July 19, 2018

Startup Q&A - LinkSquares Uses AI to Make Contract Reviewing Less of a Chore

Manually reviewing contracts sounds like mind-numbing work. For legal and finance teams at enterprise companies, it’s also a task that may take too much time, considering they already have a large workload.

LinkSquares developed an AI-oriented platform to help those teams review contracts and hopefully give them the right information from the agreement. The company recently made headlines with its seed round announcement, which featured several prominent angel investors.

The company’s Co-Founder and CEO Vishal Sunak discussed with us how the platform works and named a few of the company’s clients. Sunak also went into detail about how his previous career at Backupify helped inspire him to become a first-time founder.

Colin Barry [CB]: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins behind LinkSquares?

Vishal Sunak [VS]: My co-founder Chris Combs and I met at Backupify in 2013. In the fall of 2014, we were told that Datto was going to acquire the company. During the acquisition process, we saw firsthand the number of requests that were asked of the Backupify team around the executed contracts with our customers.

Vishal Sunak
Vishal Sunak, Co-Founder and CEO of LinkSquares

One of the big projects that Datto wanted to accomplish was to move Backupify off of Amazon Web Services (AWS). We were storing petabytes of data in AWS for years, and because Datto was a backup provider and had their own cloud, it didn’t make sense for Backupify to use AWS from a business perspective. The question remained, “Which customers can we move off AWS without their permission? Which customer contracts say we can’t move them freely, and how do we notify them?”

At the time, we had thousands of enterprise customers, all with unique and negotiated contracts. We hadn’t been tracking this specific piece of data across our customer base, and it presented a challenging situation to figure out what each contract said. With the tight timeframe to deliver the answer to this project and the lack of tools that were available to do this type of analysis, the only real option we had was to read every agreement one at a time manually.

After the acquisition was completed, we saw a need in the market and started exploring the use cases. After a year of research, we figured out that most companies don’t know what is in their executed agreements and this was a big business problem with legal and finance teams. That’s how we got started on this journey.

CB: What is the ultimate goal of LinkSquares?

VS: Our goal is to enable legal and finance teams to stop reading contracts one at a time to figure out what they agreed to. We want to allow instant access to the data that lives in executed contracts so that this information can be quickly and efficiently gathered to support any project that requires this information including fundraising due diligence, changes to laws/standards, and internal requests.

CB: Explain what your company does. How does LinkSquares’ platform work?

VS: At our core, we are a contract repository. Our customers store all their executed agreements in our cloud-based web application. With that foundation, we then layer on powerful analysis capabilities. We use AI-powered analysis to read the contract text and surface crucial pieces of contract metadata automatically and also provide powerful full-text search for one-off queries. Every report that a user can run is fully exportable, making it easy to share the answers.

CB: How long was the development process on the platform? Was AI always going to focus of the company?

VS: One of the hardest things for a founding team is to know what problem you are solving for a customer confidently. We took a year to dive into the use cases and understand deeply where the pain was inside legal and finance teams before we started building software. It took about 10 months to create and develop our initial product and then close our first customer in April of 2016.

The development of our AI-powered analysis came through customer discovery process and talking directly with legal teams. We consistently heard statements like “If you could just tell me that this contract automatically renews, that would be powerful.” It became evident that we could accomplish this with AI and we started down that path.

CB: Who are some of LinkSquares’ clients? Are there any use cases that stand out to you?

VS: We have over 50 customers all over the US. Locally in Boston, we work with DraftKings, Carbonite, Drift, Salsify, SessionM, Recorded Future, CloudHealth Technologies, C Space, and Globoforce to name a few.

We get to work with an amazing group of high growth companies. We’ve seen half our customers use our software in support of fundraising due diligence, tracking information related to contractual obligations they have with their customers, and working through changes to laws/standards (like GDPR).

CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?

VS: We have 14 full-time employees and the majority work out of our office in Downtown Crossing.

We’re always looking for sales, business development, and engineering talent. We’re also starting to build out our marketing team on the content and demand generation side for the remainder of the year.

CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?

VS: We’ve participated at the Boston TechJam and Northeastern University IDEA Expo around the local area. In the second half of the year, we’re looking to set up a regular meet up with the corporate legal teams in the Boston area and continue to integrate the legal community together.

We sponsored our first trade show for the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium that was held in Las Vegas in April. We had a chance to speak with many of the legal teams at high growth companies. It was a great experience, and we had a blast.

CB: You’ve recently raised your seed round, congratulations! How was that experience and who are some of the angel investors?

VS: Thank you! As a first-time founder, it was an educational experience. We have an amazing team of advisors and angel investors that have given me a ton of advice. We’re excited about growing the team and continuing to enable our vision.

Some of our local angel investors are Rob May, Dave Balter, Jere Doyle, Phil Beauregard, Sam Clemens, Pawan Deshpande, Ari Buchler, Steve McKenzie, and Tim Parilla.

CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did LinkSquares get its name?

VS: Lawyers talk about the “four corners of an agreement” as the bounds of a written contract. We’re linking those squares of paper together in our software, so that’s LinkSquares.

CB: Do you think Boston has potential to become a major hub for AI-based startups? Has LinkSquares collaborated with other AI startups in the area?

VS: Absolutely, yes. It starts with having an amazing talent pool that comes from the local colleges and universities. Being located near the best engineering schools in the country like MIT, Harvard and Northeastern University is why Boston is as a place where cutting-edge technology can be created. Then layering in the thousands of companies that are based here, many of whom are using AI to solve huge problems, creates an environment that can support innovation in AI.

Colin Barry is an Editor & Staff Writer to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash

Images courtesy of LinkSquares