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“机器人律师”融资千万美元,主营业务是帮助追回退款

“机器人律师”融资千万美元,主营业务是帮助追回退款

Lucinda Shen 2020年06月30日
这家初创公司可以帮助消费者剖析晦涩的法律文书,获得取消航班的退款,或者取消健身房的会员。

DoNotPay支持消费者对航空公司以代金券代替退换现金的做法提出质疑。图片来源:DoNotPay

由于居家隔离令,消费者的手中积攒了大量用不上的健身房会员、演唱会门票和航班登机牌。但要退钱却非常麻烦。

“机器人律师”DoNotPay的CEO兼创始人约书亚•布罗德表示,这些客户服务纠纷和噩梦般的法律文书要求,促进了公司的增长,并带来了额外的资金。布罗德19岁的时候在斯坦福大学创建了该公司,当时他希望找到一种更好的方式抗诉违规停车罚单。

这家初创公司的每月订阅费为3美元,可以帮助消费者剖析晦涩的法律文书,获得取消航班的退款,或者取消在附近的健身房的会员。DoNotPay业务的核心是利用机器人程序代表消费者向公司或政府部门发送电子邮件和信件,因此其业务可以涵盖数据隐私、机器人电话甚至医疗账单等领域。布罗德说,公司的订阅用户从新冠疫情之前的1万至2万人,增长了数倍达到超过5万人。

随着用户的增长,以Coatue Management领投的投资者通过Zoom,在两周内完成了对该公司的1,200万美元A轮融资。安德森•霍洛维茨、Founders Fund、Felicis Ventures和Day One Ventures等其他投资者也参与了投资。此轮融资对该初创公司的估值约为8,000万美元。

他说:“我想所有人都面临着困境,尤其是一些大公司把它们的困难转嫁给到消费者身上。航空公司为了避免破产而拒绝退款。但消费者比这些公司更需要这笔钱。有一些业务,比如健身房会员退费业务,[在疫情期间]增加了30倍。”

消费者知道自己享有的合法权利(通常很少)和公司告诉他们的权利(甚至更少)之间是脱节的,而这正是DoNotPay的赢利点。例如,有乘客先前投诉说,疫情导致航班无限期停飞后,他们没有收到全额退款,只是收到了一些代金券。但按照美国运输部的规定,即使出现航班延误的情况下,对于不可退票的机票,航空公司也必须退款。DoNotPay引用这些规定,直接通过机器人程序向航空公司发信息,要求全额退款。

有些州禁止房东收取逾期费和驱赶租户,因此DoNotPay也提供了这方面的业务,会根据相关法律和行政命令向房东施压,要求推迟付款。对于健身房的会员,众所周知,健身俱乐部会想方设法阻挠消费者取消会员,而且如今许多俱乐部都面临破产。多数俱乐部要求提供取消会员的书面信函,DoNotPay会使用机器人程序自动完成该程序,向俱乐部的法务部门直接发送一封信函。

最后的手段

在新冠疫情的影响下,DoNotPay在应用程序中还增加了另外一项功能:信用卡和借记卡退单。

这项业务尤其涉及到被取消的大部分现场活动。有消费者报告称他们很难从Ticketmaster或StubHub等票务公司获得退款。所以DoNotPay另辟蹊径:布罗德说虽然在这种情况下,政府法律可能不会保护消费者,但当某项服务没有提供的时候,借记卡和信用卡公司的组织章程对消费者则更友好一些。

受到这些投诉的启发,DoNotPay表示,如果一家公司拒绝同意消费者通过客户服务渠道提出的初始申请,该公司可以与Visa或美国运通(American Express)等信用卡公司联系,阻止不正常收费。布罗德说,DoNotPay还可以向小额索赔法院起诉,这是最后的手段。

该公司的投资者认为DoNotPay的增长不会是昙花一现。

马特•马泽奥是领投DoNotPay融资的Coatue公司的合伙人。他在一份声明中表示:“在正常时期,该公司在应对机器人电话和取消免费试用方面表现良好。从3月以来,公司的业务重点转向了退款和客户服务。世界上肯定始终有消费者问题需要DoNotPay来解决。”

未来的发展方向

在被问到公司的盈利能力时,布罗德说公司之前已经实现了收支平衡,但获得新一轮融资后,公司重新进入了研发阶段。他说:“未来,我们将尽量每三周发布一款产品。我们会努力以比当前更快的速度向前进。”

