Stephen Kane is Founder and CEO of ArbiClaims, an online dispute resolution platform. ArbiClaims uses court enforceable, binding arbitration and other online tools to resolve disputes under $10,000 via 10-to-30 minute webcam hearings. Stephen is a start up and small business attorney by background and was one of Lex Machina’s first sales hires before they sold to Lexis Nexis.
Click to tweet: Fire Nation, Stephen shares his incredible journey on EOFire today!
Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- 00:15 – How to Finally Win – Create your dream life one step at a time!
- 01:09 – FairClaims is based in downtown LA, where Stephen also lives
- [01:30] – Stephen is the first of his siblings to go to college
- [02:27] – Stephen realized he had the entrepreneurial instinct while at college
- [03:24] – JLD says your niche can now be explored online
- [03:40] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: Reading social dynamics
- [04:28] – Stephen understands social dynamics because he came from a big family
- [05:22] – When doing sales, reading people has become beneficial
- [06:05] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: I had a business called Home Fries and ran it for a few years
- [06:31] – Stephen started in the events and entertainment business because he wanted people to play pickup basketball
- [07:24] – Stephen considers himself stubborn because he stayed with the project too long – even when he wasn’t passionate about it
- [08:06] – Stephen ignored some of their problems and their customers
- [08:15] – Zinga asked them to do a scavenger hunt, but they were not ready to do it
- [09:01] – The rules of the scavenger hunt were way too complicated and people saw the loopholes
- [10:06] – Stephen lost their business and had to give refunds
- [10:38] – Stick to what you know and do it really well—make sure you’re able to let go of a business that you are not good at
- [10:45] – JLD tells Fire Nation “stay in your lane”
- 11:15 – Greatest AH-HA moment: FairClaims
- [13:39] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? – Helping people who are not being heard
- [15:11] – JLD tells Fire Nation to look at the opportunities, like Stephen did
- [15:37] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Fear of failure and fear of success”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Marry the right woman”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I force myself to take every Saturday off”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – UpCounsel
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
- [17:23] – “Be super picky about your investors and business partners”
- 18:32 – The Freedom Journal – Set and Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days!
3 Key Points:
- Stay in your lane—if you enjoy the work and do it well, you’ve found your lane.
- If you’re passion and energy is zapped and your business is not doing well, know when it’s time to call it.
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities and jump!
- UpCounsel – Stephen’s small business resource
- Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman – Stephen’s Top Business Book
- Audible – Get a 30–day free trial of fantastic audiobooks!
- FairClaims – Stephen’s website
- How to Finally Win – Create your dream life one step at a time!
- The Freedom Journal – Set and Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days!
Stephen Kane: Hell, yeah, let’s do it.
Interviewer: Yes! Stephen is the founder and CEO of ArbiClaims, an online dispute resolution platform. ArbiClaims uses court-enforceable binding arbitration and other online tools to resolve disputes under $10K via 10 to 30-minute webcam hearings. Stephen’s background is in startup and small business. All right, Stephen, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Stephen Kane: You got it! So, ArbiClaims is downtown LA based and I’m an eastside kid from Monterrey Park, which is a suburb east of downtown in downtown LA and I live out here too. There are more and more startups coming out this way. There’s actually seven [inaudible] [00:00:42] startups in downtown now.
Stephen Kane: So, it’s starting to get real out here and as far as my personal life goes, I’m the first of my brothers and sisters to go to college, so my older brothers and sisters work on a family business together that my brother started. School wasn’t so much for them and I was, I guess, the nerd of the group. I don’t know. But we went – my younger sister and I went. [Skip in audio] My dad went but I wasn’t in touch with him during those years and I sort of figured stuff out on my own and I think that natural gave me some skillsets to be an entrepreneur, you know.
Really, I never was motivated by money. Never thought or imagined I would make more than $50,000.00 a year until I realized No. 1 I could and No. 2 it’s helpful. But it’s still not my main motivation. You know, I always wanted to do public interest work and all of the entrepreneurial projects I’ve done has sort of melded the two. I love business. I love economics. I love anything in the public sort of sociological realm. In college, I discovered I had an entrepreneurial instinct and fell in love working on my first couple of startups in college and out of college.
