UK startup Juro, which is applying a “design centric approach” and machine learning tech to help businesses speed up the authoring and management of sales contracts, has closed $2m in seed funding led by Point Nine Capital.
Prior investor Seedcamp also contributed to the round. Juro is announcing Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise’s co-founder) as an investor now too, as well as Michael Pennington (Gumtree co-founder) and the family office of Paul Forster (co-founder of Indeed.com).
Back in January 2017 the London-based startup closed a $750,000 (£615k) seed round, though CEO and co-founder Richard Mabey tells us that was really better classed as an angel round — with Point Nine Capital only joining “late” in the day.
“We actually could have strung it out to Series A,” he says of the funding that’s being announced now. “But we had multiple offers come in and there is so much of an explosion in demand for the [machine learning] that it made sense to do a round now rather than wait for the A. The whole legal industry is undergoing radical change and we want to be leading it.”
Juro’s SaaS product is an integrated contracts workflow that combines contract creation, e-signing and commenting capabilities with AI-powered contract analytics.
Its general focus is on customers that have to manage a high volume of contacts — such as marketplaces.
The 2016-founded startup is not breaking out any customer numbers yet but says its client list includes the likes of Estee Lauder, Deliveroo and Nested. And Mabey adds that “most” of its demand is coming from enterprise at this point, noting it has “several tech unicorns and Fortune 500 companies in trial”.
While design is clearly a major focus — with the startup deploying clean-looking templates and visual cues to offer a user-friendly ‘upgrade’ on traditional legal processes — the machine learning component is its scalable, value-added differentiator to serve the target b2b users by helping them identify recurring sticking points in contract negotiations and keep on top of contract renewals.
Mabey tells TechCrunch the new funding will be used to double down on development of the machine learning component of the product.
“We’re not the first to market in contract management by about 25 years,” he says with a smilie. “So we have always needed to prove out our vision of why the incumbents are failing. One part of this is clunky UX and we’ve succeeded so far in replacing legacy providers through better design (e.g. we replace DocuSign at 80% of our customers).
“But the thing we and our investors are really excited about is not just helping businesses with contract workflow but helping them understand their contract data, auto-tag contracts, see pattens in negotiations and red flag unusual contract terms.”
While this machine learning element is where he sees Juro cutting out a competitive edge in an existing and established market, Mabey concedes it takes “quite a lot of capital to do well”. Hence taking more funding now.
“We need a level of predictive accuracy in our models that risk averse lawyers can get comfortable with and that’s a big ask!” he says.
Specifically, Juro will be using the funding to hire data scientists and machine learning engineers — building out the team at both its London and Riga offices. “We’re doing it like crazy,” adds Mabey. “For example, we just hired from the UK government Digital Service the data scientist who delivered the first ML model used by the UK government (on the gov.uk website).
“There is a huge opportunity here but great execution is key and we’re building a world class team to do it. It’s a big bet to grow revenue as quickly as we are and do this kind of R&D but that’s just what the market is demanding.”
Juro’s HQ remains in London for now, though Mabey notes its entire engineering team is based in the EU — between Riga, Amsterdam and Barcelona — “in part to avoid ‘Brexit risk’”.
“Only 27% of the team is British and we have customers operating in 12 countries — something I’m quite proud of — but it does leave us rather exposed. We’re very open minded about where we will be based in the future and are waiting to hear from the government on the final terms of Brexit,” he says when asked whether the startup has any plans to Brexit to Berlin.
“We always look beyond the UK for talent: if the government cannot provide certainty to our Romanian product designer (ex Kalo, Entrepreneur First) that she can stay in the UK post Brexit without risking a visa application, tbh it makes me less bullish on London!”