Microsoft VC fund backs solicitors’ contract drafting start-up

Emelifeonwu: Global ambitions

A contract drafting and review start-up which earlier this year secured funding from the Google European Black Founders Fund has now secured £2.2m more from a range of funders including Microsoft’s venture capital fund M12.

Nnamdi Emelifeonwu, co-founder of Definely, said he wanted the start-up to be a “global brand” and would use the new funding to pave the way for expansion into the US and Europe.

Microsoft led the start-up’s latest funding round alongside US-based CRE Venture Capital, bringing the total it has raised to £3.4m.

Mr Emelifeonwu said Definely, formerly known as Define, had undergone a rebrand to “bring it more into line” with the company’s ambitions.

“I want this company to be a global brand synonymous with drafting and reviewing legal documents, the same way Google is synonymous with searching on the internet.”

Mr Emelifeonwu said revenue this year was already more than 300% up on the previous financial year.

The new funding would enable Definely to bring more products to market, making it more than “just a Word plug-in”, with a PDF version and a version for the Cloud, which incorporated machine learning.

Only two years ago Mr Emelifeonwu was working by himself at the start-up, which allows users to access and edit defined references in legal documents without losing context.

By June 2020 he had recruited seven staff and now has 18, a mixture of technologists (60%) and lawyers (40%), which he hopes to expand to 25 over the next 12-18 months.

Definely is based at Allen & Overy’s London offices in the law firm’s Fuse innovation space, with technologists around the world in Sweden, New York, Lithuania and Belarus.

Mr Emelifeonwu said being part of Fuse had been “incredibly helpful” and he was still receiving cases from lawyers at A&O. Deloitte and Dentons are also customers.

The idea behind Definely was developed by Mr Emelifeonwu and co-founder Feargus MacDaeid, who is registered blind, when they were associates at Freshfields, searching for a way to make it easier for Mr MacDaeid to draft and review contracts.

Mr Emelifeonwu said he was hoping to use events in the US later this year as a first step towards expansion.

Matthew Goldstein, managing director at M12, commented: “Definely democratises access to legal documents. What began as a tool for the differently abled now provides value to all lawyers, helping them to more rapidly and accurately draft and revise contracts.”

In a separate development, contract review platform ThoughtRiver – also set up by a solicitor, Tim Pullan – and World Commerce & Contracting (WorldCC) have announced a partnership with the aim of allowing any ThoughtRiver user to “instantly review a third-party NDA” against WorldCC contracting principles.

WorldCC is a not-for-profit association which promotes higher standards in commercial practice, by equipping members with knowledge and networks.

ThoughtRiver uses artificial intelligence (AI) to locate rights and obligations in contracts and compares them to contracting policies to highlight risks and unfamiliar language, which are then flagged in a digital issues list.

The system explains why something has been flagged as an issue and offers replacement language to redline/markup the contract with a single click.

Angus Chudleigh, who heads the ‘go to market’ team at ThoughtRiver, said: “Any user of ThoughtRiver will be able to review an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] against the WorldCC contracting principles in seconds and have any issues that are flagged dealt with in minutes.”

The next phase of the partnership aims to expand the use cases beyond NDAs into broader commercial agreements.

ThoughtRiver was originally incubated by Cambridge law firm Taylor Vinters, which remains a shareholder in the business, and it is run by former Taylor Vinters partner Tim Pullan. This time last year, it raised $10m in new investment.

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