Krista Andrews, CEO of PartUs, Simplifies the Work of Getting Divorced
Divorce is emotional, confusing, time-consuming, expensive, and above all else — stressful. While no one can wave a magic wand and make divorce easy, we can (and should!) be cost sensitive and efficient — harnessing technology and modern techniques to save our clients money and time. This interview is part of Divorceify’s Innovator Interviews, a series sharing the stories behind today’s most cutting edge tools and approaches to divorce.
Krista Andrews is a North Dakota based lawyer who got fed up with the paper-heavy divorce process and decided to do something about it. Today, Krista is not only a practicing divorce lawyer, but she is also the CEO PartUs — cloud-based software that streamlines the work of reaching a divorce settlement. Krista shares the story of how PartUs was born and how she juggles being a full-time divorce lawyer and the CEO of a startup.
What is innovative about PartUs?
PartUs is a cloud-based software that streamlines the divorce process by dramatically improving the eﬃiciency of creating and negotiating divorce agreements.
How does PartUs help divorce clients or divorce professionals?
PartUs has at least four key features that satisfy an unmet need:
- It provides a tool for clients, attorneys, judges, mediators, ﬁnancial professionals, etc. to all use and be “on the same page”;
- It speeds up the divorce process and creates huge eﬃciencies;
- It allows parties and attorneys to electronically negotiate cases and easily share information;
- It provides a history tracker of proposals.
What is a typical day like for you?
As a tech entrepreneur, you do it all. I’ve worked with my business partner in providing feedback and direction on the software, gathering data on what clients and attorneys want in the software, and what works and doesn’t work “in our world.” I’ve met with marketing companies, trained judges, lawyers, mediators and clients on the software, and tried to ﬁgure out how to post something on LinkedIn (I’m not “techie” by nature!) I’ve ordered vendor materials for conferences that we’ve attended and stuffed goodie bags for attendees. I don’t think there is a typical day as there are so many different things that always need to be done, which has certainly kept me challenged and forced me out of my comfort zone!
Why did you start your company?
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eliminate the diﬃcult emotions involved in divorces, but I’ve found that when I provide my clients with direction and identiﬁable tasks they are better equipped to proceed with their divorce and are empowered to make better decisions. I felt that an attorney’s role in a divorce was obviously very important, but that there were things that clients could do to more meaningfully participate in their divorce if the tools were available to them. I was also frustrated about having to take so much time building an asset and debt inventory or monthly budget when my clients were in a better position to do so (with my input and oversight). One of my other frustrations with the process was when I would attend mediation and often spend hours just trying to get on the same page with the opposing party with asset and debt inventories and substantiating those values. Everyone was frustrated with simply reconciling ﬁnancials before we even started digging into settlement!
What made you want to do things differently?
I wanted to make the process easier on people that already had enough things to worry about and deal with during an emotionally trying time in their lives.
How did you bring your idea to life?
My “techie friend” and co-founder, Tim Brookins, one day jokingly said that I should create a divorce app. My wheels started turning, and I began running the idea and the features I was considering including in the app by friends, colleagues, clients, judges – you name it. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so I continued to pursue the idea. With input and additional suggestions, I continued to “pivot” with my ideas for the app. A former client thought it was such a great idea that he invested $100,000. So, I contacted a local company to create “wireframes” (a black and white sketch of what the software would look like) for the app and obtain a cost estimate. The cost for the “MVP” or “Minimum Viable Product” was going to run around $500,000+ to build. (As a side note, I am NOT techie and I am risk-averse, so being a tech entrepreneur is a cruel fate for me!). I was down to about $90,000 in funds by this time, so I went back to my techie friend and asked him to review the bid, to determine if the costs were appropriate and whether I could somehow reduce the initial build to ﬁt into my budget. Tim reviewed the bid and asked to meet to review the MVP and bid. He thought that what I was intending to do with the software was a “game changer” and wanted to be involved in the process. Tim is a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, and a coding genius. Tim coded PartUs in a few short months, and we started trying out the software with my clients and local attorneys. Based not their input and suggestions for new features, we again continued to work out any minor bugs that we encountered and add features that our users thought would be valuable.
How long did it take you to bring your idea to life?
Within the span of about a year, we went from the initial idea for the app to a product that was gaining users rapidly. After the software was functional and we continued to add features, we worked with a company to develop the name, logo, messaging, color palette, etc. Being a tech entrepreneur is not an easy job and there are many bumps along the way. The stars have been aligning for us in many ways though, so when many start-ups end up giving up, we’ve been fortunate to be able to continue growing. I feel strongly that PartUs makes the divorce process easier for everyone involved and takes a good chunk of the stress and pain points out of the divorces, so we are going to keep going until we can’t!
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Getting attorneys to try a product can be diﬃcult as they are busy and sometimes used to doing things the way they have for years. And just getting the product “out there” is diﬃcult unless you have unlimited funds for advertising, which most start-ups don’t.
What has been rewarding about bringing your idea to life?
When clients, attorneys, mediators, etc. send you a note or tell you, “I LOVE PartUs”, and give wonderful feedback and stories about how it made the process easier for them. It is also rewarding when they get excited about PartUs and send us ideas for features they would like to see added!
Do you have any advice for others that have an idea for an innovative product or approach, but don’t know where to start?
Find someone who has been through the process just to pick their brain and get some initial ideas and direction. I’ve been fascinated too, about how I ﬁnd out different great ideas just talking to folks from all walks of life.
Who is your role model or inspiration?
My daughter and husband. They are so excited about PartUs, and always very supportive. My husband is also an attorney, focusing on general litigation, and his feedback has been invaluable.
How do you bring joy into your workday?
By bringing joy and peace to others.
If you could reinvent your career and do something totally different, what would it be?
Oooh – I love this question and always ask people this too. (Except I say they don’t have to worry about how realistic it is, or how ﬁnancially secure the job is!). So with that small twist: I would be a dolphin trainer, professional traveler, princess, or professional colorer. (Not sure sometimes how I ended up an attorney and tech entrepreneur with that list!)
Do you have a mantra or piece of advice you have received that helps you get through diﬃcult times?
What doesn’t break you makes you stronger, and everything happens for a reason!
Can I admit here that I don’t listen to podcasts? Remember, I’m not techie so I play tennis or stitch in my free time!
I’m reading “Ms. Kennedy and Me” right now, by North Dakota native and former secret service agent Clint Hill. It’s a wonderful book.