该公司的新产品包括其他与消费者有关的法律产品,例如支持业主重新谈判财产税的产品。由于新冠疫情导致部分地区的房屋贬值,这个问题显得尤其突出。

布罗德说:“我们发现,这些问题有着相同的症结。所以,无论是摆脱违规停车罚单还是取消健身房的会员,这都不重要,因为只要DoNotPay能够生成适当的信函,任何问题就都可以迎刃而解。”(财富中文网)

译者:Biz

由于居家隔离令,消费者的手中积攒了大量用不上的健身房会员、演唱会门票和航班登机牌。但要退钱却非常麻烦。

“机器人律师”DoNotPay的CEO兼创始人约书亚•布罗德表示,这些客户服务纠纷和噩梦般的法律文书要求,促进了公司的增长,并带来了额外的资金。布罗德19岁的时候在斯坦福大学创建了该公司,当时他希望找到一种更好的方式抗诉违规停车罚单。

这家初创公司的每月订阅费为3美元,可以帮助消费者剖析晦涩的法律文书,获得取消航班的退款,或者取消在附近的健身房的会员。DoNotPay业务的核心是利用机器人程序代表消费者向公司或政府部门发送电子邮件和信件,因此其业务可以涵盖数据隐私、机器人电话甚至医疗账单等领域。布罗德说,公司的订阅用户从新冠疫情之前的1万至2万人,增长了数倍达到超过5万人。

随着用户的增长,以Coatue Management领投的投资者通过Zoom,在两周内完成了对该公司的1,200万美元A轮融资。安德森•霍洛维茨、Founders Fund、Felicis Ventures和Day One Ventures等其他投资者也参与了投资。此轮融资对该初创公司的估值约为8,000万美元。

他说:“我想所有人都面临着困境,尤其是一些大公司把它们的困难转嫁给到消费者身上。航空公司为了避免破产而拒绝退款。但消费者比这些公司更需要这笔钱。有一些业务,比如健身房会员退费业务,[在疫情期间]增加了30倍。”

消费者知道自己享有的合法权利(通常很少)和公司告诉他们的权利(甚至更少)之间是脱节的,而这正是DoNotPay的赢利点。例如,有乘客先前投诉说,疫情导致航班无限期停飞后,他们没有收到全额退款,只是收到了一些代金券。但按照美国运输部的规定,即使出现航班延误的情况下,对于不可退票的机票,航空公司也必须退款。DoNotPay引用这些规定,直接通过机器人程序向航空公司发信息,要求全额退款。

有些州禁止房东收取逾期费和驱赶租户,因此DoNotPay也提供了这方面的业务,会根据相关法律和行政命令向房东施压,要求推迟付款。对于健身房的会员,众所周知,健身俱乐部会想方设法阻挠消费者取消会员,而且如今许多俱乐部都面临破产。多数俱乐部要求提供取消会员的书面信函,DoNotPay会使用机器人程序自动完成该程序,向俱乐部的法务部门直接发送一封信函。

最后的手段

在新冠疫情的影响下,DoNotPay在应用程序中还增加了另外一项功能:信用卡和借记卡退单。

这项业务尤其涉及到被取消的大部分现场活动。有消费者报告称他们很难从Ticketmaster或StubHub等票务公司获得退款。所以DoNotPay另辟蹊径:布罗德说虽然在这种情况下,政府法律可能不会保护消费者,但当某项服务没有提供的时候,借记卡和信用卡公司的组织章程对消费者则更友好一些。

受到这些投诉的启发,DoNotPay表示,如果一家公司拒绝同意消费者通过客户服务渠道提出的初始申请,该公司可以与Visa或美国运通(American Express)等信用卡公司联系,阻止不正常收费。布罗德说,DoNotPay还可以向小额索赔法院起诉,这是最后的手段。

该公司的投资者认为DoNotPay的增长不会是昙花一现。

马特•马泽奥是领投DoNotPay融资的Coatue公司的合伙人。他在一份声明中表示:“在正常时期,该公司在应对机器人电话和取消免费试用方面表现良好。从3月以来,公司的业务重点转向了退款和客户服务。世界上肯定始终有消费者问题需要DoNotPay来解决。”

