Wednesday, September 28, 2016
How ContractSafe Wants To Help You Get Your Legal Docs In Order, With Ken Button
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
For a lot of companies—and their management and legal teams-- managing the reams of paperwork involved with legal contracts is a big, disorganized mess. To address that disaster, Ken Button and Randy Bishop—two veterans of the startup industry—created ContractSafe (www.contractsafe.com), a new online service aimed at helping companies to tame that mess and manage and store their contracts in the cloud. We caught up with Ken Button, the co-founder and CEO of the company, to learn more about why the startup already has signed up such customers as California Pizza Kitchen, Obvious Ventures, Fandango, Greenspire, and others to the service.
What is ContractSafe?
Ken Button: ContractSafe is a new kind of contract management solution. Every company has tons of contracts and legal documents, probably more than they want to acknowledge, ranging from customer agreements, to vendor agreements, employee documents, investor documents, corporate governance documents, leases, insurance, and on and on. Typically, these documents are a mess. They're not well organized, they're hard to find, and companies are at risk of missing key dates. ContractSafe is a solution for companies that can benefit from having documents organized, and don't want to spend lots of time and money getting there.
Why is this needed by companies?
Ken Button: This was a problem I have seen in every step of my career, and for sure in our last business. At least once a week, and email would go around to the whole team, on who has the latest version of XYZ contract, or do we have an NDA with so and so. Every time that happened, it struck me as a huge waste of time. We looked for a solution, and we couldn't find anything that was accessible. There are a lot of solutions out there, but they tend to be really big, complex, and expensive, kind of Oracle-like. It's not what people need. What companies need, is more like a Box or Dropbox, but on steroids, with additional features specific to contracts, like automatic OCR so that you can search for content and find things quickly, and emailed date reminders, so you can set-and-forget-it on key dates.
So how'd you end up starting the company?
Ken Button: I am a corporate attorney, and started in private practice at O'Melvany and Myers, and later served as General Counsel for a software business. Randy, my business partner, spent five years at Intuit in the Bay Area, working on Quickbooks. We have been around software for a long time. We had seen this problem over and over again, and we couldn't find a solution that worked for us. We went out, and did an analysis of the space, and we found that this is a very typical problem. Most companies don't have any solution for this, except sharing Flash drives and sticking date reminders on calendars. These are really not organizational approaches, and they break down at some point. We found out that when we spoke to the target market for this, which is any company under a billion dollars. Small companies, which are early stage, often are going through a lot of growth, and they really love it so they can gt organized before due diligence. For larger companies, up to a billion, who have tons of agreements and lots of users, love this, to save time and money and avoid risk.
So, having been on the General Counsel and private practice side, what made you decide to take the leap into running your own startup?
Ken Button: I think that often, the best business ideas are borne from your own experience and frustrations. That was what it was for us. The other solutions have been too complex, and too expensie for most companies to implement, and the reaction we are getting, particularly from in-house counsel, CFOs, controllers, and the finance team, is amazing. We were doing a demo last week, and the quote was—does this really do what you say it does? We were surprised, because you would think that would be a given with software, but they had looked at a lot of solutions that didn't do what they said.
So how far along are you in terms of rolling this out?
Ken Button: We launched into beta in March, and have spent a ton of time adding functionality and stress testing the site. We've been really happy with the product itself. We've gotten great reviews from our user surveys. We asked, on a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied our users were, and it came back a 4.5. For a still, pretty young product, we're pleased. We have some great initial customers, including some big companies like J2 Global and California Pizza Kitchen, Greenspire, and other growth companies, and we just formally launched into the market. From this point forward, we'll be scaling on the customer acquisition side.
How are you funding this so far?
Ken Button: Randy and I have self funded it to date, and as the reaction in the market has been really positive, and we're making good process, we're just now thinking hard on whether to raise outside capital to accelerate growth.
Finally, what's next for you and what are you working on?
Ken Button: We are really happy with the product, and the next phase for us is about integration with other solutions, to make the use of the system even more convenient for our customers. For example, we're integrating with Docusign, so that completed contracts and data will automatically be available in ContractSafe. We're also looking at extending it to integrate with CRM apps like Zoho, Salesforce, and HR systems like Bamboo and Zenefits.
Thanks, and good luck!