When I was at Stanford in the mid to late 90s, I was Class of 2000. It was just in the air. Everybody was doing it, you know. Everybody had a business plan and a website.
Interviewer: It sounds like your life growing up was a pretty good training ground to become an entrepreneur. I will say after having read your intro, I think that if I had done something, you know, after going to law school, it would have been in the area that you ended up doing. It just seems like a lot of more like my thing. Let’s just do this via webcam, 10 to 30 minutes. Let’s make this happen. That’s kind of my mindset. It’s kind of interesting to see how different things are evolving in different industries, like law, like [inaudible] [00:02:28]. I had – you know, not too long ago somebody was on that took her psychology degree and she only does Skype psychology sessions. Like, no more having an office and having a couch and people laying down there. She’s like let’s just pop it on and bang, bang, bang.
It’s just the world that we live in, Fire Nation. You can have that niche and that idea in this area and then just expose it in that good way. Now, Stephen, you have an area of expertise, obviously, in arbitration and other things but what would you say you specialize in, in just a couple of sentences?
Stephen Kane: Reading social dynamics. So, whether it’s reading a room if we’re in a meeting or in some sort of social setting or larger more macular trends. I would say that’s a unique skillset I have and something I do really well. That turns out to be really helpful for complex sales, for raising money, but also for innovating. You know, thinking about macrotrends, how it affects real people and how you can leverage technology and use technology to make their lives better.
Interviewer: Okay, so you’re good at reading a room. Most people are NOT good at reading a room. What do most people do wrong? What do you do right?
Stephen Kane: You know, part of it was I learned it because I come from a big family. So, I have brothers and sisters who all have very different backgrounds, personalities, interests, and I think also being raised by mainly a single mother. You know, she probably taught me a lot of those skillsets just because she was a natural at it and then I was exposed to it maybe more than I would have been otherwise. But I would say for anyone who wants to get better at that, it would be exposing yourself to different types of people. You know, and really developing that empathy, listening, learning how they think, what drives them, that sort of thing and just being thoughtful about it. You know, having it on the forefront of your mind whenever you’re doing anything and then after a while it will become more natural.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about your worst entrepreneurial moment to date, Stephen. I mean, law school doesn’t really train you to become an entrepreneur, so you’ve had your ups and downs within this. So, what specifically would you point to as your worst entrepreneurial moment to date? Take us there. Tell us that story.
Stephen Kane: I had a business called Home Fries a few years ago and I ran it for about three to four years. First of all, to set the stage, I was really stubborn about this business. I learned a lot about what NOT to do as an entrepreneur by running this business. Initially, what motivated me to start this business and it turned out to be an events and entertainment business and it was a lot of fun. We had big game-night parties where we would get board games and giant games, like giant Jenga and Super Nintendo and get 300 people in a room with drinks and food and all, playing games.
It was a lot of fun and we did also corporate events, you know, Google was a client. Zynga, McKenzie, different… Wilson Sonsini, all kinds of companies. We did fun tournaments… industry tournaments around ping pong, pool, and foosball for the startup industry in the Bay Area. It was kind of a cool thing but, initially, I wanted to solve the problem of making it easy for people to play pickup basketball, right, because I love basketball. I play a lot of basketball. A lot of times you either get too many people out to play or not enough people.
I wanted to make that more on demand, right, but I was stubborn in the sense that once I went in a wrong direction that I wasn’t passionate about, I stayed doing it too long. I realized that I was doing something that wasn’t scalable. I realized that my customer wanted things that were simpler than what I was providing and I was stubborn about providing what I thought was best. It was just the whole situation just wasn’t optimal, you know, and we had some success with it but I broke some cardinal rules.
No. 1, I wasn’t incredibly passionate about what I was doing. I liked what I was doing. I thought it was cool but I wasn’t driven to the point where I would exceed where I needed to exceed to make it into a much larger thing and No. 2, I was ignoring some of the problems and ignoring my customers and things like that. So, that’s sets the stage. One of our biggest clients at the time was Zynga and we would go and do teambuilding events around games for them, you know, and I made a huge mistake and it was that they asked us to do something that we weren’t ready to do.
