Jan-Eike Andresen was a lawyer in the Corporate team of our Munich office. He left the firm in 2015 to co-found legal-tech start up – myRight and subsequently, financialright. myRight enforces consumer claims against corporates and emerged into the spotlight as a result of its proceedings against VW in the “dieselgate” case, claiming about 1 billion Euro on behalf of 45,000 clients. B2B-Biz was formed in 2017, with financialright, focusing on cartel damages and securities and was involved successfully in a number of high profile cases. In 2018 myRight diversified again, building software for law firms and companies to facilitate legal mass actions, under LegalTech systems.
There are two industries which have not yet made their journey through digital transformation, according to Jan-Eike: legal and medicine. But digitalisation in both industries is about to really kick off. “Look at Kodak, the former camera empire, or the disappeared travel agencies. It is comforting to believe that the legal world is immune from the disruption and transformation that is taking place in other industries but it is simply not the case,” says Jan-Eike. Today, the transport industry is in transformation again with Waymo, the self-driving company, being already more valuable than VW and Mercedes combined. Jan-Eike believes that there is a lesson here for the legal profession in that we should question the unthinkable and be prepared for rapid change. “Starting a new company from scratch allows you to really focus on what matters: how do we turn legal from cost to profit? And how do we create customer experiences which are so remarkable that your customers love you? We are certainly not yet where we want to be. But starting your own business allows you to question what everyone else takes for granted. For me that is the greatest thing one can do, he says.”
“Starting a new company from scratch allows you to really focus on what matters: how do we turn legal from cost to profit? And how do we create customer experiences which are so remarkable that your customers love you?
Jan-Eike enjoys many of the aspects of running his own business including the ‘privilege’ to decide what he does, what to prioritize, where to focus. But that privilege comes at a cost. “As founders, we need to make tough decisions nearly every day and they frequently turn out to be wrong, we make a lot of mistakes. You need a certain strength and stability to survive this,” says Jan-Eike. Working at WFW was comparably relaxed, he thinks, because everything was solved in one or the other way. By comparison, from the outside a successful start-up looks somewhat magic. The reality is more mundane. “The truth is”, says Jan-Eike, ruefully, “the first thing you do in founding a company is buy toilet paper.”
“I am passionate about access to justice,” he says, “and that is what we do at myRight – ensure justice is done.”
Jan is a competitive person who pushes himself. “I love doing things no one ever did before or few have achieved. As a former world-champion sailor Jan-Eike participated in the then German America’s Cup Challenge. He compares that experience to founding myRight: achieving something only few dare to do and even fewer are successful at. “I am passionate about access to justice,” he says, “and that is what we do at myRight – ensure justice is done.” It was also the reason he became a lawyer even though engineering had been his initial career choice, his interest piqued by a school project on Africa on social freedom in oil-rich countries
Jan-Eike doesn’t break things down into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions, believing “there is not that ‘single point of failure’ and no match is won by a single genius action.” Rather, he thinks it is always the sum of things.
“Be challenged by the smartest people you can find. If they agree that what you plan to do is great, do it. Otherwise, go back and think again…”
His tips on how to be successful in business? “Be challenged by the smartest people you can find. If they agree that what you plan to do is great, do it. Otherwise, go back and think again. Repeat until you get clearance,” says Jan-Eike. “When you start doing average stuff, you will not create a great company. And yes, I do much average stuff…,” he concedes.
WFW was invaluable in Jan-Eike’s understanding of how large transactions work and how to execute them. He can’t stress this too much. “Because I learned how to execute, I was able to handle some really complex litigation financing arrangements for myRight and close them all internally. No other start-up could have done this,” he says. Importantly, too, he didn’t fear the prospect of handling high value transactions because it was just ‘daily stuff ‘at the firm.
Jan-Eike has great memories of the teams in Hamburg and Munich and “historic” travels to Norway with Maren Brandes’ team and late night beers near the river Elbe. “I feel indebted to Thomas Hollenhorst and Stefan Kilgus. They were patient and encouraging even though I frequently questioned things (as a ‘greenhorn’ first year associate) helping me to become a solid finance lawyer. I am sincerely grateful.” He views the firm as open-minded, personal but also ambitious.
Jan-Eike meets with former colleagues from time to time which is ‘always fun’ and values the opportunity to share business issues and obtain new perspectives on problems and also opportunities. For Jan-Eike, the best way to relax after a tough day is through the simple pleasure of watching the sun set on the water. “It doesn’t cost a penny and that’s relaxing in itself,” he says.