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Seth Godin, Handshake Deals, and the Future of Contracts

by Abe Geiger Seth Godin, Handshake Deals, and the Future of Contracts

If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend Seth Godin’s post Handshakes and contracts, the future and the past

In the post, Godin touches on something that we think a lot about here at Shake, but is rarely discussed in the context of legal forms and contracting tools: interpersonal dynamics. How does the process of memorializing a transaction impact the outcome of the transaction and the relationship between the two parties going forward?  

If you’ve ever rented an apartment, purchased a home, or signed big deals in a professional setting you probably know the feeling of confrontation associated with negotiating those types of agreements. This is especially stressful if it’s not something you do every day. Some people thrive in these situations, but most of us find them to be very uncomfortable. Some larger organizations have caught on to this and have made their agreements much more user friendly, but unfortunately most have not.

Referring to traditional one-sided contracts, Seth states, “This sort of contract has evolved into a battle, an effort to get something now and deliver as little as possible later. Loopholes and fine print are there for a reason, and it’s not to make you happy. Contracts like this are about the past…  A handshake deal, on the other hand, is about the future.”

This is particularly true with smaller transactions between consumers and small businesses where the benefits of a deal may not be worth the anxiety and/or the cost of involving a lawyer.  It also gets to the heart of what we’re trying to do at Shake: combining the simplicity and convenience of a handshake (hence the name) with the protection of a legal agreement. Part of simplicity and convenience is keeping the transaction collaborative and positive rather than confrontational and anxiety producing. In other words, creating a clear meeting-of-the-minds without the animosity of the traditional contract process.  

Seth adds, “It might pay to write your handshake deal down, to memorialize the key promises in an email.”

We agree with Seth here, too. However, our goal is to do more than just simplify the process of memorializing the key promises of a deal. We also hope to make agreements smarter and more actionable. Due dates, payments, late fees, renewals… all of these “to-dos” live in the body of our agreements.  With a little smart technology this data can be turned into actionable reminders that help us honor our commitments before things go wrong, thus maintaining the collaborative “handshake deal” vibe that we all want.  

-  Abe Geiger, CEO and Founder of Shake

photo of Abe Geiger
Abe Geiger

Abe is the Founder and CEO of Shake. Prior to Shake, Abe held various roles at early-stage technology startups in both New York and the Bay Area. While in business school, Abe worked at two venture capital firms, Canaan Partners and Greycroft, sourcing and analyzing investment opportunities. During that time he co-founded the NYC Turing Fellows program to bring more engineering talent to NYC startups.

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