I did it anyway. It was a terrible moment. I mean, they wanted us to plan a scavenger hunt and it sounds simple enough, you know. It really does. Even I, at the time, I underestimated –
Interviewer: It’s fun. You were like, that’s going to be so fun!
Stephen Kane: Yeah, it’s going to be fun. It sounds simple enough. You know, we haven’t done one before but why does that matter? How hard could it be? Right? Famous last words. Really, I bit off much more than I could chew and I decided to do it even though I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and I ultimately ruined their teambuilder. I mean, we made these rules for the scavenger hunt. I made it WAY too complicated. People were finding loopholes in the rules because we hadn’t done it before.
We hadn’t tested it out, right. Sort of the analogy is like building a product before actually testing it, before figuring out exactly what people want. People were finding loopholes in these scavenger hunt rules where you had to go to different parts of the city and they were taking cabs instead of running there, which they were supposed to do, which was an assumption. You know, all these things that were logistical nightmares. I had staff people on street corners to do riddles with the participants and it turned out they were on street corners that were too hot and too dangerous.
Then people were drinking way too much booze because we included booze as part of the obstacle courses and they were trashed and couldn’t even finish it. Then I was out of town and there was someone running it who didn’t know what I had planned. There were just way too many moving parts and so it sounds like a basic thing but it actually turned out to be really complicated and a total mistake and I just felt terrible. I mean, I ruined their experience. I basically lost all their business and they were our biggest customers. I had to give a refund. I just felt terrible about it, you know. It was not fun.
Interviewer: Now, Stephen, what’s the one lesson that you really want to make sure Fire Nation gets from that experience that you had. Like, how can we learn from your mistake?
Stephen Kane: You really have to be focused and disciplined. I mean, it just really is true. You’ve got to stick with what you know and do it really well. It’s better to turn down business than to do something you’re not great at and fail at it.
Interviewer: Stay in your lane, Fire Nation. There have been SO many small companies that have been destroyed because they tried to level up too quick. Now when I say stay in your lane, your lane by the way is hopefully like a funnel getting bigger and bigger and bigger and you’re growing and growing and growing but you can’t just hop, skip, and jump outside of that lane before you and your business are ready. Now, let’s do a little bit of a shift, Stephen. Let’s talk about one of your greatest ideas to date. I mean, maybe it’s ArbiClaims or maybe it’s something else.
Talk to us about one of those ideas that you had, that aha moment that just hit you and you said, yes, this could be it. What did that idea look like? Take us to the moment that it happened and then walk us through how you turned it into a success.
Stephen Kane: ArbiClaims is by far the best idea I’ve had on all fronts. It’s solving one of the biggest problems in the world, which is unresolved disputes. It has the potential to make major economic impact if we’re successful. It’s a great business. It’s a huge market. It’s totally scalable. There’s no question it’s the best idea I’ve had to date and the one I’m most motivated to succeed at. In terms of my aha moment, I would say it’s not necessarily tied to a specific idea but sort of a psychological shift and what I realized in doing that other business, Home Fries, that events and entertainment business, because I really wasn’t happy doing it. I thought that I would be happy if that business succeeded and, in reality, the only way I think you can be a successful entrepreneur and make things successful and succeed in your business is if you’re happy doing it. I was totally unhappy doing it and I had an aha moment where I’m like carting around these games, going to an event myself, it’s raining in San Francisco, pulling the games out in the rain, getting drenched, and just totally miserable in what I was doing. Now, if I were much more into the mission… if I saw much more upside… if I felt I was solving the kind of major impact big world problem I wanted to solve, I’d be delighted to get out in the rain, get muddy, do whatever. I mean, for ArbiClaims I would do whatever it took, but it was sort of that aha moment of you’ve really got to be working on what you believe in and that you’re only going to be successful if you’re happy doing it. That’s HOW you’re successful because you’re going to have terrible days. You’re going to hear no a ton, you’re going to get the door shut on you, and that’s the most empowering thing is that you’re believing in what you’re doing and then you’re motivated to do it well.
