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The Future of Seal Strategy: Q&A with Jim Wagner, Chief Strategy Officer

First off, let’s start by saying “welcome aboard!” How does it feel to officially be part of the Seal team?

It’s great. We (Apogee and Seal) have worked together so well for so long that it’s a pretty easy transition. It’s a great cultural fit and obviously a great business fit. We’re very proud of the team that we built at Apogee, and the entire Apogee team is excited to be a part of something special at Seal

You started your relationship with Seal in early 2015. Prior to the merger, you had become Seal’s most expert partner in building advanced contract analytics on the Seal platform, working with many of our larger customers. How and why did you select Seal as the platform for your business?

My partners, Steve Harber, Matt Miller and I, have been working within legal technology for a very long time. (Steve scanned the first paper contract into a digital image in 1993—just ask him!) But on a serious note, we have been working with global companies for over 20 years, helping them implement technology to make their analysis of legal documents more efficient. Once we identified the opportunity to bring AI and automation to contracts, we undertook a detailed review of every major player in the market. Through this process we got to know the Seal executive team and the Seal platform well.  

Our decision to move forward with Seal versus any other competitor in the market came down to three things:

First, Seal is an enterprise software platform. Full stop. The Seal team is crystal clear that the real pain in the market resides with the ultimate customers – large businesses with large volumes of complex contracts.  Everything Seal does, whether it’s how the application is built, or the quality and scale of the professional services team, or the overall go-to-market strategy, is designed to support that enterprise-class customer. By the way, that’s been our business model as well, and it’s paid huge dividends for Seal … and for us.

Second, Seal has great technology. If you’re new to the AI world and you want to see some magic, open the Seal training platform, pick a clause that you like, and watch Seal identify similar clauses across thousands of documents in just a few seconds. The first time we saw this functionality, as compared to a market where competitors have to enlist armies of data scientists to get their work done or train 100 examples, we were sold.  That’s not to say that Seal doesn’t have plenty of data scientists; the Seal team of scientists is great. But the magic of their efforts is that they’ve effectively transferred the power from the scientists’ brains to the end users’ fingertips. And if you’re advanced users, which we are, Seal has, what our mutual friend, Seal sales leader, Steve Tucker likes to call, “Formula 1” capabilities – an incredibly powerful array of AI tools at your disposal.  

Third, and this point should not be discounted, is that this company is here to stay. Seal has a vision and a roadmap that is perfectly aligned with the needs of the enterprise market. Seal has the largest corporate install base of any contract AI company on the planet. And, as was just announced, Seal has a great capital partner and the funding necessary to go all the way. There are a lot of start-ups in the contracts AI space, and the reality is that most of these companies will not be around in 24 months. 

So, as the new Chief Strategy Officer for Seal, any hints as to where the company is headed?

Seal is in a fantastic strategic position…and has been long before I got here. We have a very experienced leadership team, and a very well thought out and ambitious roadmap. So that’s a great place from which to start my new role. With that said, let’s talk a little about where Seal is moving.  

When you think about AI and text analysis, it’s a given that most applications will be, let’s call them, “young,” and that certainly includes most of the start-ups in the contract analytics space. And in that initial or early stage, the product sets tend to be pretty basic. So, for example, younger companies may be spending extraordinary amounts of time just to make their AI function with contracts, or to identify some basic clauses (think, change of control or assignment rights). But this is the crazy part – Seal is nearly a decade old! That means we’ve gone through the growing pains of building out a core platform that is enterprise class and scale, and now we’re on to developing the fun stuff.

Since we decided to join forces with Seal, we’ve worked very closely with Ulf Zetterberg (Seal CEO), Kevin Gidney (Seal CTO) and the Seal leadership team to understand the existing technology roadmap and to collaborate on a strategy that delivers even greater value to Seal customers. While some of those details of the roadmap are more appropriate for Ulf and Kevin to introduce at the upcoming Seal Insight conferences (NYC, Palo Alto, & London), there are two common themes to share:

First, as evidenced by the acquisition of Apogee, Seal is deeply committed to building more functionally and value into the Seal platform. Apogee has a tremendous catalogue of analytics for advanced use cases—for example, we have richly detailed “packs” of analytics for data privacy, procurement, derivatives, etc. Beyond the team of developers working on the core Seal product, with the combination of Apogee and Seal, we’ll have more than 30 professionals dedicated exclusively to developing advanced analytics. That team is very busy, and you will see them continue to pump out high value insight accelerators.

Second, enterprise customers aren’t really interested in AI for the sake of experimenting. That novelty is gone. If you’re going to be in our business, you have to deliver ROI. And as much as we’ve accomplished to date, the Seal roadmap and commitment is clear—the Seal contract analysis platform is and will continue be the leader in ROI for the enterprise. And that’s going to become clearer and clearer to the market as we move forward.

That’s all well and good on the business front. For those members of the Seal community that don’t know you and your team, do you have anything more personal than to share?

Ah, well now that’s a little more fun now isn’t it. I suppose it’s worth knowing that my family are big on the outdoors – my oldest son is a walking National Geographic and takes us all along for the ride, and my youngest two are soccer junkies.  On the soccer front, if we are gossiping about all things Apogee, my business partner, Matt Miller, was a professional goalie in the States before becoming a lawyer. My business partner Steve Harber is probably a little less of an organized sports guy but does aspire to own a bait and tackle store for his next job. Lastly, the Apogee team are just a diverse group of professionals who are very good at what they do and who are a lot of fun to be around. And, as you would expect, they’re looking forward to a great future as part of Seal.

Seal Insight Accelerators

Brexit Insight™

Procurement Insight™

Data Privacy & GDPR Insight™

QFC Insight™

M&A Insight™

Reserve your spot now to join Jim and other Seal executives at a Seal Insight customer conference:

  • New York City, September 5, 2018
  • Palo Alto, California, September 20, 2018
  • London, England, September 26, 2018

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