DoNotPay is paying investors. 

The company offers a paid subscription for AI and other software tools to help consumers negotiate their cable bills, contest parking tickets, and otherwise minimize their bills and maximize privacy. 

It’s now profitable, with more than 200,000 subscribers, says CEO and founder Joshua Browder, and it recently paid its first dividend totaling more than $1 million to shareholders including investors and employees.

“We really think it’s a new kind of operating model for startups,” he says, pointing to Meta’s recent announcement of its first dividend. “Employees and investors are really tired of money-losing companies, and we want to be sustainable.”

Browder didn’t disclose the exact amount of the dividend but emphasized it was enough for one employee of several years to put a down payment on a house. The company, which has raised a total of $24 million from investors at a $210 million valuation, has a small but growing team of seven full-time employees and the same number of contractors. Browder says it also has a loyal set of customers, with roughly 70% staying subscribed for at least a year. 

The dividend is a bit of a deviation from previous generations of tech companies, which famously invested revenue into growth and product development rather than pay dividends or even necessarily earn a profit. But Browder says DoNotPay, which is continuing to develop new features like potential AI tools that could make phone calls to customer service phone agents or parse medical bills to contest charges, is still committed to expansion. 

“We believe that growth and dividends aren’t mutually exclusive,” Browder says. 

DoNotPay started in 2015 with a focus on parking tickets when Browder was a Stanford student with a tendency for leaving his vehicle in questionable places. “I was a really terrible parker and driver,” he says. It was initially hyped as a “robot lawyer,” but after Browder last year drew attention and, he’s said, legal threats floating the idea of an earpiece whispering realtime AI legal advice in a litigant’s ear as they challenged a ticket, it’s focused on providing assistance to consumers.

Subscriptions advertised at $18 per month for a minimum of two months include a Swiss Army knife’s worth of consumer services, including negotiating bills, searching for unclaimed property, tracking subscriptions, requesting personal data deletions, canceling gym memberships, sending faxes and postal mail, and, of course, contesting all manner of fees, fines, and charges. DoNotPay also offers privacy-protecting digital phone numbers—and will help you draft letters demanding compensation if you’re unlawfully robocalled—and single use “burner” credit cards to let users authorize free trials and reservations without risking unwanted charges.

“We’re trying to be like the Costco of consumer rights, where you don’t have to subscribe to a lot of companies—you can just subscribe to one and it has all your ways of saving time and also saving money,” Browder says, referring to a subscription business famously successful with savvy but frugal Americans. 

Modern generative AI has begun to replace earlier template-based tools, helping DoNotPay generate distinct missives on behalf of consumers, so they aren’t recognized as exact copies of a form letter and letting the tool even engage in real-time customer service web chats. “We have two types of AI,” Browder says. “One that handles the conversation and one that actually does all the clicking.”

In the near future, he hopes the software will be able to speak in real-time on the phone, something technology has only recently possible. It’s still undecided whether it would use a generic voice or try to mimic the customer’s. For the existing chats and letters, the company has put in safeguards so the tool won’t hallucinate details of user claims, Browder says, like asking for refunds based on internet outages that never really happened. 

“The AI is more honest than the typical consumer,” he quips.

Even so, there’s little doubt that DoNotPay is regularly engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the other subscription services used by its customers, as well as other businesses that profit from consumers’ limited appetites for wading through bureaucracy. Browder speculates that its unchargeable burner card numbers may have been instrumental in Netflix ending free trials, and he says a Chrome extension the company once offered for sharing passwords to subscription services has been categorically banned from the browser.

Computers don’t get tired of doing busywork, and generating mountains of earnest boilerplate may be among the current wave of AI’s most suitable applications. But companies paying humans to handle increasingly automated customer complaints—and losing revenue when consumers cancel subscriptions or contest fees—still find ways to balk. One data broker sent DoNotPay recently a cease-and-desist notice after receiving a large volume of deletion requests sent through the service, Browder says. On the other hand, he says, another responded to a flood of inquiries in a different way—by adding a simple, one-click data deletion button. 

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