未来的发展方向

在被问到公司的盈利能力时,布罗德说公司之前已经实现了收支平衡,但获得新一轮融资后,公司重新进入了研发阶段。他说:“未来,我们将尽量每三周发布一款产品。我们会努力以比当前更快的速度向前进。”

该公司的新产品包括其他与消费者有关的法律产品,例如支持业主重新谈判财产税的产品。由于新冠疫情导致部分地区的房屋贬值,这个问题显得尤其突出。

布罗德说:“我们发现,这些问题有着相同的症结。所以,无论是摆脱违规停车罚单还是取消健身房的会员,这都不重要,因为只要DoNotPay能够生成适当的信函,任何问题就都可以迎刃而解。”(财富中文网)

译者:Biz

Stay-at-home orders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has left consumers with a flurry of unwanted gym memberships, concert tickets, and airline boarding passes. But getting any money back has been a headache.

Those customer service hassles and legal paperwork nightmares have translated into growth and additional funding for “robot lawyer” DoNotPay, says CEO and founder Joshua Browder, who started the company as a 19-year-old at Stanford University seeking a better way to fight parking tickets.

The startup, which charges $3 a month for a subscription, helps consumers parse through legalese to win refunds for canceled flights or to break up with their nearest sports club. At its core, DoNotPay uses bots to send emails and letters to companies or government bureaus on behalf of the consumer, allowing it to expand into data privacy, robocallers, and even medical bills. The company has seen its user base surge several times over, from 10,000 to 20,000 subscribers before the coronavirus to over 50,000, says Browder.

Seeing its growth, investors led by Coatue Management closed on a $12 million Series A round in a mere two weeks over Zoom. Other investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Felicis Ventures, and Day One Ventures also participated, valuing the startup at about $80 million.

“I think everyone is struggling, especially some of these big companies are passing on their struggle to consumers. Airlines are not giving refunds to avoid bankruptcy,” he says. “But consumers need the money more than even the companies. Some of these categories, like gym cancellations, were up 30 times [during the pandemic].”

DoNotPay arbitrages the disconnect between what consumers know about their legal rights (often very little), and what companies tell them (sometimes even less). One example: Airline travelers complained early on about receiving vouchers instead of full refunds when the pandemic grounded flights indefinitely. But citing rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation that requires airlines to issue refunds on nonrefundable fares, even in the event of a delay, DoNotPay sends messages via bots directly to the airline calling for full repayments.

As some states prevented landlords from collecting late fees and from evicting tenants, DoNotPay has also jumped in, pressuring landlords with the relevant laws and executive orders to defer payments. In the case of gym memberships, sports clubs are somewhat notorious for making canceling difficult—and now some are facing bankruptcy. Most clubs require a printed letter of cancellation, which DoNotPay handles by sending one straight to the club’s legal department using bots to automate the process.

Backstop

Fallout from the coronavirus also led DoNotPay to add another feature to its app: credit and debit card chargebacks.

That's been especially relevant as most live events have been canceled, leading to reports of consumers struggling to get refunds from ticketing companies like Ticketmaster or StubHub. So DoNotPay sought a different path: While government laws may not protect consumers in this case, says Browder, debit and credit card company bylaws are far friendlier if a service is not delivered.

Inspired by those complaints, DoNotPay says it is now able to try to stop unwarranted charges by linking up with, say, a Visa or American Express if a company refuses to comply with initial requests through the customer service channels. As a final resort, DoNotPay will go to small-claims court, says Browder.

Its investors are betting DoNotPay's growth is no temporary boost.

"In good times, the company was doing well fighting robocallers and canceling free trials," says Matt Mazzeo, the partner at Coatue who led the DoNotPay investment, said in a statement. "Since March, they have been focused on refunds and customer service. There will always be consumer problems in the world for DoNotPay to solve."

Next steps

When asked about profitability, Browder said the company was previously at breakeven but reentered the research and development phase with the new round of funding. "Going forward," he says, "we're trying to release a product every three weeks, and we're trying to go faster than we were going up until now."

That includes a raft of other consumer-related legal products, including one that allows homeowners to renegotiate their property taxes, an issue particularly relevant as the coronavirus tanks home values in some areas.

"What we've discovered is all of these issues share the same infrastructure," says Browder. "So it doesn't really matter if it's a matter of getting you out of a parking ticket or gym membership, as long as DoNotPay is good at generating the correct letter, it can solve the whole fleet of problems."

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