Building a digital workspace for contract lifecycle management | Jean Mauris - Avokaado

Author Cristian
Updated Nov 14th, ’22
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How is Avokaado different?

Jean: Avokaado is a private digital workspace for contracts and documents throughout the old company functions to save 80% of the time, reduce human errors and mitigate risk when negotiating, closing, and managing contracts and agreements. And we are doing this by building a new document format. We call it ADOC. This is a data-friendly, workflow-based connected document to replace all your PDFs and Word documents.

Are you killing the PDF?

Jean: Hopefully, for the contracts, agreements, and documents. I don’t have anything against PDF when it’s used where it’s supposed to be used, like presentations and all of that stuff. However, we are trying to get rid of the document that hides all the information and all the business-critical information inside. With our document, you can create it in the no-code environment in the browser.

Top 3 features Avokaado

Jean: The number one is that our customers’ private workspace means your business-critical data is not shared in the public cloud. This is a very big thing for our customers and us as well. Second of all, it’s closed-based. Contract engineering means that we are a set of data points. It’s not a plain document with plain text. Every close you can refer to has an id. And lastly, we have out-of-the-box options right on the platform so you can have the full life cycle of the contract from negotiation to signing and managing your privacy.

Avokaado use cases

Jean: Our customers are figuring out such amazing use cases that we’re wondering how they came up with it. The most simple one probably anyone can relate to is an employment agreement. For example, when hiring someone, you must prepare an employment agreement. Most of the time, it’s template based, so there is not much to change there. But if you do not use any solution like Avokaado, you need to open a document, draft some stuff, then send it over to a candidate via email as a PD. Then they provide you with data, like bank account numbers or personal ID codes, whatever needs to be filled in. So it takes a lot of time. There are a lot of errors, and it needs to be run by the legal team or by someone to check the document. If anything changes or everything is fine

In the case of our Avokaado, it’s super simple. You create an employment agreement from an automated template means that we create the program and the employment agreement the way it should be there. Then, you just share a link with the employee. Employees can visit the link and fill in all the data. HR can review this data, send it for approval, and then sign it right on the platform. And employers and employees both get what they want and sign copies of the agreement automatically. And then you can also share all the data from an agreement with your payroll software or the HR software.

There are a lot of like very sophisticated cases. For example, one of our customers automated preparing documents to incorporate a company in Poland. It means you can go, and with a click, like drag and drop and clicking stuff, you can create all the documents and sign them on the platform. Submit to the government and create a registry business. There is no need for any lawyers on top of that because everything pre-programmed. So we have very simple cases and very sophisticated cases.

What is the pricing for Avokaado?

Jean: For enterprises, we start with the annual subscriptions. So it’s software as a service, and we start from €5,000 /year. It depends on how many documents you want to process and how many seats you want to have. By seats, I mean people who can create and automate those contracts and workflows. Depending on your company size, it goes to €50,000 a year.

How do you plan to differentiate in the contract lifecycle management space?

Jean: We are not the first to do this. It’s a pretty crowded market already. Many players are on the market, but we see ourselves solving the problem at its root – to stop creating work documents and PDFs. Let’s build, let’s design a file format that supports everything for the modern contracting world. By everything, I mean mostly data and connectivity, so it’s like a data document, and it’s connected to other systems, et cetera. We are running forward with this flag in our hands, saying – okay, guys, we need another way of working with contracts. Some companies are trying to do that from a different perspective. As I said, it’s not a blue ocean, it’s already closer to red ocean, but we also have our competitive edge there.

First of all, as I said, we are selling private workspaces. You’re not sharing your data for businesses, especially for medium, large, and enterprise-size companies, it’s a must-have, and they are not ready to share critical business information. Our long-term vision is about able to standardize, to put this document format as a standard for the industry for sure. Like an open source, you can build something on top of it, so you do not need Avokaado to open the document.

Lastly, we are very focused on local markets, by local markets, I mean that we started in Estonia. We have customers all around Central, and Eastern Europe, the Nordics, etc. We aim to build this local experience in translated interfaces and legal engineering expertise. Having people in Poland, having people in Austria creating and automating those contracts. Being able to do that. We are heavily focused on workflows. One of the biggest features for the next year in our roadmap is actually allowing you to build types of workflows on top of your contracts on top of ADOC.

When did the company start?

Jean: The company was founded quite some time ago, in 2016, in Estonia; headquarters are still here in Estonia, in Tallinn, and actually, the company was founded by Mariana Hagström, the CEO of the company as well. Mariana spent ten years managing a law firm. While doing that, she realized that creating contracts, managing, negotiating, and doing anything related to contracts has much of this routine work that legal professionals shouldn’t do at all. The majority of those things can be automated. And these high-risk, high-value custom contracts are outside our scope, but most of the actual low-risk, low-value contracts can be automated.

