Interview with RAVN on the iManage Merger

Artificial Lawyer just spoke with RAVN co-founder, Jan van Hoecke (pictured above), and CEO, David Lumsden, about the market-shifting deal with US document management company iManage.

Following on from the announcement yesterday, RAVN’s top team had several key messages. The first was that the talks had grown from informal contacts over several months and had only become ‘formal’ quite recently. Also, Lumsden had known the team at iManage well from his former Tikit days, while Van Hoecke also had links via the shared history at Autonomy. So: this was not a buy-out offer that came out of the blue.

‘In the last two or three months we started talking formally,’ says Lumsden. ‘But we knew each other well before then.’

Van Hoecke adds that this was not a ‘black and white’ issue, i.e. an unknown business making an offer to buy with no lead up, rather this was two companies with connections and where there was a logical win-win scenario from working more closely together. I.e. iManage has a huge law firm and inhouse client base, where it handles document management for them, while all that data in those documents is exactly what RAVN and its cognitive engine(s) are so great at analysing.

‘It’s a good fit. And it helps that we know the other side. We have trust in each other,’ says Van Hoecke.

But why do this now?

Van Hoecke says that it’s true that they didn’t have to do the deal now. They had choices. He notes they could have carried on as they were, growing steadily and paying for their infrastructure that would be needed to support more and more clients and many more AI-driven applications.

‘One never knows what will happen in the future. We could have carried on. We could have looked at external investment and private equity,’ says Van Hoecke.

However, they have been going hard at it for seven years now, the company has grown fast and done very well, becoming in many ways the flag bearer for legal AI on this side of the Atlantic. But, at the same time companies need a lot of infrastructure support to grow, they need a big platform from which to build further, and iManage provides that – and also great access to the biggest legal market in the world, the US.

It simply made sense to do this.

So, what happens next? Well, the RAVN team formally noted that the company now belongs 100% to iManage, which bought all of its stock. The two companies will operate for the time being as two separate entities, with RAVN as a subsidiary of iManage.

The well-known RAVN brand, which is now strongly associated with top level legal AI work, will remain. Something which the team is keen to see. As Lumsden says: ‘RAVN is a very strong and high value brand now.’

Meanwhile, the term ‘iManage Powered by RAVN’ will be used now in corporate communications/marketing from the merged companies.

Van Hoecke was also keen to say that the founders would not be going anywhere. They were going to be very much part of this merger and part of the growth in the future.

And….how much did iManage pay? Well. They’re not saying. But Lumsden says that the financial plan for this financial year is to generate around £4m – £5m in sales revenue at RAVN. There are also a lot of subscriptions for RAVN’s services and they also add to total income.

Yet, when one considers that iManage has a client base of 3,000 organisations around the world, including more than 2,000 law firms and 500 corporate legal departments, then RAVN has a chance to see quite extraordinary growth in the years ahead that could be many times what it is today, which is already quite healthy. Even after seven years of very hard work, in some ways this is just the beginning, or perhaps a new beginning.

Good luck and congratulations to the RAVN team. Artificial Lawyer looks forward to seeing the group go from strength to strength.