“Exponential growth” for open-source contract platform

Faruq: Empowering people to create their own contracts

The chief executive of a contract platform which provides businesses with free open-source templates backed by artificial intelligence (AI) has reported “exponential growth”.

Rafie Faruq, chief executive of Genie AI, said 15 companies were signing up as users every day, compared to no more one a day this time last year. The total number of users had increased from 157 a year ago to 1,400.

Mr Faruq said one of the reasons for the rapid expansion was that Genie was giving away open-source templates for free, which users could access without logging into the site.

He said open source meant not only free access, but the ability for users to create their own derivatives.

The “community-driven approach” taken by Genie improved the quality of templates, he continued.

“Everyone can see how many people have used the templates and comment on them, which can be used for updates. We’re aiming for quality, not just quantity.”

He said Genie’s use of technology could generate summary headings for clauses, making contracts much easier to read.

Mr Faruq said the firm specialised in “generative algorithms”, an area which had “really boomed recently”, and enabled text, and minor changes to clauses, to be created more easily.

Set up in 2017, Genie AI describes itself as “the UK’s largest open-source legal template library”.

The company announced in July 2019 that it had secured £1.2m in seed funding to add to £800,000 received in the form of a government grant from UK Research and Innovation.

At the time, Genie was involved in pilots of its SuperDrafter contract writing assistant with commercial law firms Clifford Chance, Withers and Pinsent Masons.

Mr Faruq said the pilots came to an end that year and in 2020 Genie “pivoted” away from working with law firms towards working directly with business users, launching its community-driven Genie app in June 2020.

“We’re not lawyers, we’re software engineers and we want to empower people to create their own contracts.”

However, this did not mean the end of involvement by lawyers, as in-house lawyers in particular helped to manage templates.

For small businesses, Genie launched a start-up starter pack this month, giving them free access to 30 of the most important contracts a company needs to build their business, including agreements on employment, investment, intellectual property, data protection and sales.

Genie says its data shows that small businesses spend £30,000 in legal costs getting to their Series A funding round.

Mr Faruq said companies were charged by Genie on a subscription basis for access to “premium software, AI tools and insights”. The company was also exploring whether to provide a further paid-for service which included access to lawyers.

He said Genie, which is based in London and has 20 staff, had sufficient funding for its current needs.

He added: “It’s crazy that the legal industry is still repeating thousands of versions of boilerplate contracts.

“We have created an open-source legal platform where founders and businesses can access high-quality, peer-reviewed documents that can easily be tailored to their specific needs through variable clauses and guidance notes.”

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