Boulder startup Congo raises seed funding, shifts model

BOULDER — Congo Ltd., a Boulder startup that connects people with attorneys on demand, has a new boost of funding and a new model as the company looks to expand its platform across Colorado.

Congo’s founders, a group of former University of Colorado students, said Monday that they’ve just closed on a $250,000 seed round of funding from an undisclosed investor whose portfolio includes startups such asConspire, Tred and ScriptPad.

The funding will be used to help Congo expand beyond Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver into the rest of the state.

Congo provides an online platform for individuals seeking legal advice to schedule time with an attorney and connect via video chat. Attorneys pay Congo a monthly subscription fee to list their services and appointment schedules on the site. Users, meanwhile, can use the site for free and pay attorneys directly for their services.

The model is a shift from Congo’s previous iteration, which included Congo collecting a 10 percent fee on attorneys’ revenue generated from the site. While attorneys liked the match-making ability of the site, co-founder Willy Ogorzaly said, many were hesitant to take part in the fee-splitting structure due to ethical red flags it raised for them related to paying for referrals.

Ogorzaly declined to disclose revenue for Congo so far. But he said enough attorneys have signed up to validate the model to investors. To grow its base of attorneys in conjunction with the statewide launch, Congo is now offering three-month free trials to attorneys.

“Now that we are funded, we’re more focused on building up our database of attorneys … so our clients have” more choices, Ogorzaly said.

Ogorzaly said Congo – which is based at Galvanize in Boulder and has six employees — wouldn’t likely do much hiring until after its next funding round, which the company plans to raise sometime over the next nine months.

Congo has now raised close to $350,000 to date, including some friends and family contributions prior to the seed round. That doesn’t count about $21,000 won at various startup competitions. However, the company’s biggest boost in notoriety — and perhaps credibility with investors — could come next spring.

Congo is one of 10 semifinalists in IBM’s SmartCamp global entrepreneur competition. Three finalists will be selected to pitch at Launch Festival next spring in San Francisco, with the winner being crowned IBM’s global entrepreneur of the year.

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