Henchman, the contract drafting startup that suggests clauses from your own KM database as you work within Microsoft Word, has bagged an additional €2m (£1.68m) in Seed funding after an earlier €1m (£0.84m) raise in May last year. It’s another sign that Europe’s legal tech scene is increasingly vibrant.
The Belgian company will use part of the money to fund growth across Europe and the UK. The investment was led by Pitchdrive, and a number of individual investors also took part.
The product can be used in multiple languages as it functions via your own work product, primarily as a Word plug-in. In terms of what it offers, this is how they explain things:
- ‘[You can] look through similar types of clauses from your own database, for inspiration in wording or to repurpose entire clauses, without having to open multiple files and having to scroll through them. Besides, Henchman provides insights on commonly used clauses, allowing our customers to make informed decisions when drafting contracts.
- Search for specific precedent clauses and definitions you have in mind, by applying multiple filters such as client name, contract type, date, applicable law, and many more. It’s like finding that needle in a haystack in a matter of seconds.
- Clauses in a working document can be compared to similar clauses from the firm’s contract database. The track changes functionality allows to easily spot the differences, such as wording or monetary thresholds, which makes it the perfect tool when reviewing contracts.’
The top team at the company (pictured above) includes: Gilles Mattelin and Jorn Vanysacker, who are responsible for the go-to-market strategy, and who previously founded and then sold Intuo, a Belgian talent management company; along with Wouter Van Respaille, who is CTO and worked at PwC; and Siska Lannoo, who joined the management team in 2021 after working at Showpad, a marketing platform.
Mattelin, co-founder of Henchman, said: ‘Since Henchman requires no set-up and updates automatically, customers can immediately start repurposing thousands, even millions of clauses based on relevant suggestions. There’s an immediate added value in terms of efficiency and speed. Our goal is to enable lawyers to spend more time on high-value tasks, that can set them apart from their competitors.’
While Vanysacker, also a co-founder of Henchman, said: ‘Obviously, we have done our fair share of market research and we knew that there was a lot of market potential. Nevertheless, we are positively surprised by the high demand.
‘Fortunately, customers can connect their own database to Henchman and almost no intervention is needed from our side to start working with the tool. However, because our product is still young, we like to handle every request personally to understand the exact need and how we can provide an answer. In order to continue to ensure a smooth follow-up, and also to be able to quickly develop the right features, we looked for additional capital.’
Lorenz Bogaert from Pitchdrive, the fund that led the latest Seed investment, added: ‘Henchman manages to cleverly address a widespread problem faced by lawyers. With Pitchdrive, we can help the strong team behind Henchman grow even faster on a global scale.’
Is this a big deal? Probably the main takeaway here is that the European legal tech scene is increasingly healthy and creative. We are seeing innovative companies coming out of the Nordic region, Germany, France, and Spain, now, with many of them – once they get up and running – then targeting the UK market, and also the US.
It also shows that when it comes to legal tech there is still plenty of work to be done around core activities, such as improving drafting and making better use of your own KM content.
P.S. Here is part of an interview with Henchman from 2021 with Artificial Lawyer, and which adds some additional perspective.
– How does this differ from other contract drafting tools already in the market?
Henchman does not plan to expand its product offering horizontally. We are determined to do one thing very well: Help lawyers draft contracts in the most user-centric manner, i.e. the fastest contract drafting experience ever made. Henchman is different mainly in its setup effort, which is zero and in stark contrast with solutions that require you to categorise your database.
Secondly, it stands out because of the ease of use: working within Word and getting suggestions in an intuitive search. There is no need to change the way of working and therefore the adoption rate is very much above average.
Our team consists of people that have SaaS experience and that allows us to focus and ‘put the user first knowing that all else will follow’.
– Please can you tell us more about the NLP side of the product?
We rely upon a wide array of NLP methods. Our search and analytics stack is built from the ground up to make use of the latest and greatest in machine learning, notably deep learning. The search engine itself is something of a hybrid of traditional information retrieval technology and neural representation learning methods.
Our models are custom-built and trained in-house on proprietary datasets that have been studied and enriched with human knowledge in close cooperation with a dedicated team of legal experts.
– Is this for English docs, or mainly French/Dutch?
Our technology is language agnostic, meaning it works on any contract or document language in a lawyer’s database.
(Main pic above, from left to right: Jorn Vanysacker, Siska Lannoo, Gilles Mattelin and Wouter Van Respaille.)