Meet Sandro Tuzzo, 43, CEO of Separate.us, which launched in September, 2015. Tuzzo is based in Oakland, Calif., and has been active in CodeX. He presented Separate.us at the June 25, 2015 CodeX meeting. Tuzzo is a divorce attorney, at Tuzzo Family Law & Mediation.
Education & degrees: University of California, Hastings College of the Law (J.D. 2000).University of California, Davis (B.A. 1995). Member of the California bar.
Is this your first start-up? Yes.
What problem does your startup solve? There is a tremendous lack of affordable legal help available to most people who are going through a divorce. Between 60 percent to 80 percent of those getting a divorce in California do not have an attorney officially involved in their case. I have seen this first hand in my 15 years of practicing family law and I know that there is a better way.
By combining technological tools along with access to limited legal consultation, more people will be able to afford enough help to get by. We are also developing a workflow that attorneys can use to help clients matriculate through their divorce case more efficiently. Primary audience is self-represented individuals and sole practitioners/small firms in family law. The entire offering is $999.
Is the service currently on the market? Yes, in California.
How did you come up with the name? Brainstorming.
Do you have any patents? No.
What inspired you to pursue this startup? For better or for worse, I’ve seen divorce from all sides (child of divorce, divorcee myself and a divorce attorney). I’m situated to see the problems within the industry. It’s such an inefficient process that inadvertently incentivizes conflict, that I simply had to do something in my career that would disrupt this for the better.
Do you have funding yet? We received $145,000 pre-seed from Rightside Capital and friends and family. We are now using Seedinvest to do a crowdfunded seed round, which is not live yet but already has more than $100,00 reserved.
What is your biggest challenge re: the start-up? Disabusing myself of my risk-averse legal training and experimenting with the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.
What do you need right now? In six months? In a year? In six months, I need to accelerate our marketing efforts. I have just been accepted to participate with the LexisNexis Accelerator. In one year, I need a robust attorney referral network.
What have you learned that you wish you knew five years ago? That professional investors would rather see “vanity metrics” than a fully functioning product.
What two people are/were your most important mentors? My first boss in the law, Chris Donnelly, for teaching me the importance of always having a plan with your case. My family and my dog, Blondy (a.k.a. Chicken Dog) by always reminding me to not take life so seriously.
Who most influenced you? My clients, by allowing me to see how people cope (and fail to cope) with traumatic transitions in their personal lives.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs? Pace yourself, it’s a slog.
What are you afraid of? Being too far ahead of my time.
What book changed your life? Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. It did a great job of articulating a stubborn adherence to an idealistic vision.
What are you most proud of? I’m proud of my stubborn insistence on fixing all things broken, whether it be things, systems, relationships, etc.
Where do you expect to be in 10 years? Doing something else disruptive.
What would be your dream career if you were not a lawyer and entrepreneur? Stand-up comedian/comedic actor.
What does your workspace look like? (Borrowed from Sam Gosling.) Lots of natural light and stand-up desks.
What’s your favorite vacation destination? Any shallow coral reef, because it’s other-worldly and utterly impossible to bring your real world problems with you there.
Favorite musician or group? Unfair question, there are too many great artists. I love EDM, classical and hip-hop.
Favorite food: Anything spicy.
Favorite quote? It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission.
What’s your mantra? Don’t believe everything that you think.
Who would you want sitting next to you if you got stuck for three hours on the tarmac in a 737? Barack Obama.
Monica Bay is a CodeX Fellow and a freelance journalist and analyst. She is a member of the California bar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MonicaBay.
Cover image: Clipart.com