Originally written by John Stearns
The Eastside is a hotbed of startup activity, particularly as it relates to technology companies.
So, when 425 Business decided to do a story on up-and-coming startups, it was difficult to know where to begin, let alone find the entrepreneurs creating companies from their own homes or tucked-away offices.
Enter the Washington Technology Industry Association, which has its digital fingers on the pulse of many emerging companies.
We asked WTIA to recommend some Eastside startups it considered to have potential for their products or services — and it delivered. We culled five we thought readers would find interesting.
Taking time from hectic schedules to share their stories were the founders of Advocat, Aigen, Allay Health, IAccessible, and Stillaton. Three are from Bellevue, one is from Kirkland, and another is from Redmond. Stay tuned — you might be reading much more about these companies in the future.
Below, read our first feature, on Advocat, from the October 2022 Philanthropy Issue of 425 Business.
As a former U.S. diplomat representing the United States in trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization and later as a lawyer running her own international and business law firm, Pradnya Desh recognized a need for more efficient contract generation.
“I’m inspired to make the legal system better, and the way I see it is contracting is the first step,” Desh said.
Her idea was tapping artificial intelligence to make contract generation easier and less time-consuming for companies’ in-house lawyers, freeing them from rote and repetitive contract work for more important legal analysis and strategy.
“Saving companies time saves companies money, and closing deals faster brings them revenue faster,” Desh said.
Desh incorporated Advocat in Bellevue in 2019 and refined the concept in 2020, spending the year testing her idea with attorneys to learn what would be most useful for them. Later that year, the Advocat CEO began seeking funding to hire engineers to build the AI platform. Advocat raised its first round of capital in March 2021.
She needed a top engineer to build the platform and knew just the right person: her husband, Chetan Desh, who worked in AI at Microsoft. She convinced him to become Advocat’s chief technology officer. Advocat now numbers 10 people, including the Deshes, and had raised $2.2 million as of mid-August, when this story was written. Advocat went to market with its product in June.
Advocat was scheduled to compete in late September in a global startup event for a chance to win $1 million in investment funding as part of the Startup World Cup by Pegasus Tech Ventures. Advocat qualified for the competition after winning a World Cup regional event in August.
“Especially with these competitions, it’s easy to get excited about what I guess the world at large thinks, but it’s really important to be focused on what our customers think and how we can fine-tune Advocat to make it more and more useful to them,” Desh said. “We are getting great feedback; we’re also listening to feedback and improving our product all the time.”
Advocat’s AI platform creates the right contract based on myriad factors, including a company’s historical contracts, best practices, cases that might affect what kind of contract is best to write, a company’s risk tolerance, and its internal policies, Desh said.
“A lot of what an in-house counsel does is that they have all these considerations to keep track of, so we’ve built those and put them in an AI and a system of ingesting them individually for each company who is a customer of ours to generate the right contract,” she said.
Advocat is designed for in-house lawyers and in-house business units whose rules are consistent rather than for law firms with many corporate clients and considerations. Typically, a company’s business personnel need something and will generate the contract on the Advocat platform, but the system is built to require an in-house attorney to sign off on the contract, Desh said. The contract also can be approved by outside counsel.
“It has to be a human attorney that makes the professional responsibility decisions,” she said.
The platform also includes negotiation and e-signature functions. After a company generates its contract, it can send the contract to a counterparty to comment on the platform. The platform is built with comment bubbles that highlight key terms of the contract, making it easier to track changes by either party.
“Every contract, whether it’s two pages or 200 pages, has a few core things that really matter a lot,” Desh said. “… You can see back and forth the conversation about just that key term. So it separates it by negotiating term by term, rather than just a marked-up document.”
It’s just one of many Advocat features exploiting the power of AI to help companies accelerate and streamline legal contracting processes, Desh said.