CrowdJustice, a startup that brings crowdfunding to “public interest” litigation, has raised $2 million in seed funding for U.S. expansion.
First Round Capital, and Venrock led the round, with participation from Bessemer, and previous investor Kindred Capital. The company also counts Bela Hatvany (first investor in JustGiving) and Jonathan McKay (Chairman of JustGiving) as backers.
Founded in London in 2015 by ex-United Nations lawyer Julia Salasky, the idea behind CrowdJustice is to bring the Kickstarter model to legal cases that would otherwise find it hard to get funded. More broadly, the aim is to widen access to justice and use the law for social change — something that Salasky says is needed in the U.S. at the current time more than ever.
That’s not just words, either. I understand the CrowdJustice founder actually moved to New York in December, effectively relocating the company across the pond, though I’m told the U.K. operation “carries on undiminished” regardless.
High profile cases that have utilised the platform to date include the “People’s Challenge” to Brexit that won in the Supreme Court, which said that Parliament had a say in triggering Article 50, and the first federal case challenging the Trump immigration ban.
To coincide with today’s U.S. seed funding announcement, a new campaign is launching on CrowdJustice. It’s seeing Mike Hallatt (“Pirate Joe”) attempt to raise money to defend a lawsuit being brought by corporate giant Trader Joe’s against Hallatt’s small Canadian startup Pirate Joe’s.
Hallatt drives across the US-Canada border to buy Trader Joe’s products in bulk – and then resells them at his Vancouver store for a mark-up. Trader Joe’s, which does not exist in Canada, has tried multiple times to litigate Hallatt out of business.
“It’s never been a more important time to ensure that the law can be used by anyone, large or small, to defend and protect rights, or hold the government to account,” says Salasky in a statement. “At CrowdJustice our goal is to revolutionize how legal cases are organized and funded, level the playing field and democratize access to justice. Whether that’s a David bringing a case against a Goliath, or a non-profit holding the government to account, we want to give people access to the law.”