Thursday, April 18, 2024

Outlaw fights back at the incomprehensible legalese that plagues business contracts

It should have been a celebratory time for Evan Schneyer. His travel-oriented startup, Wanderfly, was being sold to Tripadvisor after about five weeks’ worth of discussion. Then, when it came time to sign on the dotted line, the contract challenges emerged that gave birth to his new venture, Outlaw.

“It was like a glorified job inteview process. There was a lot of talk about ‘fit’ — it felt very human,” he told B2B News Network. “(Then) it basically took another six weeks to create the legalese version of what was already agreed to.”

Outlaw aims to eliminate the jargon and technical terminology that can make contracts so confusing with an application that allows users to essentially create what Shneyer calls a “summary layer” that can replace all those “hertofores” and “named entities” with the actual company name and more commonplace phrases. The authoring tool is like a fill-in-the-blank template, the results of which could be the first page of an agreement.

“We’re not replacing the underlying contract. That is still there,” he explained. “The point is that, in every deal I’ve done, the actual deal happens in English. It’s two people deciding that they want to start a relationship. We just have this crazy global cultural custom that the next step is to shift into another language that, frankly, neither of the people making the decision fluently speak.”

Although there are some SaaS tools and services to help perform a similar function in the consumer space, such as LegalZoom or RocketLawyer, Schneyer said there is a void in two-party contracts such as LLC agreements.

“The second you have a custom contract — which is essentially every business — the process becomes extremely manual,” he said. “Even if you’re using DocuSign or Echosign, you still need to go through that back and forth every time there’ s a major change.”

Outlaw will be able to assist with agreements ranging from close-of-sale contracts to advisory agreements and beyond. Other use cases could include agencies and consultancies who need to form NDAs with freelancers, Schneyer said.

“There are a lot of SaaS services that have customer sizes in low or mid-five figures, and you can tell it’s not an online signup,” he said. “There may be a few terms, around exclusivity and defined intellectual property, where people are hustling on the other end to work out the details.”

While Blockchain technology has introduced the idea of “smart contracts” that essentially execute themselves, Schneyer said Outlaw is focusing on more traditional kinds of agreements, though the firm may explore the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to further streamline the way language and terminology is translated through the application. Based on his own experience at various startups, though, he said there should be plenty of demand for the current version.

“The end user frequently is the buyer — this solves their problem directly,” he said.


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Shane Schick
Shane Schick
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.