Aim for business impact. To be a successful business, you have to understand what resonates with your target consumers, and what delivers impact. For Evisort, we saw firsthand what was needed within the legal field as law students, and believed that our solution can truly make an impact in everyday lives of legal professionals, as well as other areas where employees are inundated reading lengthy documents. Analyze the needs of the current marketplace, and target those areas to create maximum business impact for your organization.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry Ting.
Jerry Ting is co-founder and CEO of Evisort, contract analytics and management system that uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to help enterprises organize and extract information from their legal documents. Evisort was founded in 2016 and under Ting’s leadership has raised over 50M dollars from top tier venture capital funds such as General Atlantic and Microsoft’s M12 fund. As CEO, Ting has advised companies ranging from high-growth startups to Fortune 500 companies on how to adopt artificial intelligence in transformative ways that drive business value.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I never intended to start my own business, I was actually set on the path of studying data analytics. But as a student at Harvard Law, I spent hours poring over hundreds of pages of contracts day in and out, looking for the same legal clauses or details each time. It’s labor-intensive, and I certainly wasn’t alone. Part of practicing law for many lawyers is about document review, looking for those abnormalities or risks before they become bigger problems. I just knew there had to be a better way. It gave me an idea to create a solution designed to categorize, search and analyze contracts to save law students and lawyers time and resources.
From there, I started learning more about artificial intelligence, and how it could be applied to automate the boring parts of being a lawyer and help make a difference in the legal field. I worked closely with my co-founders, Amine Anoun and Jake Sussman, to create Evisort.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When we first started, we thought law firms would be the perfect target from a sales perspective because it was our target audience. However, after spending months speaking to hundreds of lawyers and partners in law firms, we realized law firms were actually not the right target for us. It was a tough transition to in-house legal teams as we already have materials geared for law firms and several creature sets as well (such as a timer to track billable hours!), but it was important for our company’s growth. Ultimately, we had to roll up our sleeves and bite the bullet and completely transition our company to focus on in-house legal teams — and we haven’t looked back since.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I believed in this solution because I saw the need for it in the industry. Despite the challenges, I knew Evisort would bring value to every lawyer and legal team, and pave the way for the future of work, giving professionals valuable time back to focus on advising their clients or working on the strategic components of being a lawyer. This is what helped me remain driven and determined to keep working and getting Evisort those who need it most.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We secured our Series A in 2019, Series B earlier this year, and continue to see our customer numbers grow. Companies everywhere are realizing the benefits that digitizing contract management brings. Today, companies like Microsoft, Netflix, Keller Williams, NetApp and Fujitsu rely on Evisort to help their legal teams save time and money so they can focus on other parts of the business. While the legal industry might be slow to change, we’re confident in the opportunities to help other companies embrace innovation like ours and excited for what the future holds for Evisort.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early on we were willing to speak with ANYONE to give us details about the needs of lawyers from a tech perspective. This also included law professors — even if they never actually practiced law!
One time we sat with a contract professor from a member of the founding team, and during this conversation, we asked what functionality would be most important for lawyers to have in contract AI. Their answer? That it would be fantastic if our AI could determine whether or not a contract had consideration! Consideration is the concept that both parties to a contract are offering something because if this isn’t the case, a contract isn’t a contract. While it may be an interesting intellectual question at the academic level when reading case law, it is NOT an issue legal teams deal with in practice.
From here, we learned to be targeted about who we lean on for advice.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes us stand out is the fact that we started our company while we were still students and pursuing Ph.D.’s in Data Science. This means that we had to be humble as we did market research to develop our tool as we did not have any hubris or ego about knowing exactly what the solution should look like. Instead, we spoke to hundreds and hundreds of lawyers over the course of years to learn about current gaps in technology and what current customer needs were.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am definitely grateful to my fellow co-founders Amine Anoun and Jake Sussman. From when I first brought the idea to them and asked for their input, they have always been completely supportive in helping me to bring this company to the market. As forward thinkers, we saw firsthand the need for this technology.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Aim for business impact. To be a successful business, you have to understand what resonates with your target consumers, and what delivers impact. For Evisort, we saw firsthand what was needed within the legal field as law students, and believed that our solution can truly make an impact in everyday lives of legal professionals, as well as other areas where employees are inundated reading lengthy documents. Analyze the needs of the current marketplace, and target those areas to create maximum business impact for your organization.
2. Rethink how people work. Humans and technology need to work together — it’s not about replacing people. To truly make an impact on society, it’s important to consider how people work, and look to ways technology can further enhance that. When you rethink what’s possible for the future of work, and specifically how humans will co-exist with technology, you must understand and design the right software with artificial intelligence, so there is more time to actually be strategic and be humans.
3. Remember to focus on evolving customer/industry needs. Evisort was founded to fulfill a need we experienced within the legal industry in 2016. As seen especially over the past few months, society evolves, and ways of working can be changed at a rapid pace. Therefore, it’s important to continue innovating and looking to develop new solutions that meet current customer/industry needs. Focusing on the customer is what drives business success, and it’s something that needs to be prioritized as you lead your organization.
4. Challenges are normal. We tend to think if we do everything we can to avoid challenges, none will come our way. However, challenges are inevitable and help us to learn and ultimately grow our businesses. It can be easy to get swept up in the obstacles along the way but remember that overcoming these challenges makes you as a professional, and your business, stronger.
5. Hire people you enjoy working with. To run a successful business, you have to surround yourself with people who keep you motivated and make you think differently. Bringing together people who have different talents and interests, working toward the same goal, allows you to learn from and grow with each other. Iron sharpens iron.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Trust the process. As a founder, you have an idea of where you want to go, but you must accept that challenges may come along the way when you’re trying to get there. Receiving initial buy-ins from investors and securing your first customers can take time, and that’s okay. It’s important to remember that these are all normal challenges that come when you’re starting a company. Take everything with a grain of salt, and stay driven — overcoming these challenges and watching your company succeed is definitely worth the process.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
As one of the first companies to utilize artificial intelligence within contract management, I would like to continue showcasing to people the endless possibilities that can be accomplished through technology. AI is a tool that is powerful–more powerful than a lot of previous technology innovations we have seen in the last couple of decades. Therefore, I think different vertical applications of artificial intelligence are going to define the next five to 10 years of technology investments and technology innovation. I hope to continue educating and inspiring others to utilize AI to help truly make a difference in people’s everyday lives as we navigate through new ways of working.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To stay updated on Evisort’s upcoming announcements and initiatives, please visit our website at https://www.evisort.com/.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!