Founders Fridays is a new StartupAmsterdam initiative that showcases local entrepreneurs who help strengthen our ecosystem. By inviting founders to answer five questions, we want to shine a light on our ecosystem’s most inspirational stories and role models. We hope that we’ll all learn and grow together by providing startup founders with a space to share their insights and experience.
This week we spoke to Gabriel Poltorak, the founder of LegalCrowd, an innovative platform where you can quickly start a campaign and raise money for legal proceedings. We caught up with Gabriel to learn more about how LegalCrowd aims to make justice more easily accessible for all.
1. How did your career journey lead you to found LegalCrowd?
During my law studies, starting my own business was always in the back of my mind. I kept a list of problems that I saw or experienced in everyday life, so I could potentially make a business out of solving them in the future. At some point during my bachelor's degree in law, I worked as a volunteer at the Rechtswinkel Amsterdam [an organisation providing free legal advice] and what struck me was that many people I spoke to on the phone or during consultation hours did not have the money to pay for a lawyer, despite an income-based financial contribution paid by the government for those in need. I saw first-hand how the most vulnerable citizens in the Netherlands did not always have access to the legal system. A feeling of injustice crept up on me because they often had a strong case. It felt unfair that they were practically denied access to the legal system because of their financial situation. From then on, the idea of crowdfunding for legal costs started playing in the back of my head.
When I studied for my master's degree, I met my co-founder Joost Jansen in a Justice Entrepreneurship course. I told him about my idea of a platform for raising funds for legal action. He recognised the same problems through his experience at a legal clinic, and we decided to go for it. While testing and validating our value proposition, we discovered that, besides the group of vulnerable people, there are also a lot of organisations that don’t have enough resources to pay for needed legal action. In addition, a platform like the one we had in mind could also be a tool where people or organisations could generate awareness for important legal issues. We also recognised that, for a substantial part, the law seems inaccessible and opaque to ordinary citizens. So, it can be empowering for people to donate to an important case, to think that their money might make a real difference. That was the moment when LegalCrowd was born!
2. What makes Amsterdam a great city and ecosystem for a startup founder?
From our experience, Amsterdam has a great tech and innovation-focused ecosystem and community. We experienced a lot of support for new startup founders like ourselves, such as the help of incubators, pitch events where you can participate, and funding opportunities. Organisations such as StartupAmsterdam are, in our opinion, also contributing a lot, for instance by sponsoring events such as the Legal Startup Event in which we participated! Furthermore, I think Amsterdam is home to the headquarters of many unique and inspiring companies for a good reason. Besides many other reasons, the quality of life in general is just very high, there is a lot of talent to be found, and you can drink excellent coffee here!
3. What are the goals and needs of LegalCrowd for 2022?
Our goal for 2022 is to make LegalCrowd more visible to potential case starters and donors by increasing the number of impactful legal cases on the platform, so that more people and organisations are aware that they can address an issue with the help of LegalCrowd if they need to. By the end of 2022, we want more organisations and individuals to understand that LegalCrowd is a realistic alternative in funding court cases for those who can’t afford to pay for them themselves. We are also exploring new opportunities in line with our platforms, such as cooperating with law firms and more, so we can also make the platform financially sustainable and help more essential cases get funded.
In terms of needs, we are currently bootstrapped, and we are managing. Eventually, we will be looking for investment since we still have a lot of additional features we would like to add to our platform. Also, with the help of investment, we can hopefully accelerate growth in the future!
4. Recently, LegalCrowd launched its first crowdfunding campaign. What are the next steps?
After a period of hard work, we indeed just launched our first campaign. So, make sure to check out our platform and the first campaign via the following link.
We currently have a couple of other cases in the pipeline, so make sure you follow our socials and subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on the latest legal campaigns. Additionally, we are also working on interesting blogs for people to read!
5. In a world in which human rights violations are still happening, how can LegalCrowd make a meaningful impact?
International standards recognise access to justice as a fundamental human right and a means to protect other universally recognised human rights. But taking legal action can be extremely expensive, and therefore, people or organisations are sometimes denied access to the legal system because of their financial situation. That is why we founded LegalCrowd, because we think that access to justice should be available to everyone.
And we are more than just a platform where you can raise funds for your legal case. With LegalCrowd, we aim to use technology to cultivate a movement around social justice by finding a way to harness the power of the people. With the help of our platform, anyone can contribute to meaningful (and possibly life-changing) legal action to have a real impact.