Common Paper, the ‘Contracts as APIs’ Startup, Bags $4.5m Seed Funding

Common Paper, the latest addition to the contract standardisation field and which promotes the idea of ‘contracts as APIs’, has bagged $4.5m in seed funding. Its advisory committee – an essential part of any standards project – includes lawyers from Goodwin Procter, Everlaw, Gunderson Dettmer, Meta, Salesforce, and more.

The Seed round was led by Boldstart and Uncork, with participation from angels including the CEOs of Carta and UiPath, plus the founders of TechGC. Early users include Figma, Crossbeam, and Clickhouse, they said.

All well and good, and it’s great to see another standards startup launch. In fact, another one launched just last week – Bonterms – and that has followed the very successful growth of oneNDA.

This site put a few questions to US-based CEO, Jake Stein, to find out some more:

Great news, but can you please explain that term ‘Contracts as APIs’?

Lots of teams and systems within a company need the information inside of contracts to do their jobs. For example: 

  • Customer success teams need to know what was promised to customers
  • Accounting teams need to translate the information in contracts into financial results
  • Legal teams need to understand the limits to liability in order to answer due diligence questions in IPOs and acquisitions

With non-standard, bespoke contracts, that information is buried inside unstructured and inconsistent terms. With our standard contracts and structured cover pages, the information those teams need is stored as variables in a consistent, predictable way. Our software directly accesses these variables and makes them programmatically accessible.  

That allows us to build better, more automated workflows as well as integrations with other systems.  For example, a customer support system like Zendesk will be able to integrate directly with APIs to help customer support teams follow the SLAs inside the contracts and ensure compliance.  

–  The committee you have assembled, have they helped to create the documents? 

Yes, our committee has been the driving force in the creation of the contracts. Our head of legal ecosystem, Tiffany Bui LeTourneau, leads that process, and she has worked with them through multiple rounds of feedback over the course of months.  Her background includes time at Gunderson, Uber, and Lime, and she ran the contracting function for Uber Eats from launch to a $2.5 billion annual run rate. You can see some of the committee members on this page.  

– What other contracts are planned? 

We’re prioritising the contracts involved in selling B2B software as a service, and the next one planned is a Data Processing Agreement.  

– Will the contracts be free to use? i.e. Open-source? 

Yes, all of our contracts are and will continue to be released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This means that they are free to use and open source.  

– What do you think about oneNDA and also Bonterms? 

The wider the push for contract standardisation, the better the end result will be. Just as there are options for choosing open-source software licenses (Apache 2.0, MIT, BSD, GPL, etc), we hope that multiple available options will enable the wider adoption of standards in commercial contracting. 

Common Paper’s approach is unique because of our foundational belief that contracts should be APIs. Our Cover Page, which includes defined variables to limit unstructured amendments, creates the structure needed for predictable data management (and thus, risk reduction) while preserving the flexibility that tech companies (and lawyers) need.

Overall, another very positive step toward removing the grind, cost and inefficiency experienced by lawyers and clients when contracting, at least for the more frequently seen agreements.

It’s also – and this site is pleasantly surprised by how fast things are going now – another sign of how things are changing when it comes to standards. Consider the committee, for example. It includes lawyers from top firms and major companies. Add this to Bonterms, oneNDA, and other standardisation projects, and we are looking at something of a real market shift here.

1 Comment

  1. It still does not answer the question what were business people doing before these tools? Perhaps we more need services which help people understand what the contract content actually is – and how to use it?

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