September 16, 2013

Let’s Shake On It

As part of our Launch series, Abe Geiger ’12 talks about his startup, Shake, which brings simple legal agreements to your mobile phone.


Shake, a startup cofounded by Abe Geiger ’12, brings simple legal agreements to your mobile phone. Here, Geiger tells Shake’s story and reveals how he launched the company two months after graduation.

A Legal App, Minus the Legalese
The complexity and legalese involved in basic legal agreements is really frustrating when, actually, a signed napkin or even a handshake is legally binding. Our goal is to demystify the law for non-lawyers. We want people to actually understand the agreements they are signing, whether it’s lending money to a friend or discussing a partnership for your start-up.

Shake combines elements of TurboTax, Square, and Dropbox. We ask you a few questions (e.g., Who are you loaning money to? Are you charging interest?), provide you with a short document in plain English, let you execute it on your phone, and leave you with a record of all your legal documents you can access anywhere.

Plugged In to New York’s Tech Community — and the Columbia Business School Network
During the summer before my second year at Columbia, I interned at Greycroft Partners, an early-stage VC founded by Alan Patricof, MS ’57, and Ian Sigalow ’06. I also worked at Canaan Partners during my second year, evaluating investment opportunities, learning the VC perspective, and immersing myself in the NYC tech community.

In June Stu told me about an idea that Jon and Jared were kicking around. It aligned perfectly with the start-up I had been working on as an independent study with Professor Jeff Harris. I already knew Jon (the president and COO of BuzzFeed) and quickly got to know Jared (Spotify’s general counsel) as we joined forces to make Shake a reality.

Biggest Hurdle
Getting good talent at an early-stage startup is tricky. You’re selling the vision, the team, and the potential. Fortunately for us, the opportunity to disrupt a $270 billion market is pretty appealing.

If You Want to Launch a Tech Startup
Think big but act small. Stay focused, and don’t overcomplicate the initial product. What is the simplest thing you can build in order to get the feedback you need to grow in the right direction? For us, that was building a mobile app that lets you answer a couple questions, review an agreement, and sign it on your phone.

What’s Next
We’re looking at a few monetization options, but the focus right now is on building an app that people love using, learning how they use it, and making it better.

—As told to Simone SIlverbush