From Foursquare to Shake: Furst Helps Legal Startup Drum Up Business

1/27/14Follow @jpruth

With a new hire that speaks to its lofty aspirations, New York startup Shake has nabbed an executive from Foursquare.

This month Jake Furst became vice president of business development at Shake, the developer of a mobile app for creating concise legal documents. Drafting someone from a higher profile company to work at a fledgling startup can put a lot more scrutiny on its next moves.

Shake’s app is used to make straightforward legal contracts as alternatives to handshakes and other casually made agreements. The startup believes small businesses and freelancers often skip formal contracts to avoid hassles such as hiring attorneys. Whether it is for a one-time assignment or a business arrangement that seems simple, some transactions just never get put into writing. (And everyone honors a “gentleman’s agreement”—right? Wrong.)

Bringing Furst on board is Shake’s way of saying it thinks its app can take off. But that will take more than merely identifying a market to serve, of course.

Furst was director of strategic partnerships at Foursquare from 2010 until his departure earlier this month. Though he speaks fondly of his time at Foursquare, Furst says he wanted to get back to the early days of building a business. When he joined Foursquare, he says, the company was at a somewhat similar stage to Shake. “We were just starting to grow from a startup to a real, scaling company,” he says.

At Shake, Furst says, he is drawing upon his experience at Foursquare working with small businesses, who mainly want life to be less complicated. Users of Shake just have to answer some questions in the app about the proposed agreement, and then the software puts the document together, he says. Signing can be done in-person or through e-mail.

The Shake app

The Shake app.

The app is not just for traditional business dealings. Furst believes there is potential for Shake to get woven into the so-called sharing economy. “If you look at what Airbnb has done, turning a home into a revenue source, that is a sensitive transaction,” he says.

In that case, rental contracts are handled between the private parties, not Airbnb. Speaking from experience, Furst says that can mean dealing with lengthy documents even for a one-night stay. “I understand the reason,” he says. “They want to have some security that everything is going to be safe.” That type of scenario could be a fit for Shake, Furst says, simplifying the arrangement between the host and the renter.

Founded in 2012 by CEO Abe Geiger, Shake is backed by RRE Ventures, BoxGroup, ENIAC Ventures, and others. Furst says the company hopes to see its app used for a wide range of purposes, from creating confidentiality agreements for meetings to sorting out terms when two friends draft a business idea on a napkin in a bar. “These shouldn’t be complicated,” he says. “A lot of times the agreements get complicated when parties are trying to potentially slip something by someone else.”

To be clear, Shake is not trying to replace the legal wrangling involved in complicated billion-dollar transactions. Deals among Fortune 500 companies may require intricate terms, Furst says. But if the founder of a tiny startup wants to contract a freelance designer to work on part of a webpage, Shake might be a fast way to put that contract together.

“For situations like that, there is a real clear benefit to both parties to having an agreement in place rather than a handshake,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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  • Awa Bolden

    What a great invention and a great Vice President of business dev. to go without it. I have known Mr. Furst for over 17 years and am confident that he will give it his ALL to make sure that this project becomes a success story. Bon courage!!! It is an app I look forward to using.

    Awa Bolden