us in the living room of our student flat and this was when we started it. I worked on the development of product and promoting cooperation, Benedict is a lawyer and worked on legal topics, and Torben, the third co-founder, who's the finance guy, managed everything from the investors’ side, raising capital, and also managing the sales.
Our firm has been growing bigger and bigger and now we employ over 20 people in Germany and Ukraine. It has been an enjoyable path, yet challenging. We had to learn a lot – how to manage people, how to deal with problems of any type. I also think you need a lot of discipline as a founder, in the morning you have to be the first one in the office and the last one in the evening, because this is how it works.
You are the founder of the company and you are trying to grow your baby as big as you can. And you also try to be there for other team members, because it is your creation, it is your company and you have a clear vision of how to develop it. As a founder, you have to make sure you have everyone onboard. The reason why I often spend so much time here in Kyiv is to stay close to the tech team, to promote the vision "one team – one dream," and to ensure everyone focuses on the big goal.
You need a lot of discipline as a founder, in the morning you have to be the first one in the office and the last one in the evening, because this is how it works.
Q: What lessons have you learned?
- Everything takes longer than expected. That is a very general rule, but I think it always applies.
- As a founder try to invest in good people as soon as you can. Because often companies try to cut down their costs as much as they can, but that is not the best approach. It makes sense to pay a little bit more if you can get better people – it will pay out in the end.
- It’s all about having fun. In the end, you are spending a lot of time working on developing your company, you are spending a lot of additional time working at home, so you need to make sure you establish a nice atmosphere, have a real team spirit, and have a lot of fun doing what you do.
The reason why I often spend so much time here in Kyiv is to stay close to the tech team, to promote the vision "one team – one dream," and to ensure everyone focuses on the big goal.
Q: What is the recipe to come up with an idea for a successful startup in your own experience?
That is also a question I hear a lot of times, but unfortunately there is no recipe for the best idea. Otherwise, everyone would be having their own companies. But of course, focus on the customer and their needs is something that always helps. You can also start developing ideas by looking at yourself. RightNow operates 3 different brands now, but the first brand Geld-für-Flug (compensation for flight cancellation), which is the most important brand for us, was also an idea that came from a personal experience of not taking a flight.
I was in a situation I couldn’t take the flight and I went to the airline, and the airline told me “Sorry, there is no refund. Normally, we would charge a penalty fee for you not taking the flight, but we are so nice we will not bill for that. But sorry again – you do not get anything back." This is when I talked to Benedict, one of my co-founders, he’s a lawyer, and he told me that was illegal.
Typically, after you cancel a flight, the airline sells your seat again, so the airline gets paid twice, which is unfair. And this is the point where Geld-für-Flug started. It was a very good approach that we had this problem on our own. It is not a recipe, but maybe a good recommendation. Think about problems you face in your daily life and try to solve them and maybe you will be able to build a business from that.
Think about problems you face in your daily life and try to solve them and maybe you will be able to build a business from that.
Q: The market for IT professionals in Germany is tight. How would you recommend other LegalTech companies approach the search for talent?
Yes, there is a problem of finding good developers in the German speaking market, because normally, good developers do not stay unemployed for long and they know they are in demand. They can choose where to go, and oftentimes my colleagues from Berlin are not sure whether their developers are coming back tomorrow. German developers often change jobs and after they get a more attractive offer from another company, they are just leaving.
This is definitely not the approach we would like to pursue. Of course we want to pay performance based salaries and of course if someone does their job well, there is always a way to keep them in the company. But we also want to convince our professionals with our big vision, a good technology stack, challenging projects, and a family-driven atmosphere in the company.
It is a huge topic in Germany to find a professional, especially in the development sector. Probably, I would recommend others to look outside the country. Germany has a very competitive market and nowadays you have many good options to source IT staff abroad. And you do not have to go as far as India, because there are other popular destinations such as Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, and other countries in Eastern Europe that offer many more opportunities to source tech resources than we have in Germany.
You can find high quality developers and it is recommended to look outside of Germany. But of course you need to be careful with choosing your partners – you have very good chances of finding the right team, but there are also agencies and source providers that are not that good, so it is essential to find the right ones.
Germany has a very competitive market and nowadays you have many good options to source IT staff abroad. And you do not have to go as far as India, because there are other popular destinations such as Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, and other countries in Eastern Europe.
Q: We know you have had outsourcing experience: could you compare the Grid Dynamics model of cooperation with the one you've used previously? What benefits do you see in the Grid Dynamics dedicated team model?
Following up on my previous answer, you have to find the right partner and of course it also depends on your company stage. For a very early stage startup it does not make sense to work with IT outstaffing. It is more expensive, although more sustainable, so maybe that is why many early startups start with freelancers.
We also worked with freelancers/agency model, which is very popular – you have an agency somewhere in Eastern Europe and they do projects for you. You do not have dedicated resources or people working for you full time, but you get an estimate of what the final price will be. The first problem is that you never know whether you pay a good price, because there is no way for you to see what resources are really working on the project. In addition, it's impersonal, you always have resources working for you only on a project basis, which is a popular model, but it worked for us only in the beginning.
