Robbie Friedman and David Schottenstein – Founders of Viewabill system

[quote style=”boxed”]Be persistent and don’t let “No” or “Not interested” dampen your enthusiasm. Keep pounding away.[/quote]

After graduating from University of Michigan Law School, Robbie Friedman went to NYC where he launched his legal career at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. He then served as General Counsel for Astor & Black, managing corporate and private equity matters and external attorneys.

At the age of 21, David Schottenstein founded Astor & Black, which quickly became the fastest growing custom clothing company in the US. In 2009, he was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year; 2010, Inc.’s 30 Under 30; and in 2011, Mr. Schottenstein sold a majority stake in Astor & Black to a private equity group.

What are you working on right now?

Robbie & David: At the moment, we are working to integrate and acquire new firms and customers into the Viewabill system. While we are currently focusing on the legal industry, we continue to build a presence within the accounting, consulting and other hourly billing industries.

Where did the idea for Viewabill come from?

Robbie & David: In 2011, David, founder of the custom-clothing company Astor & Black, fired his third law firm in five months over billing disputes. David then hired his old friend, Robbie, a New York City corporate attorney. Together, recognizing a serious problem, we came up with a solution to fix the lawyer-client relationship: we made it transparent and created Viewabill.

Working alongside co-founder Alan Dershowitz – attorney, legal scholar and first-time entrepreneur – we built a team that combines our entrepreneurial spirit with Alan’s industry knowledge and know-how.

How do you make money?

Robbie & David: Anyone with hourly billing practices who wants to use Viewabill can either pay $20 to $40 per matter per year, or they can pay $20,000 to $40,000 for unlimited use, depending on the size of the firm.

What does your typical day look like?

David: I wake up at 6 a.m., take care of emails while having coffee, then I put on Tefillin and pray. I spend the rest of my day communicating with potential law firms and clients about Viewabill. That is literally how I spend the majority of my day. Nonstop.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Robbie: It starts with a pencil and paper. Writing an idea or sketching a thought solidifies things for me. For better or worse. But it’s also an important step for collaborating with our team, who ultimately bring the ideas to life.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Robbie: Flat design. It’s honest, clean and simple. At the same time, it’s very nuanced and difficult to get “right.” There’s nothing more inspiring to me than really good flat design. It’s definitely a trend, but I’m willing to enjoy it while it’s here.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

David: When I was sixteen, I was a counselor at a religious overnight camp. I hated the experience. I was miserable the entire time. Being surrounded by rambunctious boys, I quickly learned how quickly and important the balance of patience is to successfully lead a group of people.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Robbie: I’d be more selective when choosing vendors. In the past, there have been some who seemed to be very impressive and turned out to be disastrous. I’d take it a bit slower and try to get it right the first time. Thankfully, we worked out the kinks and are working with great people now.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

David: Be persistent and don’t let “No” or “Not interested” dampen your enthusiasm. Keep pounding away.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

David: I wouldn’t say failure, I’d say hurdle. My major hurdle is that I am easily distracted and slightly impulsive. I’ve overcome it by surrounding myself with people that help keep me focused and grounded.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Robbie: Multi-stage brake lights that get brighter (or change colors) the harder a driver is braking. I thought of this when I was ten, but I think a major car company is in the process of stealing the idea.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

David: I would make cell phone use, computer use and anything work related that takes place on Saturdays and Sundays illegal. Literally, illegal. With this enacted, everyone would be forced to not work on the weekends and I could finally relax knowing that we are all in the same boat. I have no idea how I would make this happen but it is what I’d love to change. At least keeping the Sabbath on Saturday helps.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Robbie: Balsamiq – It allows someone with minimal technical abilities to create mockups and wireframes that look pretty good. It’s great for those times when I have an idea and everyone else is sleeping. GoToMeeting – We do demos and conference calls constantly and having the ability to run that meeting from anywhere and access the visuals on my phone has been crucial. Creative Cloud – The convenience of being able to work on designs online as a team, maintain access to those files from anywhere and not have to worry about which computer I am carrying around means there’s a few less things I have to worry about.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Robbie: My favorite book of all time is Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Sometimes I find it helpful to read something completely unrelated to anything I’m doing. It reminds me that I’m a person in this world and not just an entrepreneur.
I’d also recommend The Power of Patience by M.J. Ryan. Patience is one thing I learned as an attorney. While it’s difficult to remain disciplined at times, I’ve never been sorry when we make calculated decisions. Knowing that David is so impulsive serves as a good counterbalance.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Robbie: I’m not sure if I’m proud or embarrassed about this, but I’ve never used Twitter. I don’t understand it and, by this point, I guess I’m just waiting for the next thing. I can’t join now — I’ll have no friends.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

David: Last night. My daughter told me she made a “Callipitar” at school instead of saying Caterpillar and I thought that was super funny.

Who is your hero, and why?

David: The Lubavitcher Rebbe. He came to the USA right after the Holocaust and single handedly rebuilt the Jewish community, not just in the USA but worldwide. Across the globe he has spread a message of love and a message of embracing your heritage and being proud of who you are. His emissaries can be found literally everywhere.

What is the most distracting aspect of your day-to-day?

Emails. Ensuring that the tone of your email is accurate, the directions are clear and that the point comes across as intended is almost never quicker than a phone call. A quick email typically just leads to more emails seeking clarification and before I know it, I’ve spent an entire day emailing about emails.

What do you do in your free time?

I try to spend all of my spare time with my wife and children. We love to travel and I prepare hour-by-hour itineraries so we max out each day and everyone loves it.


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David Schottenstein on Twitter: @dschottCEO