8 minute read
Startup Story

A fast forward for fine print: Bounsel brings AI to contract management

Bounsel Team.

A Spanish startup makes contracting more intelligent, more human, more valuable

Pilar Prados co-founded Bounsel to solve the contracting pain points that consumed the better part of her decade as an M&A attorney drafting and negotiating agreements for companies in Brazil and Spain. “Bounsel is an all-in-one platform that automates contract management. Our motto is ‘Put magic into your document management for a stress-free contract lifecycle’,” says Prados. “On Bounsel, you can carry out collaborative creation and review with an AI layer that can interpret existing contracts and perform semantic searches.”

With the help of Growth Academy: Digital Transformation and Google for Startups Women Founders Academy in Madrid, the legal tech startup has accelerated quickly since incorporating in 2019. In 2022 Bounsel notched a finalist pitch slot at Slush, Europe’s leading tech startup conference, and was awarded an EU-backed €325,000 grant to build AI tools to analyze unstructured contract content in Spanish and Portuguese. "In 2022, we doubled our staff and improved our cloud solution to automate end-to-end contract workflow,” says Prados. “Nothing would have been possible without Google for Startups’ immense support. The Google community is the best startup ecosystem that I have encountered so far.”

How Bounsel accelerated with support from Google for Startups

The Bounsel team is headquartered on Spain’s eastern coast in Valencia, a 2022 World Design City with 1,035 startups and 70 investment funds that boasts the most startups per capita of any region in Spain. Both Prados and her co-founder and Bounsel’s CTO Marcos Sanz were part of the 2021 cohort of Growth Academy: Digital Transformation, working alongside Google advisors in Cloud technology and startup marketing to launch their legal tech.

“As a CEO, I am always results-oriented,” says Prados. “Google for Startups helped us improve our marketing and B2B sales strategies in just one month, multiplying qualified leads three-fold. We got to look at Bounsel through a new lens and learned that many micro-changes can really impact results. We learned how to extract insights from our early adopters and customers to develop a stronger MVP.”

Replacing email threads and copy-paste doc with AI and natural language processing.

Like other successful startups, Bounsel began with a promise to solve a real problem that throttles growth. If contracts are how companies close deals, why carry out these high-stakes negotiations through email threads and copy-pasted docs?

“That’s a question I faced every day as a super stressed M&A lawyer and contract coordinator for Iberian investment in Brazil. I would spend hours emailing clients, updating versions, tracking constant changes, and reading emails that weren’t even directly addressed to me, just to make sure I didn’t lose the response to a comment thread,” says Prados.

The business demand for Bounsel’s MVP has been quick and decisive. Bounsel landed a finalist pitch slot at South Summit 2020, the largest startup event in Southern Europe, and recently spoke at Slush 2022 . “On the Google stage at Slush, I had the opportunity to share my story and give a lightning talk entitled, ‘How to create a successful startup while raising two kids without losing the Mediterranean vibes’,” said Prados, who attended as part of a pioneering #womenfounders delegation with Google for Startups.

Bounsel is still fully owned by its founders. The startup’s most lucrative award—an EU-backed €325,000 grant from NEOTEC—empowered Bounsel to build NLP tools to read and interpret unstructured contract content in Spanish and Portuguese, and keep these languages at the forefront of the EU’s developments in artificial intelligence. “We are on a mission to make contracts more human,” Prados tells us. Bounsel’s purpose recently gained the financial support of the European Commission through its WomenTechEU program, by recognizing their female-led deep-tech solution made in Europe.

Convincing lawyers to see technology as their ally, not their enemy

Bounsel’s customers are primarily lawyers and in-house counsel. Prados markets to her potential audience through both digital channels and frequent virtual and in-person appearances at the growing number of conferences addressing the digitization of the legal profession. “It is essential to bring technologists together with lawyers, and Bounsel is a clear example of this,” emphasizes Prados. “We work at the intersection of where law meets tech.”

In true legal form, the mission comes with a disclaimer: “Attorneys can be skeptical of technology that automates their daily work,” she adds. To allay the concerns of potential customers, Prados recounts her own career: a Columbia law grad who spent over a decade in international arbitration at Chaffetz Lindsey LLP in New York City and at Spanish law firm Cuatrecasas in Brazil. “As lawyers gain a better understanding of artificial intelligence, they realize that technology is their friend, not an enemy, and that thanks to it, they can focus on intellectual tasks and add more value to the company,” Prados explains.

Making marketing moves at Google for Startups Women Founders Academy in Madrid

In the summer of 2022, Prados joined 11 women founders from Spain and Portugal to attend Google for Startups Women Founders Academy in Madrid, developing marketing strategies and people management skills, uniquely tailored for each startup’s immediate challenges. “I highly recommend it to exceptional founders! I try daily to be a source of inspiration to the team, I feel that there is still room for improvement,” says Prados. “The sessions are highly interactive and productive. We improved our marketing approach and our MVP by developing new methods of listening to customers’ needs and pain points.”

To attract customers, Bounsel modified its business model—in the platform, built on Google Cloud (Compute Engine, Kubernetes Engine, SQL, among other services), a license is only charged for the user who controls the lifecycle of the document. The reading mode and the approvals are always free.

“We developed Bounsel Flow—integrating a conversational approach to contract creation and workflow automation–by listening to our customers,” Prados tells us. “We demonstrate Bounsel Flow live at legal conferences to engage the audience and issue attendance certificates. We have learned that most lawyers are not going to radically alter their way of working, so we developed this part of our platform to respect their workflow but remove tedious copy-paste and inefficient email threads.”

Natural language processing: Bounsel’s AI interprets contracts with Google Cloud

Through the Google for Startups Cloud Program, Bounsel will be awarded $100,000 in Google Cloud and Firebase usage credits, along with dedicated guidance from Cloud engineers that allowed the startup to build their entire infrastructure in GCP.

Bounsel AI can examine existing archives of business contracts, allowing lawyers and company counsel to extract key data from documents and unlock new business opportunities by finding entities and affected parties in just seconds. “We employ a massive and scalable Cloud storage system to maximize the profit of valuable contract insights,” says Prados. Bounsel AI’s infrastructure is powered entirely by Google Cloud, making effective use of Vertex AI and Document AI for contracts, which remains the globe’s leading NLP tool for document-oriented text analytics.

As the pandemic and a rise in natural disasters have more companies turning to attorneys to understand the force majeure and opt-out clauses of their contracts, Bounsel’s customer base will continue to grow, needing digitized contract management to speed up and improve the accuracy of their legal operations.

“Managing contracts is at the core of all commerce. During my decade-plus as a corporate lawyer, I felt how painful it was to review and manage documents without technology,” says Prados. “Though the business world has not yet become fully digital-native in its contracting—we’re working on it!—there will continue to be a significant and ongoing demand to unlock the value and data stored in docs and PDFs. And besides, nothing irks an attorney more than performing tasks that don’t add value.”

Learn more about Bounsel