The Toronto-based start-up aims to bridge the legal sector’s tech adoption challenge

Noah Waisberg, a Canadian lawyer who previously worked for a top ten Wall Street firm, got the idea for Kira Systems after realizing that the work being done by lawyers isn’t necessarily the work that is valued most by their clients.

He chose to return to Ontario in 2011 to launch his legal tech start-up due to Toronto’s reputation as a hotbed for AI research and its outstanding pool of globally recognized AI expertise. “Waisberg met his co-founder, Dr. Alexander Hudek, through Toronto’s fast-growing tech start-up community and three years later they came out with a machine learning engine that could review contracts and uncover insights as efficiently and accurately as a lawyer can,” says Vinay Nair, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Kira, who adds that Kira Systems now boasts more than 700 machine learning models.

A platform any lawyer can navigate

And the Kira platform isn’t just for the tech savvy, as lawyers without a technical background of any kind can teach it to search through contracts for new provisions, clauses and scenarios that may be specific to the intellectual property of their firm. The law practice of Fredrikson & Byron has improved their due diligence organization-wide by 22 percent through Kira, while Deloitte uses the software as a back bone to their innovation practice around applying AI to audits.

Staying ahead in a new space

“We had the advantage of being the market leader that kind of created and defined the space,” says Nair. “Now we’re starting to see international competitors come up here and there, small ones, but still starting to compete with us.” To combat this new competition and expand Kira’s reach, the company is looking towards the creation of a small to medium-sized business market model. “There will be a lot of investments going forward. The next frontier is really looking at how we extract the insights that come out of the company’s unstructured data sets, the assets that are being created by knowledge workers across the organization.”

Skilled workers and exciting opportunities on the horizon

“There’s a war on tech talent right now,” says Nair. Kira is currently winning the battle, with the company hiring most of its machine learning scientists from Canada and Ontario. It’s no surprise to Nair that the talent in Ontario is “really pushing the envelope on machine-learning and AI technology in the world,” as “a spawning of a whole ecosystem of researchers” have developed thanks to two of the four ‘pioneers of AI’ being based out of Canada. However, the concentration of talent is not all Ontario has had to offer Kira so far.

Ontario through an international lens

Canada’s privacy laws have helped Kira attract customers that are very privacy-sensitive, as there is a certain level of trust that has been developed for Canadian-based cloud services providers. “From an international perspective, it helps us get a lot of European customers, specifically because their data privacy laws are probably more rigid than anywhere in the world,” explains Nair.

From a bird’s-eye view, Nair sees the location of Ontario as a no-brainer. “With Canada being a high quality of life country, Ontario being the commercial center of that country and the exceptional level of talent, Ontario is a very compelling destination.”

Looking forward, Kira is enthusiastic about the growing need for its product. “There is a tech adoption challenge in legal,” says Nair, “but I feel like it’s hitting a little bit of a tipping point right now, where if law firms are not adopting some sort of AI, they’re falling behind.”

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July 29, 2019

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