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TL;DR: “Too Long; Didn’t Read”

By Angelica Kalogeridis


1. Executive Summary


TL;DR, or “Too Long; Didn’t Read,” is a desktop extension and mobile application for every consumer who encounters legal documents they are expected to sign or click “I Agree” in a matter of minutes. TL;DR provides consumers with a platform to evaluate their legal documents, as well as educational opportunities and interactive tips and tricks to negotiating terms when one may assume they have little to no negotiation power. For example, many do not know that their airplane ticket terms are negotiable. When airlines offer compensation in exchange for a few hundred dollar voucher, it is written in your airplane ticket terms that the offer can be negotiable to up to as much as a few thousand dollars in cash, in addition to an upgrade to first class on your next flight, overnight hotel cost, and airport transfers, when applicable.[1] Everyday interactions with terms and conditions such as these are what TL;DR wishes to educate every consumer about. Too many people are blindly signing their legal documents, unaware of the negotiating power they may have or what their contracts entail.


The desktop extension will work by having the ability to scan terms and conditions popups or legal documents on a user’s current window. It will then provide a bulleted summary of what one may be agreeing to or signing, as well as underlined legalese that when scrolled over will have definitions and explanations. TL;DR will also flag any peculiar provisions that aren’t standard for that type of agreement. The connected mobile application will have a scan feature that operates using any smart phone’s back-facing camera. Simply pointing one’s camera parallel from any document and snapping a photo will allow TL;DR to convert to a PDF and scan for legal concerns or summarize the legal document. The mobile application will also serve as an interactive forum where users can engage in blogs, educational videos, and tips, all sorted by topic.


The market has little to no competitors. Similar companies have flopped due to lack of brand recognition and user-friendly platforms. Individual competitors who give legal advice exist on the social media platform, TikTok, but there are no strong web extension or application competitors. TL;DR is envisioned to have a compelling brand image with the mascot, Rocky, a comedic, friendly raccoon. A cartoon raccoon mascot for the company will draw in consumers and engage them in a fun way. Marketing using the idea that raccoons dig through trash, can be used to symbolize Rocky digging through the terms and conditions that consumers often throw away or don’t read.


Go-to-market strategy includes launching the web extension and app as free while TL;DR gains market traction. The free version will include a limit on scannable documents and restricted access to added services such as in-depth contract editing and redlining. During this period, heavy advertising and social media campaigns using Rocky and teaser legal tips will be utilized. Revenue will begin to be generated through social media and paid ads. Eventually a paid, pro version will be available at $0.99, that offers the web extension and mobile application without advertisements, more resources, and additional content such as legal how-to packages, videos and classes for small businesses, or DIY contract lessons.


2. Problems to Be Addressed


According to a recent study from Deloitte that surveyed over 2,000 consumers, 91% admitted to consenting to legal terms and services conditions without reading them.[2] It’s even higher for those between the ages of 18-34 at a whopping 97% that agree to their terms and conditions before reading them.[2] What’s the reason for this? As our society progresses more and more toward accessibility of information on our mobile devices, reading long texts of information are increasingly daunting, especially when it’s weighed down by legal jargon. The article further explained, “The language is too complex and long-winded for most, and apparently, consumers are willing to accept that the worst most companies will do is sell their name and email to a third party that wants to advertise to them.”[3]


To prove the presence of this problem, Jonathan Obar at York University in Toronto and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch at the University of Connecticut ran an empirical study where they launched a fake social networking site and designed a popup terms of agreement that if signed, would obligate the consumer to give up their first-born child as payment.[4] 98% percent blindly signed the agreement.[5] Although frightening, a question often asked is, this might be in the agreements, but what negotiating power does one have if problematic provisions were to present themselves (such as signing away your first-born)? It may not be possible in some situations, but step one, which TL;DR wants to enable consumers to do, is don’t click “I Agree.” Leave the site, use an alternative. In other situations, something can be done, and TL;DR wants to educate consumers on these instances too. For example, reportedly written in the terms of a service agreement at AT&T, 25% off your monthly phone bill can be available for you and anyone on your account or within your family if you are of active military service or a veteran, a doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistant, a teacher, or a first responder.[6] This type of discount is written in the terms but not automatically given unless requested. If the TL;DR mobile application had scanned the agreement when upgrading your phone or switching service providers, this type of provision would be flagged and notified to the user.


