Jeffrey EschbachCo-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Page Vault
“…you have to go out and engage clients over and over and over. Don’t build what you think they want; always go out and test and validate it.”
Jeffrey Eschbach’s Page Vault is the go-to middleman for the twenty-first century lawyer. The Kellogg graduate’s web archiving software allows lawyers to capture and store digital evidence through a trusted third-party, so that facts stay straight in the constantly changing online sphere.
Originally from an engineering background, Eschbach became involved with first-generation product development in the Motorola Research Labs. His experiences with technological innovation inspired him to move beyond creating new products to creating new businesses.
“So because I was an engineer, I loved technology, I got to see what it was like to create something—it really was a great intro for me to go into entrepreneurship. I was just moving from creating tech ideas and tech products into creating tech business.”
The Farley Center helped Eschbach navigate the early stages of his startup. “Initially, Mike [Marasco] did an independent study with me to evaluate Page Vault, looking at different markets,” he said. “He was very influential in analyzing tech architecture, and thinking of the best way to implement it for a startup. In general, between the Farley Center and other schools at Northwestern, we had good tie-ins with the law school, since it was a legal startup. And, we had good tie-ins with Kellogg for some of the business resources.”
Since the launch of Page Vault, the software has been making web captures easy for the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, Saper Law Offices (intellectual property, media and entertainment law), Richard Kling (criminal law), and more.
About three years ago, I was talking to some friends who were actually in academia and they were doing their dissertations and content on the Web changed on them, and they realized they had no way to prove that the Web page said something different just yesterday. So as a tech idea for that, the ability to easily capture a web page in a way that’s very prove-able, to say that the content really didn’t look that way. But honestly there wasn’t a huge market in academia, so I took some time to look at other markets such as law enforcement and journalism. We came across the legal space and it was a fantastic fit. So we had the tech idea first and then it was the process of taking a look at the markets and seeing if something really made sense, and the legal space was a good fit for us.
What’s been your biggest lesson in entrepreneurship so far?
I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that all the things you’ve learned in entrepreneurship at Northwestern are actually true. And, avoiding cutting corners is important. One of the things they drilled into our heads is the need to get out of the building, and you have to go out and engage clients over and over and over. Don’t build what you think they want; always go out and test and validate it. Every time I go out and do that I’m grateful that I’ve gotten real market feedback and we know what our clients actually want. But the entire process from ideation to getting product-market fit down, to preparing all the different aspects of a business-model canvas, all the things we learned are very applicable. So the best thing I could say is talking to those who have done it before and heeding their lessons has been the most important for us.
Where do you see Page Vault progressing in the future?
Right now we’ve had fantastic traction. We’ve gotten a large number of client accounts that are paid subscriptions. We have a good team of over 10 people, and we’re continuing to grow at a good pace. So I think in the future it’s going to be expanding our current product and getting even more clients on board. We have some very interesting tech innovations coming up to make web page captures even easier and be able to do them in larger quantities—and also enable a bunch of different markets. Right now we focus on lawyers, but there’s also potential in finance and defense. We’ll continue to build the product so we can get more clients in our current market and also expand into new markets.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.