In an exclusive interview, Luminance CEO Eleanor Weaver, discusses with LAWYER Magazine the ways in which Luminance facilitates the effective processing of contracts and other legal documents, the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic to the company’s business model, as well as the need for lawyers to familiarize themselves with new technologies.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional journey.
I started my career at British cyber-AI company Darktrace, where I was one of the company’s first 50 employees. I initially worked in the Marketing team, but quickly found myself curious about what a career in Sales would look like. I spoke to my manager, made the move, and never looked back.
Fairly early on in my career at Darktrace, I was given the opportunity to launch the company’s operations South Africa, and over the course of three years, I built a team of 30 people and we were generating annual revenue of $10 million. From there, I went on to become the Division Director for one of Darktrace’s flagship products and helped the company continue to grow its global footprint as it geared up for its blockbuster IPO last year.
Through our shared investors at Invoke Capital, who were instrumental in the early days of Darktrace, I had always kept an eye on Luminance since it was founded back in 2015. A genuine AI company like Luminance is a rare thing in an age when ‘AI’ has become a catch-all marketing term for many data analytics and automation companies, so when I was offered the chance to spearhead the company through its scale-up journey into an outright British AI and technology leader, I jumped at it.
- What is your main focus at Luminance?
Right now, everyone’s main focus at Luminance is on growth, both scaling our internal infrastructure and expanding our customer base. It couldn’t really be anything else at this stage – we’ve built a world-leading range of products that service the entire spectrum of document review, from contract drafting and negotiation to post-execution analysis.
That means a few different things. Firstly, we are taking our products and telling our story to a wider range of potential and existing customers than ever before, all over the world. We have nearly 400 customers in over 60 countries now, including global household names like Tesco, Ferrero, and every member of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, and we expect to see significant growth in 2022 and beyond. Secondly, we are incredibly excited to continue rolling out our latest product. With Luminance Corporate, we have built a product that is actually the first AI in the world that can take a first pass review of any incoming contract. With this innovation, our addressable market expands to practically any organisation in the world with an in-house legal team. Combine this with our continued success in the law firm market and the world is our oyster.
Finally, we are constantly looking to hire more of the best and brightest into our business, and I would hope to expand our headcount quite significantly over the next 12 months, particularly in the USA where we have recently hired a Head of Sales to lead the charge in that market.
- How do you address the challenge of educating lawyers in using AI systems and Luminance in particular?
This is a really interesting question, and one that we grapple with every day. With Luminance, we have built a platform that is not only incredibly powerful, but also incredibly easy to use. Without naming names, some other tech providers put new users through weeks – sometimes months – of training courses just to learn how to use specific parts of their platform. With Luminance, prospective customers are given a free Proof of Value to try the technology on their own documents. We then give new users a short training course – it’s that easy to use.
To your broader point, we try to educate lawyers about the power of AI by speaking to them about it at every possible opportunity. Perceptions of technology are changing: with organisations of every kind seeking a competitive advantage, it has never been more important to invest in new technology in order to secure that advantage. [AV1] These challenges are set against a raging war for talent, with law firm salaries skyrocketing and an ever-growing challenge in terms of regulation and compliance. At Luminance, we help our customers navigate these challenges by taking the pain away from document review – giving users time to focus on their larger strategic challenges. Essentially, we want lawyers to use Luminance as their first and only tool wherever computer meets contract. No one else provides the end-to-end, one-stop shop solution that we do. You only need to look at who are customers are for proof of that: some of the world’s largest law firms, global household name brands like Tesco, Ferrero, and all four of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms all use Luminance every day to improve outcomes across a vast range of use cases.
- Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your strategy and how?
Luckily for us, we have seen sustained and sizeable growth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most businesses, we shifted to a work from home model at the start of the pandemic and have since adopted a hybrid pattern so that we can work flexibly around changing pandemic situations. This is as much a commercial imperative as a health and safety one. Just as our own team at Luminance suddenly needed to work from home, so too did our customers, raising a range of challenges. For example, where once junior lawyers used to pile into one meeting room for twelve hours a day to conduct a review, suddenly those same employees were spread all over the country (or even the world) – yet the requirement to provide the same level of service remained. Using our tech, our customers were able to more effectively navigate the obstacles thrown up by the pandemic.
In addition, faced with a once-in-a-century crisis like the pandemic, many of our customers suddenly found themselves facing a wave of legal challenges. For example, finding ‘force majeure’ clauses which absolve a party from contractual responsibility should major and unprecedented events occur that an organisation cannot feasibly plan for – for example, a global pandemic – within a contract became a number one priority[AV2] . Using Luminance, our customers had an easy way to access their documents, find the information they needed quickly (including force majeure clauses), and collaborate remotely.
In terms of our commercial strategy, we have focussed on equipping a greater number of customers with an ever-improving product to help them meet their legal document review requirements. We even launched a new product during the pandemic, Luminance Corporate (which uses AI for contract drafting and negotiation), which came about directly from conversations we had with customers. Amid the pandemic, our tech quickly became a must-have for legal teams, and growing that is our clear focus this year and looking ahead. We are incredibly excited about Corporate and what it means for us as a company – we’re confident big things lie in store for us.
- As the CEO of an award-winning AI platform, how do you balance your professional with your personal life?
I count myself very lucky to really love my work. How many people get to negotiate deals with world-renowned luxury Italian carmakers one day and develop go-to-market strategies in other parts of the world the next? But I know it’s also important to switch off, and I try to make time to read a book or sit down and watch Netflix (I’ve been watching Scandi crime drama The Bridge recently and loving it!) but often I will find my mind wandering to think about a new market opportunity or about how we can make our products’ UI even better. I love my job, and I think it’s ok to work a lot if you’re really passionate about something. I did manage to escape to South Africa with my fiancé over Christmas and the New Year, and it was a wonderful chance to completely unplug from work and recharge, ready for a new year.
- What books are you currently reading/have been reading in the past year?
I have recently finished reading Rebecca by Daphne du Mourier, a true classic. I loved it. Right now, I’m reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – it’s a great read and contains plenty of lessons on how to successfully run start-ups and scale-ups.