This research articulates that TL;DR target market could potentially be all consumers in the U.S. (focusing on United States until development of the app could master comprehension of other languages). The key will be reaching and communicating value to those consumers. However, it’s ignorant to assume the market share will be as large as our massive target, but TL;DR truly believes this is a widespread problem that has yet to be addressed. There is lots to learn for the average consumer that could save them hundreds to thousands of dollars. The target market for TL;DR is therefore the consumer that finds themselves negligently clicking “I Agree” or signing standard agreements and contracts without reading them. It’s for the individual who doesn’t want to read them and would prefer a service or application to do the heavy lifting for them. It’s for the consumer who craves to save and is eager to learn how.


3. Our Solution


For every consumer who encounters a legal document and finds themselves blindly signing, TL;DR is a for-profit legal company who offers a guilt-free signing experience while educating its user with negotiation tips and preventing problematic contractual obligations.


The web extension and mobile application will work similarly, scanning a pop-up terms and conditions agreement, for example, or a physical legal contract. The web extension is meant to be a brainless add-on for the consumer. No need to remember to use it, the program works by detecting a popup, agreement, or legal document on the user’s window, and will automatically prompt the user to run the extension and scan for legal provisions worth review, while also supplementing with a bulleted summary of what the user may be agreeing to, any negotiation tips, or helpful aspects of the agreement that may allow them to save money. Explanations of legal jargon, if they choose to review the document further or educate themselves on legalese, will also be available.


Alternatively, the mobile application requires the user to snap a picture of the document through the app and upload it for scanning. The application will also provide the user with an interactive platform for education on other agreements they may encounter that our knowledge base has helpful resources for. The pro version of the application will also include how-to packages for DIY contract drafting for small businesses and the like. Daily content including videos with tips and tricks, the tip of the day, blogs, etc. will be released on the application. The application’s focus is to be a user-friendly, interactive, and engaging platform that makes saving money and educating consumers about their contracts an easy process. Common legal knowledge should not be gatekept by lawyers and firms requiring astronomical fees and retainers when all consumers sometimes need is a few tidbits of information to better themselves as consumers and enable them to make more informed decisions.


4. Business Discussion


A. Desirability (Market Fit)

More and more people in America are consulting the internet for information and DIY resources. In 2020, 72% percent of U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey respondents said they consulted online sources for legal advice.[8] This statistic is clear of the trend toward the rising importance of online resources for legal information.[9] Furthermore, a survey from a few years ago identified among 2,000 respondents, 82% said they preferred alternatives to traditional lawyers when dealing with small legal matters, such as making a will and document review.[10] Additionally, 76% between 18 to 54 said they were willing to use online legal services if it could save them time and money.[11]


We have already seen evidence of online legal resources being successful with companies, such as Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom that create enforceable legal documents for a comprehensive fee.[12] With more than 100 million Americans being unable to afford a lawyer in general, the need to educate themselves on legalese is prevalent.[13] However, unlike services such as Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom, TL;DR offers tidbits of information for less cost to its users. It also focuses more on the tech solution offered through the web extensions and scan feature.


One other similar competitor exists (branded “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read”) in the market. They appear to be a non-profit “project” that barely got off the ground. Nonetheless, they were rather unsuccessful. Their web extension lacked traction and overall flopped in terms of widespread use. It was created over 10 years ago and seems to no longer be present in the market. When visiting their website, it is outdated and is absent of any clear brand recognition. Where this company fell short was missing a strong marketing campaign, engaging brand, and dynamic value offerings. There was no mobile application coupled with the web extension and it also failed to provide the consumer with educational opportunities and negotiation tactics. Only providing a summary was where it fell short to bring value to consumers and gain market share.


B. Feasibility (plus Compliance & Risks)

TL;DR has relatively low-cost startup that requires less resources then expected. An app developer, web developer, programmer, market director, and a UI/UX designer will be necessities. Legal professionals could be added to the team to qualify information provided to users, but because the founder has a legal degree, that is not an essential. After that, few employees will be needed to keep the app running. A compliance and data privacy director as well as an IT specialist will be crucial, however, in ongoing support. The founders have little liquid cash to invest in the initial launch, so angel investors will be sought out. TL;DR also plans to apply for small-business loans to aid in the initial costs.


Data privacy, cybersecurity, and consumer protection will be of high risk and a potential barrier to launch. Without costly protections and programming, user data could be jeopardized. This is an issue that TL;DR will have to be aggressive about, so that consumers feel comfortable that their legal documents are secure and protected.


To comply with U.S. state prohibitions on the “unauthorized practice of law,” TL;DR will avoid providing legal advice that is specific to a customer. When documents are scanned, the provisions will be compared to standard agreements readily available to the public. Information provided to users will be general and from other internet sources. Providing legal information can be a useful service for lawyers to offer to clients or the general public, as it can help people understand their legal rights and obligations and make informed decisions about how to proceed with a legal matter. Negotiation tips and specific legal information or explanations on legal terms and concepts will be provided, but TL;DR will be clear about not providing any specific legal advice.


