Liam Gilchrist is the CEO of Lexical Labs, which he co-founded with Will Becker and Simon Black. Before Lexical Labs, Liam practiced law and legal consulting in London, Australia, the Middle East and Tokyo. He has years of experience in banking and commercial law, including stints at top-tier “old-law” firms, innovative “new-law” firms, and in-house.
Liam was inspired to found Lexical Labs — which helps their customers negotiate high-volume contracts by automating the review of contracts against their business — after being frustrated by the day-to-day inefficiencies of being a lawyer.
— In a sentence, what does your company do?
Lexical Labs is a cloud-based platform that reviews and guides our customers through negotiating their contracts, so our customers can understand and amend them in a fraction of the time they would otherwise spend.
— What makes Lexical Labs different in this market?
I’d say we differentiate ourselves in three ways.
To start off, we are an “out of the box” solution, so customers can use us straight away. Many other solutions require expensive and time-consuming training before they can be used on customers data set.
Secondly, the way we analysis contracts is unique, which enables us to provide our customers with extremely detailed and relevant advice.
Thirdly, the issues that we analyze are highly customizable, which means we can train the system to review contracts for the same issues that their own lawyers would be looking for.
— Describe how Lexical Labs came to be. In other words, what was the problem you found and the ‘aha’ moment?
As a lawyer, I always found the process of reviewing contracts incredibly frustrating, as I expect most lawyers do. I would spend hours reading documents for straightforward issues that I could do in my sleep. Every contract was different, but the issues were always the same, and they stopped me doing the interesting, high value work I really wanted to be spending my time on. I realized that with a bit of guidance, anyone could do this work. So what if you could automate this guidance?
I teamed up with an old high school friend of mine, Will Becker, who has a PhD in AI and worked in the tech startup space in London. We used to spend hours in the evening working on a solution to build an automated lawyer that could do bits of my job I hated the most! Simon Black joined us soon after, and his many years of experience in the legal industry have been invaluable for designing solutions that really go to the heart of our customer’s pain points.
— What milestone are you most proud of so far?
There’s nothing like that first moment when the product you have been dreaming about becomes a reality. When it is used by a real customer in a real world situation, and you see it solves their problem that no one else has been able to solve. It’s certainly something that makes you very proud. And it is a huge relief as well!
— What are people most excited by when it comes to using Lexical Labs?
People get very excited by the idea that you don’t need a lawyer for two parties to agree on a deal. That you can empower people to understand their own deals, so that once they agree what they want, the deal is done. No one likes the huge “legal tax” that is applied to deals — the time and money that needs to be spent to paper a deal. And — contrary to popular opinion — even lawyers hate it!
— Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?
We completed our seed round in early 2019. We focused on speaking with individuals who would add real value to the business, believed in what we were building, and would be able to help us to develop and commercialize the product.
— What KPIs are you tracking that you think will lead to revenue generation or growth?
Number of contracts uploaded monthly is a key metric for us. We also track engagement with each new feature to make sure customers value it as much as we do. Customer engagement is really important to us — we want the customer to not only use the product, but love it!
— How do you build and develop talent on your team?
Just like with investors and clients, in the early stages we rely on people who believe in our vision for the company and who are excited by what we are trying to build. We have found the most important thing is people’s attitude — the lift off for a startup is not easy! We have found that it’s really important to give people space to make the most of the responsibility they are given. At the end of the day, people need to enjoy what they are doing and they need to have a passion for it. It’s so important to have a strong team. A culture of respect and appreciation is critical.
— How do you manage growth vs sustainability?
This is always a challenge, but for us the focus has to be on making customers as happy as possible. We need to grow, but keeping existing customers happy is the most important thing. It’s also very important to carefully select which opportunities we take on. They have to be projects that deliver value to our clients as early as possible. Making customers love what you are doing is critical.
— What are the biggest challenges for the team?
I think the most challenging thing is knowing when to say “no.” It’s so easy as a founder to want to say “yes” to everything, but then you end up drowning in technical development and spreading the team too thinly. We get lots of feedback from our customers which is fantastic for developing the product, but it’s so easy to be pulled off track by what a customer is asking for. Managing and prioritizing the list of requests is critical.
— What’s been the biggest success for the team?
Our biggest success is that we are finding that our solution is not just being used by our customers, but is changing our customer’s workflows. We are getting a lot of demand from customers to expand the solution more widely in their businesses.
— What advice would you give to other founders?
The best piece of advice I ever received was the importance of really understanding what customers want. It’s obvious, but even if you think you know, you don’t know until you have data and metrics behind it.
— Have you been or are you part of a corporate startup program or accelerator? If so, which ones and what have been the benefits?
Momentum and PwC Scale. They were great opportunities, both to meet customers as well as to learn things that the founding team didn’t previously have a lot of experience in from their previous lives, like marketing and sales strategies.
Jeremy Webb Startup Grind - Medium https://medium.com/startup-grind/startup-spotlight-q-a-lexical-labs-db2c64990473