Featured case: Evisort: An AI-powered Start-up Uses Text
Mining to Become Google for Contracts

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Jerry Ting, Amine Anoun and Jake Sussman, Evisort’s Chief Executive Officer, Chief Technical Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

What?

Evisort is a start-up that was co-founded by law students and an engineering PhD student to create AI-enhanced software providing contract management and processing solutions for attorneys and business professionals.

Why?

The company was presented with its largest potential sale to date, by a big life sciences company in the Boston area. The company, however, required a number of custom modifications to Evisort’s software to meet their needs.

Where?

The headquarters of Evisort are in Silicon Valley in California, but they serve clients across the US. Part of Evisort’s challenge was also deciding where to base their operations.

When?

It was in 2013 when Ting produced a paper that was the genesis of Evisort. Five years later, the company was on the verge of landing its biggest ever deal.

Key quote

“There’s so much we can do with AI. There is so much data in contracts. Where do you focus to get the biggest value add? That’s something all three of us have to keep each other honest on.” – Jake Sussman, Evisort COO.

What next?

The real choice the trio faced was whether to customise their software in order to land a large contract.

It would be their first sale to a Fortune 500 company, but what would it take to make the changes required? Would it require hiring new product developers (a timely process given how careful and deliberate Evisort were with their hiring)? Would those changes help Evisort’s other clients? And ultimately, could Evisort say no to such a sizeable sale?

 
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Evisort: An AI-powered Start-up Uses Text Mining to Become Google for Contracts
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The author

author

Daniel Guetta

Daniel talks about tailoring cases to analytics and data science, and using start-up companies to inspire his students.

Taking a different route

Taking a different routeDaniel said: “Traditionally, the case method has focused on teaching topics in management, and these kinds of cases have traditionally used  a clear dilemma to kick off the discussion. My cases, however, focus on analytics and data science techniques, and how they can be used to drive business value. These problems are often critical for the companies involved, and so they speak for themselves.”

Start-up benefits

Daniel continued: “I find there are two benefits of writing cases about start-ups. First, students identify with start-ups more easily. My students might be the protagonists in these situations in only a few short years; indeed, I often write these kinds of cases with past students! The second benefit is that start-ups tend to be simpler and smaller than later-stage companies, which enables me to isolate specific issues I want to discuss in a case.”

Collaborating with Companies

He commented: “I’ve generally found that writing cases in collaboration with companies results in far richer cases, but also comes with challenges. The companies I’ve worked with (Cargo, Evisort, and Dig among others) have been very helpful and supportive, but there is usually some legwork involved in reassuring them that I won’t divulge any of their data or trade secrets. This is especially true of the cases I write, which are generally very data-heavy.

“For this case in particular, Jake, Jerry, Amine, and the entire Evisort team couldn’t have been more helpful, and the fantastic team at Columbia CaseWorks are also experts in navigating this process."

authorClassroom discussion

Daniel concluded: “The idea of contracts as the scaffolding of a company is often a revelation to students when it’s first introduced, and they are brimming with ideas of how companies might derive value out of more advanced contract analysis. Beyond this pivotal point, the case generates lively discussion around the issues facing young start-ups, especially those trying to leverage analytics. Finally, being able to cover the technology behind the case in more depth is the cherry on the cake.”

About the authors

Daniel Guetta is the Director of the Business Analytics Initiative and Senior Lecturer in Discipline at Columbia Business School.
e crg2133@columbia.edu
w http://daniel.guetta.com

 

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