Sarabeth Jaffe of Edmonds is riding high with her 2.5-year-old business HelloPrenup.
Recently featured in Forbes magazine’s “30 Seattle innovators under 30” list of innovative young entrepreneurs, Jaffe is filling the previously unmet need of couples contemplating marriage with a fast, easy, affordable alternative to the traditional prenuptial agreement process.
“The idea came to me when I became engaged,” she explained. “It was the middle of the pandemic, my fiancé and I had been together since our college days, I’d just quit my old job and I wanted to start a new company – so the time was ripe.
“As we moved ahead with our marriage plans, we started thinking about a prenup – should we get one, do we need one, what does it entail – but going the traditional route of working with an attorney can be long and stressful, not to mention expensive.
“That’s where the idea of an online prenup app came from,” she continued. “I’m a software engineer with the skills to design and do it, but I needed someone with appropriate legal expertise.”
That’s when she found family law attorney Julia Rodgers, who specializes in helping couples navigate the legal twists and turns of love and get peace of mind with a set of solid prenuptial protections.
“I found Julia and just cold-contacted her,” she explained. “I came at it from the tech perspective, and Julia from the legal perspective. With Julia based in Boston and me here in the northwest, we met regularly over Zoom to discuss how we’d put our skills together and set this in motion.”
It didn’t take long, and in March 2021 HelloPrenup was born. The online application allows couples to enter personal, financial, and other information and answer a series of questions.
It then generates documents for a legal prenuptial agreement custom-tailored to their needs. And it’s affordable — $599 compared to more than $5,000 going the traditional route.
“We think of it as the TurboTax of prenup agreements,” she laughed.
As a bootstrap firm without huge financial backing, the partners knew they were going to need additional capital. While Rodgers invested some of her personal funds to get the operation off the ground, they decided in April 2021 to apply to “Shark Tank” where they hoped to pitch their ideas to the sharks and come out with $150,000 in venture capital.
“We were literally building the product when we applied to ‘Shark Tank,’ ” Jaffe recalled.
“It was pretty crazy. They have a rigorous 3-month audition process which included me and Julia recording multiple rounds of our pitch and providing these to the show’s producers. Making these was tough, but it really forced us to think about and articulate our business, tighten up our messaging, and hone it into something that would jump off the screen.”
The producers liked what they saw, and in June 2021 they flew the partners to Los Angeles to work with the sharks and record their episode. It aired in October 2021.
Their initial presentation was energetic, lively and provocative, and concluded with their offer of a 10 percent share of the company for a $150,000 investment.
After some pointed Q-and-A the first sharks declined, but guest shark Nirav Tiola (co-founder of “Next Door”) saw the potential.
After a quick round of offers and counteroffers right on stage, Tiola joined with fellow shark Kevin O’Leary (who had earlier declined), to offer $150,000 and a combined 30 percent share.
The episode ended with the two sharks tossing bridal bouquets to Jaffe and Rodgers, who left the soundstage with big smiles and enthusiastic applause. Watch the full episode on You Tube here.
“Our business really took off after ‘Shark Tank,’ ” Jaffe said. “Within a year of launch, we made $1 million in revenue and are on track this year to triple it.
“We now operate in 30 states including Washington, and have attracted additional investment from others including Brian Liu, founder of LegalZoom. We’ve expanded from being strictly self-serve to adding on-call attorneys for clients who want more.
“We now have 8-10 employees located in Massachusetts, California, London, Columbia and of course, Edmonds, all working remotely. HelloPrenup is the premier online platform for affordable, fast, and comprehensive prenuptial agreements. Our goal is to empower couples through financial transparency and financial planning.”
Jaffe did not grow up in Edmonds — she hails from Maryland and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York with a degree in software engineering.
While in college she met her future husband, Daniel Lachance. After graduation the couple moved to Seattle where Jaffe took a job at Microsoft and Lachance attended graduate school at the UW in biotechnology.
They moved from Seattle to Edmonds in 2021 in search of quieter surroundings, a sense of community, and a peaceful place for their noise-sensitive rescue dog “Maple.”
They fell in love with the community, and a year ago purchased a home in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood, where they can often be seen standup paddleboarding on the lake.
“We are so in love with Edmonds,” she says. “The water, the lifestyle, the restaurants and parks, the trails, access to nature, the sense of community and small-town feel. It’s home for sure.”
— By Larry Vogel