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Entrepreneurs find niche in litigation support

Ed Hamilton, left, and Ken Shelton, perch on the porch outside their Illahee-based office. - Photo by Robin Moody
Ed Hamilton, left, and Ken Shelton, perch on the porch outside their Illahee-based office.
— image credit: Photo by Robin Moody

The tranquil setting of the Dojo Technologies office belies the fast-paced work and long hours that co-owners Ed Hamilton and Ken Shelton have invested in the start-up.

Nestled in Hamilton’s Illahee home, the living room office sports a full view of the bay, and classical music and bird calls create soothing background noise.

Bucking the recent slump in technologies industries, Dojo, which opened its doors May 1, has already met the founders’ third-year projections.

Many technology firms are languishing in a slow economy, but Shelton credits his firm’s early success to its small, agile size, a sound business plan and aggressive growth plans.

“The core of what we do is take electronic documents and quickly and efficiently give it back in the format they need,” said Hamilton, chief operating officer.

More specifically, the company helps law firms all over the West Coast format and label e-mails or other legal evidence so it can be printed quickly.

Until recently, both men worked for the San Francisco-based Applied Solutions — dubbed “a glorified Kinkos” by Shelton — a company which specialized in printing legal documents.

“About a year ago we started noticing our company was turning away business. Lawyers and firms were bringing in CDs with documents they wanted to have printed, but the only way the copy center could do it was to print them” one at a time, Hamilton said.

“With CDs, it could literally take weeks to print those out by hand,” he added. One CD can store 15,000-20,000 documents.

This revelation planted the seed for the business, and when Hamilton was downsized from Applied Technologies in March, he was determined to make it a reality.

“I started programming 12 to 16 hours a day after the day I was laid off,” he said.

Shelton made the tough decision to quit a high-paying job and strike out with Hamilton. His contacts and experience in the field gave him the confidence to do it.

After just two months in business, the pair had their first break.

“July Fourth weekend we moved from trying to survive and get business to a thriving company,” Shelton said.

A large law firm in San Francisco needed a rush data processing job, and no other companies were willing to work over the holiday weekend to turn the job around by the following Monday.

“As with any business, getting the opportunity to show your skills to a customer is one of the biggest hurdles. Once we got our foot in the door we’ve seen a steady flow of business,” Shelton said.

In addition, the men’s contacts in the litigation community have permitted Dojo Technology to begin operation and successfully grow their company without a sales force.

In the coming weeks, the duo plans to rent an office and hire employees shortly after. These are moves they didn’t expect to make for years.

Currently, the owners off-load work to a half-dozen contract employees they know from previous dot-com jobs.

Hamilton and Shelton funded the start up themselves — spending the bulk of their savings. They plan to re-invest their earnings back into the company, they said.

Long hours have proven an entrepreneurial necessity.

“Sunday I worked from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. — I took it easy ... We’ve been putting in well over 80 hours a week,” Hamilton said.

The best part of the job?

The men can work from home — they both enjoy living in Kitsap County and their virtual jobs ensure they can stay.

“It’s great to be around (my kids), to see them grow up, and not miss it,” Hamilton said.

The firm is named Dojo, Hamilton explained, because like a Martial arts center it is a place to learn, and explore one’s limits.

For more information about Dojo, call 1-886-365-6835 or log on to www.dojotechnology.com.

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