C. Viability (Profitability) [15]

Before releasing a paid pro version of the mobile application, the free web extension and app will rely on revenue generated from social media accounts and paid advertisements. The cost of advertising on a mobile application can vary widely depending on various factors, such as the size and popularity of the app, the type of ad, the target audience, the duration of the ad campaign, and the geographic location of the users.[16] For example, if a banner ad that appears at the top of the screen and is visible for 10 seconds costs $2-$3 per thousand impressions,[17] once predicted market share is reached, TL;DR would generate on average $10,000 a month just in banner ads.


Once the paid pro version of the app is released, it will cost a $0.99 per month subscription fee. With the predicted market share at 6 million users (assumption explained in the “Financials” section), and assuming about 50% are willing to pay the subscription fee,[18] we can anticipate about a $35.6 million yearly revenue once operating at the projected market share post launch.


With identified staff from needed from the “Feasibility” section (app developer, web developer, programmer, market director, UI/UX designer, compliance officer, data privacy director, and IT specialist),[19] we estimate an average of $100,000 salary per position including benefits.[20] Therefore, yearly staffing costs, at minimum will be about a million dollars factoring in the founder’s salary. Because TL;DR values an aggressive marketing campaign and social media presence, a marketing budget of $200,000 per year should be considered. This will include paid advertisements, social media campaigns, and a salary of a social media director. Additionally, since TL;DR will be providing a legal web extension and mobile application technology solution, a yearly $100,000 budget for tech updates will be reserved.


Therefore, yearly anticipated costs are forecasted to be about $1.3 million. For the initial years of the startup, investments and loans will be relied upon for sustenance. Leadership from TL;DR is also a part of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Michigan State University Broad College of Business, which provides startups with free staff up to 40 personnel of all types of specialties, as well as funding and startup costs covered up to $40,000. They also provide many other funding and grant opportunities that TL;DR will be engaging in. Once a user base is established, the revenue estimates clearly far exceed the yearly costs, with room for company growth and expansion (further evidenced in the “Financials” section).


5. Proof of Concept (Early Testing Plan)


Most assumptions made in the “Desirability,” “Feasibility,” and “Viability” sections were educated guesses using supplemental indictive information. The most abstract assumption made was that about 50% of users would be willing to pay a $0.99 a month for subscription fee. Prior to proof of concept, this is a difficult percentage to forecast. Until we know if we are successfully providing value to our customers through our product, it is hard to know what users would truly value the product at. Therefore, a testing phase is integral to discovering how useful our web extension and mobile application truly is. That way we can get a better idea of the chance of survival of our revenue plan and if it needs adjustments. Margaret Hagan’s Law By Design utilizes human-centered design to incorporate user feedback into the design of legal services and products. TL;DR is reliant upon its user-friendly interface for success—it is our secret sauce to guarantee differentiation from competitors that may have failed in the past. Therefore, user feedback will be vital to pre-launch to verify the correct value is being provided.


The Lean Startup methodology involves creating a minimum viable product (MVP) – a simplified version of the product or service – and then quickly testing it with real customers to gather feedback and learn what works and what doesn't.[21] This advice was also given to TL;DR leadership by the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship. This is why, prior to scaling and launching the paid pro version of the application, TL;DR plans to launch the free version as quickly as possible. The Burgess Institute will aid in supplying personnel that can launch a basic MVP that will test the value it brings to consumers. Students and Burgess staff can also be utilized to test the app before inputting real user’s legal documents to avoid privacy concerns prior to setting up a robust data privacy protection program. Per the Lean Startup method, pivots in product design can be made based on the results of customer feedback and data analysis.[22] Overall, this will help TL;DR minimize risk and waste by quickly validating assumptions and learning from customer feedback to enable a more agile and adaptable approach to building and growing a business.[23]


6. Process Improvement Plan


Process improvement will be a necessity to TL;DR due to our reliance on our interactive interface. The web extension and mobile application should work smooth and seamlessly. Therefore, engagement in content will be a strong KPI for if our app and resources are accessible and engaging. We hope the web extension’s automatic detection of a legal document or popup allows users to automatically use the solution and not have to remember to run the program. However, metrics around how long the user allows the program to run before closing it out, whether they engage with defined legalese, or take longer to click “I Agree,” will be indicative KPIs to judge utilization. Social media impressions and views can also suggest whether our content is applicable, universal, or relevant to consumers.


