eLab alumni, Peterson Jiang, J.D. ’20, conceived of the idea behind PECO in 2015 while completing an internship at a law firm in China. Tasked with monitoring intellectual property (IP) infringements on online shopping platforms, Jiang found the manual process of collecting evidence to be ineffective and time-consuming, so he and fellow Cornellian and PECO co-founder Cora Liang, J.D. ’20 set out to develop a solution.
Through algorithm optimization, smart sorting, and intelligent screening, the resulting IP tool they developed is capable of searching online platforms quickly and comprehensively, providing valuable information to IP lawyers and practitioners for use in contentious and non-contentious matters or when pitching to new clients. Jiang and Liang joined eLab’s Class of 2018 to determine if continuing on their entrepreneurial journey was the right decision.
Jiang’s attributes much of PECO’s success to the guidance he received in eLab, especially from the program’s mentors. “Before eLab, I assumed that launching a startup was a game of fortune, where some lucky people succeed while others don’t,” said Jiang, “However, the program’s mentorship focused on the concepts and methodologies behind founding a successful startup, such as customer discovery, minimal viable product, and leveraging resources when you’re starting out with very little capital. eLab provided me with the knowledge and confidence we needed to proceed. Furthermore, eLab provides a sense of legitimacy to a fledgling startup.”
All eLab participants undergo extensive customer discovery, or the process of speaking with real customers to find the proper path to product-market fit for their business ideas. Inside and outside of eLab, the PECO team conducted over 200 customer discovery interviews, primarily with practicing IP lawyers in the United States and China, from more than 100 companies and law firms.
“My initial goal when I started law school was to become a lawyer, but I wasn’t 100% that I wanted to be a lawyer. I interned at several law firms, and while I enjoyed the philosophical side of law, I found that the actual work of being a lawyer didn’t energize me. As I learned more about entrepreneurship and it can bring about concrete changes, I found that the work energized me. I realized that I might an entrepreneur after all,” said Jiang.
Following eLab, Jiang and Liang took a gap year in China to focus on scaling up their startup. Today, PECO’s IP tool is used by 70% of leading law firms and agencies in China’s IP industry. The founders plan to expand operations to both U.S. and U.K. markets following the completion of their law degrees this spring. In the meantime, PECO’s reputation and sales continues to grow steadily in China.
As the first successful eLab startup to come out of the Cornell Law School, PECO’s success goes to show that eLab is a relevant program for students from any field of study. According to eLab Director, Ken Rother, “PECO’s successful trajectory demonstrates eLab’s impact as a program. eLab is designed to give students the knowledge and tools needed to launch real businesses, and it’s doing just that. We look forward to hearing more about PECO, as they scale-up business.”
Jiang’s advice for members of the current eLab cohort who are launching a startup while balancing coursework? “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It takes time.”