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Justice Is Not A Spectator Sport

Yet when was the last time you did anything based on principle?

Justice is not a spectator sport. Yet, like baseball, there are far more spectators than players. Why?

I don't think justice requires some special talent that only few people have. Nor do I think people generally disagree how the game should be played--or that is should be played at all--we all agree that someone must to do it. Why not you?

It's because most people think about money and law the wrong way.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis, is a fantastic book about Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland A's, one of the poorest teams in baseball, who figured out how to win way more games than anyone imagined they could. Why weren't people expecting much from Beane's A's? Because the A's had the second lowest budget in the league. They were competing against organizations with much deeper pockets who quite simply could spend way more money to win.

(Sort of like consumers vis-a-vis big companies. But I'll get to that part later.)

Beane knew that, to win, he had to figure out a way to compete that didn't require him to get into a spending match with his opponents. He devised a system of statistical analysis for figuring out which "low-value" players were actually undervalued and then snatched them up for cheap.

His value equation was different than everyone else's because he was looking at stats no one else cared about. For example, he figured out that on-base percentage tightly correlated with winning percentage. No one else had made this connection. Instead of paying premiums for traditionally key stats like batting average, Beane was writing small checks for obscure stats that the market had not yet figured out mattered.

As a result, the A's made it to the playoffs with basically no notable players, won as many games as the Yankees, and spent about $240K per win versus $1.4M for the Yankees.

The theme here is not constrained to baseball. It applies to any competition, be it sport, business, or the pursuit of justice. Look at the data in a different way. Find something that no one else sees. Find a huge inefficiency, and capitalize on it.

The A's wanted to win. But they had one-sixth the budget as the league leaders. Beane's method turned out to be brilliant. But what I'm interested in is the spark that inspired it. I think that spark was necessity. Beane didn't just want to win. He needed to. Because winning was that important to him.

That's precisely how I felt years ago when I sat down and made a quick list of all of the times I could remember getting screwed by a sample of companies I had done business with. The list was not insanely long, but because I knew the list was hardly complete, the list was long enough to get me fired up.

What I was looking at was my own historical account of injustice as a consumer. Each item on my list represented a past moment of frustration in which I felt strongly that I was entitled to some fair resolution that the given company refused to give. In knew that if I stood up from that table and forgot about it--if I failed to do anything about it--that my list inevitably grow longer each year. This was a huge consumer problem, and because I was part of that group, this was my huge problem.

Of course, the principle-ist in me might have gotten heated at the unfairness alone. But the part that really pushed me over the edge was the second column on my list, the dollars that all of these unfair outcomes had cost me. It was more than some people spend on college!

So I started thinking about how to solve this, at first not even thinking about consumers at large. My initial focus was solving this for myself. The core problem I knew I had to attack was the money question, of which there were three parts:

  1. Is the amount of money at stake in a given consumer dispute worth the minimum expense of pursuing whatever legal claim I might be entitled to?
  2. Can I even afford to fight this fight at all, even if there were no consideration of having to outspend an opponent company?
  3. How could I possibly compete against massive companies with massive budgets as single consumer with only two pockets and one wallet?

Put another way, what dispute resolutions actions that are available to me as a consumer am I currently undervaluing? The answer turned to be simple. But arriving at it was not. It took me three years of playing in the dispute resolution sandbox, and about fifteen thousand consumer disputes, to figure out what the inefficiency was that I could exploit--by then, not just as an individual, but as an entrepreneur trying to solve this problem for all consumers.

It turns out, for consumers with a legitimate beef against a company, there is near-perfect correlation between the simple act of clearly stating a legal demand and winning. That's the undervalued action part, since most consumers don't do this. 

But solving the inefficiency part is how we turned this into a massive advantage for all consumers, rather than just the few consumers with time and sophistication enough to write and make proper legal demands. We built automation technology that makes it so efficient for any consumer to make a proper legal demand to any company for any reason, that all you have to do is pull your phone out of your pocket and push a button. That was the moment we knew Veeto was going to make a huge dent in the universe: when we realized that consumers need not spectate denial of justice in their own daily disputes. Think of this as our "Moneylaw" moment.

Back to my three formative questions...

We've built Veeto to completely eliminate the "is this really worth it?" question, "this" being justice. That means whether the amount of money at stake in a given dispute is one dollar or one thousand, using Veeto to get what you deserve always makes economic sense. That solves number one.

Veeto takes all of the good intentions of the class-action lawsuit model--which has basically failed as a a consumer tool, by the way--and actually makes it work for consumers. In other words, we bring consumers together with other consumers who share the same dispute against the same company, which allows us all to pool resources to fight an offending company. But as a Veeto user, you basically will never notice any of this, because, again, we've automated the whole thing. You just need something newer than a flip phone and something finger-like with which to push a button. That solves number two.

Rather than go into detail of how we've solved number three, I will just give you some data points. Look at how often we win--so far, it has been 100% of the time, and as I said before, that was with about fifteen beta users. So although we might expect that win rate to fall below 100% as we scale, we still expect it to remain compellingly high relative to what you probably thought was even possible. The other data point is market share. The team behind Veeto is responsible for 42% of all consumer arbitrations in the US in which $2,500 or less is in dispute. That's across all verticals and use-cases, and each one of those ended in a win for us and our users. So that should settle question number three.

Veeto is still small. We have a core base of loyal users who share a common set of values about things like justice and fairness. But we're growing, which means more consumers are finding in Veeto an effective way to get off the sidelines and stand up for what they think is right--to get what they know they deserve. 

When was the last time you stood up for yourself? Although most Veeto users would answer this questions in numbers of days, I suspect many people reading this would have to resort to units of years and maybe even decades. You used to have an excuse. But now, with Veeto, you don't.