Interviewer: So, just like with the worst moment, what do you want to make sure our listeners get from that story? What’s that one takeaway?
Stephen Kane: You’ve got to be all in. You’ve got to TOTALLY believe in what you’re doing; otherwise, it’s not worth it.
Interviewer: Fast forward to today. Again, ArbiClaims is something you really believe it and you’re excited about. It initially could change the world. What has you most fired up about that specifically right now? If you can give real examples, that’s good.
Stephen Kane: Specifically, it’s helping people who are not being heard, right. We listen to people who aren’t being heard and who feel lost in the system. So, a lot of what we do is resolve disputes for sharing economy marketplaces where there’s dispute between one party on the platform on one end and the other party on the platform. So, Turo is a customer of ours, for example, and there is the – and it’s a pure car rental marketplace and it’s someone renting the car out and it’s someone who owns the car and when they have a dispute we step in and help resolve it because, you know, it saves Turo customer support time.
Our resolutions are binding and we’re set up to do it, right. A real-world example is we were talking to a customer of ours. It was actually a different marketplace who said I will always use this marketplace and feel comfortable using it because of ArbiClaims. She felt totally heard with us and she is from the Midwest. It was amazing. She said, “If I went to small claims court here where I’m from and I’m from a small town, I would not get a fair shake.” It was amazing to us that she felt we gave her a fair shake and that she felt heard and that the system worked for her through us.
And on top of that, it makes our marketplace, who is paying us to do this, thrilled because it’s like a warranty. It’s a protection for her to feel comfortable using the service.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, keep your eyes open. Keep your ears open. There are opportunities all around. I mean, Stephen went to law school. He did this. He did that. Then because of his life experiences that he’s had he saw this void that needed to be filled in this world and guess what? He stepped into that void and that stuff is out there so be excited about that and get excited about the lightning round that we’re going to come crash after we thank our sponsors. Stephen, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Stephen Kane: I’m ready.
Interviewer: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Stephen Kane: Fear of failure at first. So, after starting my first two companies, being afraid I wouldn’t succeed and then after that it was fear of success because I know the world changes once you’re successful and it gets more complicated. Then after that, it wasn’t having enough money in the bank to take the leap.
Interviewer: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Stephen Kane: Marry the right woman.
Interviewer: Was that from your dad?
Stephen Kane: Good question. It was from a judge who was a mentor to me. Those things in your personal life make a huge difference on your ability to be successful in business.
Interviewer: Huge! What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Stephen Kane: I force myself to take Saturdays off. Every Saturday I take off. I used to work seven days a week… not sustainable.
Interviewer: Do you play basketball?
Stephen Kane: I play basketball. I rest in the mornings. Saturday mornings are sacred. I watch movies. I do nothing.
Interviewer: Nice. You’ve got to recharge, Fire Nation. Share an internet resource, like Evernotes.
Stephen Kane: So, Upcounsel… counsel like lawyer… Upcounsel is an awesome resource with free legal forms, some of the best forms I’ve seen and you can find on-demand attorneys.
Interviewer: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Stephen Kane: Social Intelligence by Dan Goldman and because it will help you understand people and social dynamics so much better, what motivates your customers and business partners and employees.
Interviewer: Let’s end today On Fire with a parting piece of guidance… the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
Stephen Kane: All right. Well, I would say the parting piece of guidance – what we’ve learned over the past couple of years with ArbiClaims is be super picky about your investors and business partners. I mean, it really is marriage and it’s really important not to compromise on that and to bring people in that share the vision. You know, and build the – you know, because you’re going to war. This is hard, so bring people who are onboard with that. Then best way to connect with me is Twitter. So, either @stephenlkane… Stephen is with a ph. So, that’s @stephenlkane or @arbiclaims (A-R-B-I-C-L-A-I-M-S). Look forward to hearing from you all.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You have been hanging out with SK and JLD today, so keep up the HEAT and head over to eofire.com. Just type Stephen in the search bar and his show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz… timestamps, links galore. Stephen, thank you, brother, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Stephen Kane: All right. Thanks for having me. It was fun.
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