One day we came to the conclusion that we needed a more professional approach. We wanted a dedicated team which would be a part of RightNow Group. Instead of an external team sitting at the opposite end of the table, we wanted to have people sitting on the same side of the table.
This is why we started looking for outstaffing. What we really enjoy about our team in Kyiv is that our developers are a part of the RightNow Group. This is a nice thing to have dedicated resources full-time on our project. We consider our remote developers as our co-workers in Germany. Of course we can visit them (here in Kyiv it is our second office), they can come to Germany, so the approach is very flexible.
What we really enjoy about our team in Kyiv is that our developers are a part of RightNow Group. This is a nice thing to have dedicated resources full-time on our project. We consider our remote developers as our co-workers in Germany.
Q: How did you find Grid Dynamics? Why did you decide to start cooperation with Grid Dynamics?
Actually, it's a good story. We were looking for alternatives in the field of outstaffing and I think we came across Grid Dynamics. After the first call, we jumped directly into recruiting. That was how it began, then we started to grow together. One big advantage of the model is that you can grow together. So this is how we started cooperation, which we find absolutely enjoyable.
From the very beginning, we were very convinced by the professionalism of the people Grid Dynamics chooses. Our team in Kyiv is very experienced and the guys know what they are doing. Grid Dynamics impressed us not only from the recruitment side, but also with their customer relations. The whole company is organized very professionally.
The second thing is that Grid Dynamics has a lot of resources to help us grow. So when we need a developer, Grid Dynamics is able to provide the first candidate for our team within a few weeks, which is a really flexible model. That is why the good network of Grid Dynamics here in Ukraine and the ability to offer a highly professional service were the two main aspects that convinced us to work with Grid Dynamics.
From the very beginning we were very convinced by the professionalism of the people Grid Dynamics chooses. Our team in Kyiv is very experienced and the guys know what they are doing.
Q: Please describe your development team, how are you satisfied with the developers recruited by Grid Dynamics?
Currently, we have a development team of six, but we are planning to increase it in the next few weeks. Seniority is really important, because we have a very solid tech product.
Apart from that, I find our Ukrainian developers very dedicated. As already mentioned, what we really like is not just to hire someone to do a project for us, but have someone working on fulfilling our vision together with us. We enjoy working with the guys, both during office hours and in the evening when we can have some beer together. Grid Dynamics has found a really good fit for both of us on a personal and professional level. This is the experience we have made with the firm.
What we really like is not just to hire someone to do a project for us, but have someone working on fulfilling our vision together with us.
Q: What tools do you use to collaborate with your remote development team?
We have daystart calls to align on topics such as the general quality and expectations, discuss things, and answer questions. We are a 2.5-hour flight away and it is important to work together, stay very close in touch, and make sure we know what is going on in Kyiv and that our developers know what's new in Germany.
Of course we also communicate using Slack, so these are the 2 means we're using. But surely, nothing can replace meeting each other in person. That's why we also try to come to Kyiv once a month and invite our Ukrainian team to Germany regularly. So this is the combination of communication methods we use.
We are a 2.5-hour flight away and it is important to work together, stay very close in touch, and make sure we know what is going on in Kyiv and that our developers know what's new in Germany.
Q: What in particular have Grid Dynamics software engineers helped you develop (which part of the product)?
With our tech team we are rebuilding a lot of features of the old infrastructure. We try to improve our automatization potential. As I mentioned, we are automating the key aspects of LegalTech and this is why we are investing a lot of time and project efforts into automation. Besides that, we are launching new projects, because we are expanding. It will be not only trains and flights, we are growing our other verticals as well. So they are helping us to bring these products to life.
Sometimes people might think "Should I fly to Ukraine?" or "What's going on there?" Of course in the media, we have sometimes articles about Crimea. But I think it is certainly different and I really like Ukraine.
Q: What are your impressions about cooperation with Ukrainian developers? What are the top 3 qualities of Ukrainian developers you've noticed? What would be your advice to businesses that are planning to work with developers in Ukraine?
What I think is very good is that Ukrainian developers are fluent in English. And I believe if you have a cool product and company, you can always win their motivation. They do not simply work with the thought "I get paid, I have to code."
Of course, it always depends on two sides, but if you offer the right challenges and projects, I think you can keep your developers motivated and ensure they don't count minutes while at the office. This is something that both sides are actually looking at. In the end, it is important to simply have fun.
Q: What would be your advice to businesses that are planning to work with developers in Ukraine?
I think my recommendation would be to "just give it a try!" Because sometimes people might think "Should I fly to Ukraine?" or "What's going on there?" Of course in the media, we have sometimes articles about Crimea. But I think it is certainly different and I really like Ukraine.
I have been to Kyiv 6 or 7 times already, unfortunately always in winter time, so it was always cold, snowing, or raining. This is the first day of Spring for me here in Kyiv. I think it is a very beautiful city, with really good infrastructure, there are cool restaurants and bars to visit at night, so I definitely recommend Kyiv and Ukraine.