7. Technology Plan


Developing the technology for TL;DR will require coding and programming the web extension and mobile applications. Coding the legal knowledge and inputting enough standard agreements into the database to compare to the user’s scanned document might prove to be the most difficult aspect of this project. However, free app developers and programmers from the Burgess Institute will be utilized to establish a first-round version of the application. On a need basis, we will hire more developers to advance the extension and application. Building data privacy and consumer protection will require more resources and will be the main focus.


8. Marketing Plan


Heavy advertising and marketing are also a part of TL;DR’s launch plan (see attributed budget for marketing in the “Viability” section). One of the biggest aspects of that will be establishing brand recognition through a social media presence. We have seen so many companies and brands take off just through engaging in TikTok, commenting on random videos, establishing a community, and creating relevant content. This approach will ultimately drive traffic toward our website and mobile application and hopefully free extension downloads as well. The positive aspect of social media accounts is that they are relatively low budget to create and maintain. There is no need for paid advertisements or paid banner ads when conducting a social media campaign. Most generations we will be targeting has at least Facebook, but additional marketing on radio and in print publications can be utilized as well. Additionally, TL;DR plans to have a marketing budget that will supplement alternative forms of marketing such as search engine optimization, influencer marketing, website development, and paid advertisements.


9. Financials (3-year forecast)

According to a recent study in 2023, the percentage of families that own a computer is projected to reach 93.3%.[24] Additionally, there were 307 million smartphone users in the United States as of 2022[25]. Therefore, the target market for TL;DR can be over 300 million. Although this is a relatively large target market, the product is applicable to anyone who owns a laptop or mobile device and faces those “I Agree” popups. Post-launch, TL;DR conservatively anticipates a 2% market share after 3 years of operation. Reportedly, most users are willing to pay a fair amount, as long as the price is reasonable compared to the service provided.[26] At 6,000,000 million users, and assuming at least a safe 50% are willing to pay a monthly subscription,[27] TL;DR can potentially reach over $35 million in yearly profit.


The below financial projections table’s “Year 1” is the first year following a three-year testing/launch phase with the free web extension and mobile application version:

The target market projections are forecasted using a gradual progression toward anticipated market share. Revenue is calculated using half of users being willing to pay the $0.99 subscription fee.[28] Salaries were averaged at a conservative $100,000 per position (which includes benefits). The explanation of the marketing budget is further explained in the “Viability” section, but it remains consistent and aggressive for all three years. The technology budget is reserved for needed tech purchases or updates. A $6,000 cost for insurance was assumed using average general liability insurance and professional liability insurance.[29] Anticipated tax costs were calculated with an average 21% federal income tax and an average 6% Michigan income tax. Other income from paid advertisements were forecasted using assumptions from the “Viability” section and set at a gradual incline until anticipated traction was gained.


10. Conclusion


The statistics behind consumers not reading their terms of service or terms and conditions agreements are overwhelming. More than not, we are all blindly and mindlessly clicking “I Agree.” Whether it’s due to lack of time, the intimidation of legal jargon, or disbelief in negotiation power, TL;DR works to dispel guilty signing and increase the knowledge of what consumers are signing. The web extension is a simple addition to any browser and does not require the consumer to run the program. The ease of use of the technology is the draw and will unquestionably be seamless for consumers to adopt. Our social media accounts and teaser videos on Facebook and TikTok will drive traffic towards downloading our mobile application, giving the consumers the option to scan physical documents if they so choose, or engage in money-saving content.


11. Post-Script: Comments on GPT Use


Initially I avoided using ChatGPT. I did this originally for a variety of reasons. First, I wanted the business plan to be my own ideas. Second, everything I’ve learned has pointed away from answers that are seemingly not cite-able. Because, technically, GPT is pulling them from somewhere, which is what makes me uncomfortable. In the beginning of this business plan, you will see in the footnotes, in the first few pages, references to personal research. Then, about halfway through, I shift to using ChatGPT for some of my research. I have been reluctant to use it, but figured I should challenge myself to, so that I can get practice with it as it might be incorporated in many ways in my future or career. The questions I asked it weren’t creative or for ideas, but general information I could have googled for and found myself.


However, I found ChatGPT useful in terms of time. Instead of sifting through results and websites for the answer, it churned out one answer seemingly combining the best results from multiple different sources that would have taken me five times as long to produce if not more. I learned to be very specific with my prompt, asking specifically for what I was looking for. For example, once I asked it, “what can you sell advertisements for on a mobile app,” but instead of giving me an exact amount (what I was looking for), it gave me different types of advertisements. So, I updated my prompt to say, “what are sample prices for advertisements on a mobile application,” for which it then gave me specific quantities and numbers. Overall, I think it’s an incredible tool—I always have. It makes me nervous in an academic setting, but I think it is life-changing, especially in terms of time, for the work force.

