LinkSquares, the Boston, US-based legal AI contract analytics platform for inhouse lawyers, has just raised $2.16 million in a seed funding round in which Regent Private Capital contributed $1 million.
Artificial Lawyer caught up again with Vishal Sunak, Co-Founder and CEO of LinkSquares to find out some more and hear what’s next for the legal AI company. Sunak also shared some great tips on how to succeed as a legal tech startup. Enjoy.
First, please remind the readers about what LinkSquares does?
LinkSquares is the AI-Powered Contract Analytics Cloud. We enable in-house legal teams to quickly and accurately identify what they agreed to in their executed contracts without having to read them one at a time. [ See feature on the company in Artificial Lawyer, July 2017.]
Amazing news on the $2.16m funding! Can you tell us a bit more about how this came about and what the money will be used for?
We started the company bootstrapped, putting in our own personal money to build the initial prototype and test our initial go-to-market strategy. As “sales-first” founders, we were able to do a few hundred thousand dollars of revenue without needing outside capital. As we continued to see the big opportunity with AI-powered contract analytics, we pursued outside capital as a way to accelerate technology development, customer support and our go to market strategy.
We’ll be using the funds to continue to focus on our customers – both in providing an amazing product experience as well as continuing to enable them to review their contracts through our analysis capabilities. We’ll be hiring in sales, customer support and engineering.
How have things developed since we last chatted in 2017? Where is the company heading now?
We recently launched a complete overhaul for our AI-powered analysis results called “Smart Values”. Smart Values has enabled us to provide deeper insights into a contract terms that we extract, and the feedback from our customers has been very well received. We are surfacing, what we believe is, the most advanced contract analytics on the market.
We’re making improvements in our AI-powered contract analysis to extract more contract terms, provide actionable insights with automated alerting, and integrate our software with 3rd parties like CRMs, ERPs, relational databases, and business intelligence tools to enrich other systems that can benefit from contract information.
What has been the response of the clients and are you looking at new markets?
We have an amazing group of 50+ customers today that are really passionate about what we are doing and they aren’t shy about helping us to shape our roadmap. Today we’re focused on high growth companies that typically fall into B2B software. We’ve also seen manufacturing, financial tech and consumer software companies join us this year. It has been great to validate the need for AI-powered contract analytics across various industries.
How has the experience of running a startup been, what advice would you give to others out there?
Being a founder is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life. We started the company in a coffee shop, working on LinkSquares a few nights a week after work and on the weekends. Now we have 50+ customers and 10 employees. Being able to see the company grow has been incredible. We have an amazing team, and that really makes the hard journey of “starting up” easier when you genuinely like the people who work around you. Hearing how our customers use the product every day and the stories they share of how they used our software to complete contract review project quickly – those are the best days. I’ll smile from ear to ear for a few hours.
I believe that as a founding team, there’s a super power that you have as you are starting – be it product, marketing, or sales. And identifying what that strength is and how you can create an unfair advantage for your company in the early days to manufacture traction.
For us, my co-founder Chris and I love sales. Chris has been selling software for 10+ years and I worked as a Director of Sales & Marketing Ops for 5+ years in B2B SaaS companies. So our super power was being able to generate conversations with our target buyer early and have lots of conversations to iterate on our messaging, pitch, pricing, and ultimately the product. Doing customer discovery can be one of the most frustrating parts of starting a company, but having patience to know you are building the right product and solving the right problem is key. Try to have 50 to 100 conversations with your target buyers before you invest in building a software product – your future self will thank you.
There’s a lot of ups and downs with startups. Enjoy the wins and always take the time to reflect and celebrate milestones with the team.
Lastly, legal tech is BIG news now, how much do you think the legal market is really changing in the US?
We attended 2018 CLOC Corporate Legal Operations Institutethis year and it was great to see the rise of the legal operations function. CLOC is doing a fantastic work in building the community and it is nice to see Association of Corporate Counsel hosting Legal Operations specific events too. I think this role is going to play a major part in the evolution of the legal tech market. I liken it to how the Sales Ops role has enabled sales to be more efficient, use technology, generate more revenue – that is going to be what Legal Ops will do for the legal department at companies. We’ve already seen the benefits of Legal Ops helping to evaluate and purchase technology on behalf of lawyers.
There is a healthy amount of new companies entering the market each year targeting the legal tech market. I view that as a great sign of innovation and confidence. As we begin to see the more established legal tech startups exit, that signal will resonate well in the investment community to create more opportunities and interest in this space. Over the next 2-3 years I think we’ll see a tidal wave of technology adoption amongst in-house legal teams.
Thanks for having me!
Thanks to you too and good luck to all at LinkSquares!
[ P.S. if you’d like to learn a bit more about the platform, then check out this page that contains customer stories of how companies have used the legal AI system: Link here. ]