When Raphael Ventura joined The Expert Institute over five years ago, he was taking a chance on a small startup with big potential. Because of his legal tech experience working in e-discovery and in a law firm setting, Raphael knew that technology had the potential to reshape the way attorneys worked for their clients and that the right expert can make a big difference to a case.
Now, Raphael heads up the Inbound Sales Team at TEI, where his team helps new clients discover the power of The Expert Insitute’s industry-leading expert witness solutions.
Can you tell us a bit about the work that you were doing before joining The Expert Institute?
Definitely. Before I joined The Expert Institute I always had an interest in the law, and had been working in the legal tech space for about two years as a business development rep for an e-discovery firm. The team I was with was fine, but there wasn’t a lot of passion and enthusiasm for what we were doing among the people I was working with. It wasn’t really a fun environment, which I think is a key factor for success when you’re in a sales role.
One day, I was using LinkedIn to prospect for new clients when I got a message from [TEI Founder] Michael Talve, and right away I was intrigued. I hadn’t heard of The Expert Institute before then, but the concept was immediately interesting. They were working on an innovative product that was a totally new take on a traditional expert witness referral service. It was at that point that I took the opportunity to meet with Michael and the rest of the team at TEI’s office.
What was your first impression of the team and the office?
At the time the company’s office was much, much smaller, but the team that was there was really dynamic, and they clearly had a lot of passion for what they were working on. I ended up going to dinner with everyone that night and was pretty much sold at that point. I think the biggest thing for me was that they clearly had a vision for what the company was going to be in the future and were excited and motivated to get there. That was five years ago and it’s been awesome being a part of all the growth we’ve had since then.
How would you describe the growth of the sales team since you joined?
Obviously there have been a lot of changes on the sales side of things, but it’s definitely been exciting to help the team grow with the company and I think that there’s a lot of opportunity ahead. Of course there were a lot of changes and challenges to get to where we are now, and sometimes that could be a little difficult, but we’ve always worked through them and I think now we’re in the position where we’ve built something really great. On the sales side we have a structure in place that sets everyone up for success and gives them the resources that they need to grow professionally.
Back when I first started, the sales team was much smaller and we had to wear a lot of different hats. On any given day we would have to handle inbound leads, make headway with outbound efforts, we would be going out to meet clients…we were basically doing whatever we needed to do to grow.
Now that we’ve scaled the company and brought on a lot of really talented people who have had success driving business at a number of different companies, we’re nailing down a structure that helps the team be successful in every area.
So what’s your role now?
From the beginning, I was involved with handling inbound inquiries, mostly leads that are generated from attorneys coming to our website and requesting an expert there. Now I’ve moved to manage a team that just handles that inbound. The marketing team here does a great job with lead generation, and they’ve developed this system that presents us with a steady stream of attorneys who are looking for experts.
I’ve mainly been focused on getting the processes set for the team as we continue to expand, but also been working with everyone to support them with training and help them close deals. It’s been great because every month I get to see us improve as a team.
As someone who has been with the company for a long time, you’ve been through a few office moves at this point. How do you like the current office environment in NYC?
It’s a really nice place to work. There’s never a day that I don’t enjoy coming to the office. The office space itself is pretty spectacular – we’re on the penthouse floor of a historic Wall Street skyscraper (48 Wall Street) and we have access to terraces with great views of downtown Manhattan. There’s also a lot of perks: free snacks, catered lunch, unlimited LaCroix, pretty much whatever you would need to be comfortable at work. Plus there’s great energy here. Everyone is on the same page in terms of our goals, and everyone helps each other out so that we can reach them.
The best part is definitely the people here. We have a great culture and I think the company makes that a priority and cultivates it.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Hackensack in North Jersey, right across the river from New York City. I went to Rutgers for college, where I played soccer for the varsity team and studied business administration. Even in college I was really interested in the legal field, and thought for sure that my path would take me to law school. Like I said earlier, I ended up taking a job at a law firm after graduation and after seeing what the day-to-day was like realized that sales was really more of my passion.
Now I live in Battery Park City with my wife Marissa and my French bulldog Oli (Editor’s note: Oli is very popular when Raphael brings him around the office).
What do you do in your free time?
Well my father-in-law is a seven-time Ironman, and when I met him I thought that was really cool and something that I could get into. I might also have been trying to impress him a little bit. But I started training to see if I could get involved. Obviously I have college soccer experience, which of course involved a lot of endurance training, but Ironman is a totally different animal. After I started training I was hooked. I started with a sprint triathlon, Olympic, 70.3 and competed my first full Ironman in 2017.
The training can definitely be crazy. I was waking up at like 4 in the morning to run 18 miles before coming into the office, I was biking for sometimes 7—8 hours at a time, so it was really a challenge mentally as well as physically.
What has been your favorite memory from working at The Expert Institute?
There are a lot, but the one that sticks out for me the most is when we did a team offsite to the beach at Montauk. It was a few years ago so there were obviously less of us working here at the time, but we all piled into three SUVs right from the office and headed out to Long Island. The whole weekend was a great time: stopping for hibachi on the way there, everyone hanging out on the beach for a bonfire on the first night, it was so much fun just cutting loose with everyone.