At some point, Avokaado started as a place where you can create those automated contracts, basically a marketplace. Then we realized at some point that the marketplace business model is very complex to start growing and scaling it. And we switched to software as a service and are not focused on selling contract templates. We are not even doing that anymore. So we provide those legal professionals and law firms with a space where they can create those templates and share them with either customer or internally. That shifted our focus heavily from law firms because we have sure law firms as our customers. Still, it shifted our focus to the businesses and these legal departments within the existing businesses facing those problems on a much bigger scale than law.

Joining as a late co-founder

Jean: I was introduced to Mariana last year by our mutual friends. They introduced us, and I joined as a part-time product advisor because Mariana was a solo founder with huge expertise in the legal field. And I brought to the table 20 years of experience in building digital products and managing high-performance teams, and we spent some time trying to figure out if there was chemistry. At some point, it clicked, and I joined as a late co-founder.

The company was already founded, but I brought this experience and joined as a co-founder and head of product, and this made us move forward already, showing very good results. Because Mariana is in the legal field and I have expertise in building products, that’s combining. So it’s cool results.

How big is the Avokaado team?

Jean: We are quite a small team, 14 people. Most of the team is between talent development and customer support, legal engineering, and the engineering team. We are a fully remote team, meaning we work from anywhere. So, for example, now I’m in our headquarters, but I worked from home last week.

What is your story, Jean?

Jean: At 20 years old, I started my first company, and in seven years, it was one of the most popular companies in Lavia, at least by that time. It was a web design and web development agency. And I brought it from zero to 1 million in revenue in the local market. I sold it, and I invested in several startups as an angel. Lost some money, as always, as with all the first angel investments. A good friend founded his first Startup Accelerator in Lavia called GL Business Lab, where we invested. So we didn’t invest money, we invested services to pre-product startups, helping them to build the product, to validate it’s on the market. We invested in six startups, so one of them is doing great and growing and having big customers.

After that, I switched to a bit of enterprise world and enterprise management consulting. I was helping big established companies to initiate those internal digital transformations. So basically, changing the culture within the organization, changing the approach, trying to push this lean startup methodology. And I worked with several big companies, including FinTech, retail, and manufacturing. But then, I jumped back into entrepreneurship by joining Avokaado last year.

Are you still investing as an angel?

Jean: Right now, I’m focused full-time on Avokaado. I want to commit at least two-three years of my time to build something massive because the problem is huge, especially on an international scale. Especially with my background, I spent quite some time in B2B software as a service company, so I feel like this can be worth three years of my life and then probably exit it at some point.

Any piece of advice for founders regarding product?

Jean: First of all, it’s never about the product. It’s about sales and marketing. And I’m saying that being a product guy, right? So never build the product, try to sell it first. Validate it to some extent as far as you can. Second, do not underestimate the power of the team and especially on the founder’s level. There should always be chemistry between founders. You can argue and have conflicts and arguments, but if there is no chemistry, you will lose a lot in the future. So those are two, and for sure, build your company around culture and hire for culture, not for big shiny CVs, resumes, and experiences.

At least in my experience, it didn’t make sense to hire you because you have huge knowledge, but you are a very toxic person for this particular team because you might like shine and flourish in another team. For example, in our team, you’re toxic, and that kills everything within the startup special when the startup needs to run super fast. Talking about speed, you should always take time to rest, recover, and recharge your batteries. Do not work 12 hours a day, but work 8 hours a day max. Try to do meaningful work instead of like pulling long hours.

If not, it always ends with burnout. It always ends with health problems, emotional and physical health, both sides of the story. And it never kind of disappears. So you accumulate this stress within yourself. And at some point, for some people, it might be like 25 years old, for some people, 35. you’ll get those problems super visible, and you’ll see them and they’ll, you’ll regret what you did because anyway, all the people, all the scientists around the world, prove that anyway human beings can’t be productive for more than six to eight hours.

What’s your favorite software?

Jean: This is a good question. It might sound weird, but I enjoy Coda. I really enjoy Coda because it’s a no-code environment where I can build things. I can build my internal products without engineering, and I believe they are really revolutionizing this database building and that building in the OCO environment, together with Notion and other knowledge management software. So that’s what we plan to do with contracts, with our ADOC, or how it will be named when we publicly release it.

One last piece of advice from Jean

Jean: I would say that be ambitious. Be ambitious about anything because, for example, we planned to grow two times a year. We said, screw it, we want to grow four to five times next year. And we want to keep this space, at least for like two, three years from now. We see that when you put these ambitious goals, your mind unconsciously tries to find shortcuts to get there. So if you say – we need to grow like 20% a year; if you’re a huge company, like a hundred million revenue companies, sure, it makes sense. But for startups, put ambitious goals in front of you, and even if you don’t reach them, you will be much farther down the road than if you put less ambitious goals.

Connect with Jean

Avokaado: avokaado.io

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jeanmauris