 

Notes:

[1] Kullberg, Erika. “So This Is What You Can Do When You Read the Terms and Conditions! 🤯: When You Hack Your Way through Life! 😱 ©Erikakullberg: By TikTok.” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=624579325361097.

[2] Cakebread, Caroline. “You're Not Alone, No One Reads Terms of Service Agreements.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 15 Nov. 2017, https://www.businessinsider.com/deloitte-study-91-percent-agree-terms-of-service-without-reading-2017-11.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Kullberg, Erika. ©Erikakullberg: By TikTok.” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=624579325361097. [8] FindLaw, Posted by. “Understanding Legal Consumer Behavior.” Lawyer Marketing, 4 May 2021, https://www.lawyermarketing.com/blog/the-2021-consumer-legal-needs-survey-what-attorneys-need-to-know-part-ii/.

[9] Id.

[10] “Survey: 69 Percent of People Would Use Online Legal Services over Attorneys.” Yahoo!, ALM Media, 12 Dec. 2018, https://www.yahoo.com/now/survey-69-percent-people-online-163048715.html.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Eckert, Eric. “Baylor Law School: '100 Million Americans Can't Afford Legal Services. What Can We Do about It?'.” Media and Public Relations | Baylor University, Baylor Law School, 15 Sept. 2016, https://news.web.baylor.edu/news/story/2016/baylor-law-school-100-million-americans-cant-afford-legal-services-what-can-wedo#:~:text=%22We%20said%2C%20%27More%20than,lawyers%20to%20open%20law%20firms.

[14] “Can lawyers provide legal information without giving advice” prompt. ChatGPT, 2 May version, OpenAI, 2 May 2023, chat.openai.com/chat.

[15] Revenue and costs projections are estimates. Figures are optimistic but assumptions are explained throughout the “Viability” section.

[16] “What are sample prices for advertisements on a mobile application,” prompt. ChatGPT, 2 May version, OpenAI, 2 May 2023, chat.openai.com/chat.

[17] Id.

[18] Schick, Shane. “Report: 49% of APP Users Would Be Willing to Pay a Monthly Subscription.” Fierce Wireless, 6 Oct. 2014, https://www.fiercewireless.com/developer/report-49-app-users-would-be-willing-to-pay-a-monthly-subscription.

[19] Bare-bones of staff required.

[20] Factoring in averages among different positions and lower budgets among startups.

[21] “What is then lean startup methodology,” prompt. ChatGPT, 2 May version, OpenAI, 2 May 2023, chat.openai.com/chat.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] “Industry Market Research, Reports, and Statistics.” IBISWorld, 26 Aug. 2022, https://www.ibisworld.com/us/bed/percentage-of-households-with-at-least-one-computer/4068/.

[25] Kolmar, Chris. “25+ Incredible US Smartphone Industry Statistics [2023]: How Many Americans Have Smartphones.” Zippia, 4 Mar. 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/us-smartphone-industry-statistics/#:~:text=85%25%20of%20Americans%20own%20a,t%20live%20without%20their%20smartphones.

[26] McMahon, Conor. “28 Amazing App Revenue Statistics [2023]: Downloads, Usage, and Advertising Trends.” Zippia, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/app-revenue-statistics/.

[27] Schick, Shane. “Report: 49% of APP Users Would Be Willing to Pay a Monthly Subscription.” (2014).

[28] “What is the cost of an average needed insurance for a startup,” prompt. ChatGPT, 2 May version, OpenAI, 2 May 2023, chat.openai.com/chat.

[29] “What are the average taxes for a startup,” prompt. ChatGPT, 2 May version, OpenAI, 2 May 2023, chat.openai.com/chat.

 

About the author

Angelica Kalogeridis is a recent 2023 graduate from Michigan State’s University College of Law and Broad College of Business, completing both Juris Doctor and Masters of Business Administration degrees. Prior to Michigan State, Angelica graduated from the University of Michigan in 2019 with degrees in Political Science and Chinese. Angelica now works in supply chain consulting, but aspires to own her own business one day. In her free time, she likes to play tennis, ride horses, and go on long walks with her rescue pitbull, Harvey.











2 Comments


Shaji
Shaji
Jul 18, 2023

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noleggiolamped
noleggiolamped
Jun 24, 2023

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