Contracts In Motion
SpotDraft is an end-to-end contract lifecycle management (CLM) SaaS solution
In a world where businesses use technology to gain competitive advantage and where whole industries have been turned on their heads by the impact of technology, the legal industry has stood, almost alone, as a technological laggard. Where other industries have increased efficiency using data processing and specialized applications, the legal industry has, until very recently, seemed to pride itself on being mostly human-powered, with long hours (including nights) as the norm.
However, there are signs of change. Over the past decade, the legal industry has taken tentative steps into the era of modern technology. One of the big shifts in the industry has been an improved contract creation and collaboration process. Drafting contracts can be a huge burden on an already busy legal team, and creating the initial draft is only the start of the challenges as the review process can be even more fraught. Making sure each party understands the contract and is effectively capturing and communicating issues and changes from across their organization to come to a new agreement with each other is a time-consuming and often error-strewn process.
Automation and AI technologies provide the promise of much needed help to improve the contract management process. This is the focus of SpotDraft, led by Shashank Bijapur and his co-founders Madhav Bhagat and Rohith Salim, who are revolutionizing the contract lifecycle, and helping move the legal field into a more streamlined future.
When asked about his personal background, Shashank will tell you he is a recovering lawyer by trade. He grew up in small towns across India, raised by two bankers who instilled in him a business-driven mindset to life. However, growing up it was clear there were only two acceptable options for his future - law or medicine. Unfortunately, Shashank couldn’t stand the sight of blood, so law it was! Once Shashank got into law school, he was excited to join a proud profession. However, that view changed quickly when he graduated from Harvard Law School and stepped into a job at a law firm in New York.
For a while he lived the typical New York City lawyer lifestyle – downtown Manhattan, a suit and tie every day, and long, long working hours. This culture of excessive work finally drove Shashank to a breaking point. On New Year’s Eve, as Times Square welcomed 2016, Shashank remembers examining due diligence reports in his office. He recalls, “I kept asking myself, why the heck am I doing this? I suppose I’m pretty good at it, but it’s so mundane and repetitive – this is not what I went to law school for.”
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
Tired of life so far from home, Shashank returned to India in 2016 just in time for the Indian startup boom. Unbeknownst to him at the time, his future co-founder Madhav also returned to India from the US at the same time after working for Google for several years. The two had met in the US briefly, but not connected fully before. Shashank knew that while he was done being a lawyer, he wanted to change the legal industry to help lawyers like himself. Madhav had the technical engineering background Shashank needed to bring his startup idea into reality - a platform that could automate and expedite the slow, manual process of drafting, reviewing, and signing contracts. In November of 2016, Shashank and Madhav founded SpotDraft, aiming to be the change that lawyers like Shashank’s earlier self urgently needed.
"Apart from dealing with legal work, today's legal teams are expected to be leaders in everything from business strategy and governance to compliance and risk management. We like to think of what we are building as a co-pilot for legal teams - a system that acts as a strategic partner for in-house counsels by taking care of the repetitive tasks, thereby enabling them to focus on higher leverage activities."
SpotDraft started with a simple concept – to be the Salesforce of contracts. It would deliver efficiency and a SaaS platform for the betterment of any company that wants to streamline its contract management process. However, the first few years were lean at best. The conservative nature of the industry meant the idea of using technology for something as central as contracts was seen as a real risk. There was also the structure of the industry to fight against – lawyers are paid by the hour, so anything that simplified contracting would reduce hours and revenues for firms. Shashank got used to hearing “no” repeatedly. Even after the third co-founder, Rohith Salim, joined the company and helped build out a sophisticated workflow for automating contracts, the fledgling startup struggled to gain traction.
When asked how he kept going, and why the founders didn’t shut down the company, Shashank explained, “All three of us believed in the product. Our friends and family also gave us reality checks when needed. We kept the faith.” That faith was finally rewarded as word got out about the successes of the company’s initial clients. Once doors started to open, the company went from strength to strength. Since 2019, SpotDraft has grown at least 3x year-over-year, and now 50 of the top 100 companies in India use SpotDraft’s platform. This is only the beginning for the Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) company.
While SpotDraft is the dominant contract development platform in Asia, the company wants to make its mark on the large US market. This has thrown it into a competitive market with many major players – but that hasn’t stopped SpotDraft from making itself stand out. The company’s product is built on easy collaboration – as Shashank says, “contract development is a team sport”. It is also truly end-to-end, so users can complete and track all contract work directly on the SpotDraft platform. SpotDraft also recognized early on that getting customers up and running on the platform was an essential part of the process – capturing all the institutional knowledge around how each customer likes to build and structure its contracts. As a result, SpotDraft does the heavy lifting of implementation, migration, and adoption for its customers. It also provides 24/7 support for users – much needed in an industry where those all-nighters are still far too common. Having a structure that includes support has enabled SpotDraft to de-risk using its platform. This simple, but effective model has seen the company grow quickly in the US market – to the point where 65% of SpotDraft’s revenue comes from the US, and its growth looks to continue with the company targeting mid-market and enterprise clientele across industries.
WHERE SPOTDRAFT IS HEADED
As Shashank reflects on the journey of SpotDraft, he understands the growth of the company could come from anywhere. That said, the company’s long-term investment in AI technology seems sure to play an essential role. This commitment has enabled SpotDraft to build a specialized AI engine called VerifAI, which can make suggestions in the editor for additions or improvements in contract language, check contracts against user-specified guidelines and playbooks, and answer complex, open-ended questions about contracts in seconds. All of this helps increase speed and precision in the contract review process. Shashank believes this is only the start – with AI likely to take an ever-larger role moving forwards.
For Shashank, the momentum SpotDraft has built up is exciting. The goal for the company is to become the single source of truth for anything related to contracts. The success of SpotDraft’s technology and its continued infusion with new AI-driven features have created a platform that is ready to truly bring the legal industry into the 21st century. Not bad for a recovering lawyer!