“No. Not once,” BTRFLY’s founder Matt Canzer quickly answers when I ask him if he’s ever wanted to return to the life of a traditional lawyer. “Once I took my first step into entrepreneurship and started working on BTRFLY, I became obsessed.”
Coming from a nearly 12-year career in legal services that spanned government, non-profit and private practice, Matt has seen a lot of what his industry is up against when it comes to supporting everyone in need of legal services—namely, a mismatch in consumer demand and supply. “I understand both the legal industry and legal consumer behaviour. Right now, those two worlds are colliding in a way that is really open to disruption,” says Matt. He’s seen potential clients choosing not to pursue legal support because the value of their claims would not justify the cost of hiring a lawyer. On the other side of the equation, Matt, and many like him, were similarly disheartened in not being able to help those individuals because of the rigid structure of the traditional law firm environment.
“There’s research that shows 77% of legal problems don’t actually get legal help,” Matt explains. “Lawyers are a caring and giving group, that’s why we go into this work. We’re also part of a very old profession that was structured in a certain way that made sense for a long time. In recent years, however, the need for legal services has proliferated and that’s created this whole segment of legal services that were at the transactional or lower end of the spectrum.”
This is the problem that Matt was looking to solve when he started BTRFLY Legal Innovation and joined the Venture Acceleration Program at Accelerate Okanagan. He’s on a mission to make legal services accessible to as many people as possible using a virtual platform. Through BTRFLY, lawyers and legal professionals could offer short, cost-effective, engagements with clients to give them advice and guidance in their legal pursuits.
Traditionally, a rather stoic industry, it’s not often that someone seeks to introduce technical innovation that reinvents how legal services can be accessed. “It’s a new model for legal services delivery, and it’s counterintuitive in a lot of ways,” Matt mentions as we discuss some of the obstacles he’s currently facing. “Finding lawyers and legal professionals that see the value of offering a service in this way, and who want to partner with me in developing the content and offer consultation services through the platform, has been a challenge.”
Gaining buy-in from the legal community was a hurdle that Matt had anticipated. However, he’s found that it’s merely a matter of improving their understanding to help bring his fellow lawyers around. By creating an interactive demo of his product—that also includes a survey—Matt’s been able to show his colleagues what his concept and intentions are with BTRFLY. This has helped to reframe the mindset that lawyers and legal professionals are having when considering partnering with Matt in his development.
“The enthusiasm is growing. It’s been very cool hearing from people who I haven’t met before, both consumers and lawyers,” says Matt as he reflects on how awareness of his platform has expanded. “I think my favourite part is hearing their stories and how the solution I’m building would have made a difference in their lives—both for consumer’s own legal support and from lawyers who have had to tell clients that they couldn’t afford their services.”
This rise in interest in BTRFLY has helped to keep Matt focused and driving towards his goal. Coming from an extensive legal background, he has virtually no experience in both the business or technical aspects of his company. However, instead of seeing that as an excuse to give up, he found a solution. “I wasn’t tempted to stop but I doubted if I could be successful. Then I learned about the Venture Acceleration Program. The business mentorship, training, and coaching that I’m getting through the program really gave me the boost and the confidence to pivot my skills from a practicing lawyer into a, hopefully, successful startup founder.”
With the help of his mentor, Sheldon Gardiner, Matt was able to find some no-code product solutions that have given him the tools to build his platform without needing to hire a developer or outsource the work. Though this requires him to learn the no-code products and put it together himself, he’s been able to extend his runway by 2 years by taking this approach.
Even with the support he’s received, Matt recognizes that starting your own business is a project with virtually unlimited scope. “It’s a bit like magic eye art. I’m starting to see clear lines that weren’t there a few months ago. That clarity is coming from regular conversations with would-be consumers and lawyers. Seeing the outlines take shape and the pent-up demand for this type of marketplace is something that has been a sign of success for me.”
As he continues to build out the platform and seek out partners, Matt has found a guiding light that has helped him ensure that BTRLFY is growing towards a solution that his audiences can truly benefit from. “You need to listen to your customers early and often—and realize that your suppliers are also your customers. Everyone involved with your product is a customer. You need to carve out space to meet both of their needs; otherwise, it’s going to be a tough uphill climb.”
BTRFLY is still in its early stages, but there are big plans for the future of the company. At launch, the goal is to have 3 or 4 legal services in BC provided by Matt—who is still a licensed lawyer. After receiving some traction, he hopes to expand BTRFLY’s offerings into other services and jurisdictions. Over the following years, there are hopes of expanding into the US and European markets. “I have not seen a product that is attacking legal service delivery in the way that I’m trying to,” comments Matt as he outlines his lofty goals. “If it gets the traction that I think it will, BTRFLY will be a game-changer.
The butterfly is a symbol of transformation and metamorphosis, and it’s a symbol of moving from a static shell to something quite different—something that’s approachable, familiar and beautiful. This is the hope that Matt has for BTRFLY: to create something agile and inviting for the legal services industry.
Entrepreneurs, like Matt, are all experiencing failures, victories, and daunting obstacles. They are taking their learnings and applying them to new challenges. This is the nature of startups, this is the nature of building something out of nothing. Regardless of an entrepreneur’s experience or stage of their company, having support and mentorship to help navigate the entrepreneurial journey is key.