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Know when to turn off for the day

Contractuali, a next-generation contract management platform that will transform your contracts into data-rich, digital assets

Please introduce yourself and your startup Contractuali to our readers!

Hello readers! My name is John, and I am the founder and managing director of Contractuali, a next-generation contract management platform that will transform your contracts into data-rich, digital assets. Contractuali makes it possible for businesses to unlock the data within their contracts and enable data-driven decision making.

Our SaaS platform not only offers draft, review, and eSignature capabilities, but also an intuitive data tagging and query system to facilitate the networking of data from source documents to various end use cases. Want to track and be reminded of renewal dates? Done. Want to track quantities on purchase orders? No problem. Want to keep track of specific wording in your contracts to stay compliant? Simple. With Contractuali, all your contract data is at your fingertips .

How did you get the idea of Contractuali ?

In my second year out of Georgetown University, I started working as a Risk Analyst for a commercial real estate company called Kimco Realty Corporation. One of the Risk team’s primary functions was to conduct due diligence on new acquisitions and generate return models. This involved processing the property in question’s lease documents, including pulling out key metrics — such as rent and leasable area — and identifying red flags — such as restrictive language or tenants in poor financial health.

Anyone who has done this will tell you that this is tedious work. It’s highly manual, time-consuming, and error prone — even when an abstraction service is used. I remember thinking to myself, “It’d really be great if I could just plug a source document into my return model and have all of the relevant data automatically import itself where needed.” That was and, to a certain extent, still is the core idea behind Contractuali.

Why did you decide to start with Contractuali ?

I started Contractuali because I love to solve problems. I experienced a pain point at Kimco, and it is extremely fulfilling to build a product that will alleviate that pain. My work at Kimco Realty Corporation was the starting point. I eventually stepped away from my role there to study software engineering and acquire the technical background needed to develop the idea behind Contractuali. For the better part of the years from mid-2016 to early-2022, I worked as a full stack engineer, picking up useful insights in design, UX-UI, and engineering. In the Fall of 2021, I finally felt ready to bring Contractuali to life.

What is the vision behind Contractuali ?

Our mission at Contractuali is to make contracts the data-rich, digital assets they always should have been. Let’s explore what we mean by that. 

The standard contract data infrastructure to this day is to store contract documents in a company’s file system as PDFs. Meanwhile, the respective contract data is stored separately in a database. This disconnect necessitates time-consuming, recurring audits to ensure database data remains fresh.

Contractuali removes this disconnect and, in effect, makes a source contract document itself the database, thereby making contract data accessible, queryable, and networkable directly from source documents. This removes a huge source of friction and errors normally experienced when processing or monitoring contract terms and, in turn, enables companies to more effectively leverage their contracts to power data-driven decision-making.

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

The start actually was the easiest part, the trick has been to keep the momentum going through the first year. Coming from the US, my biggest challenge has been to build up a network here in Hamburg and Germany. I have a healthy network back in the States and am still building one on this side of the pond. Building the company and my local network simultaneously, inevitably resulted in some missteps that could have been avoided had I known certain connections earlier in the journey. Thankfully, I am starting to really integrate into the startup scene here in Hamburg over the past few months.

Another challenge that every founder runs into — and I’m no exception — is how to build a team with limited resources. The promise of future value through equity has historically been an effective tool to use, but times are tough, and equity currently has less pull than competitive pay in the here and now. It’s completely understandable, but it makes balancing the budget with the required experience an extremely important exercise — especially when hiring outside of your core area of expertise.

Who is your target audience?

We are initially targeting real estate companies that own and operate medium to large property portfolios. Real estate contracts are complex and long-lived — necessitating good contracting practices in order to be properly maintained and monitored. This is exactly the scenario in which Contractuali is useful.

We can also see ourselves serving customers in other industry verticals — particularly logistics, construction, and general financial service providers. In short, if a company is having trouble monitoring and managing their contracts and contract data at volume, we feel Contractuali can serve them well.

What is the USP of your startup?

Contractuali is more than simply a signature provider and document repository. As mentioned earlier, by eliminating the gap between source documents and data storage, we not only make it far more efficient to leverage and analyze contract data, but also set the stage for automated reporting and fulfillment. We want to make access to your data as easy as possible. To that end, we are working on interfaces for a variety of programs to automatically export the data to. So you can stay in your preferred software environment while having instant access to contract data.

Can you describe your typical workday ?

I am not one of those founders who get up at 4:30 and crush an hour or two at the gym before work. I value my sleep too much. Nonetheless, I’m online by 8:30 and spend the morning until about 10 checking in with the team and taking care of smaller to-dos. 10-12 is reserved for dedicated work or meetings.

Around noon, I prepare lunch, and if I’m on dog duty, take the puppy for a longer walk. 13-17:30 is another stretch of dedicated work/meeting time broken up by a short coffee break around 15:00. By 17:30, I aim to have achieved the bulk of the work for the day, but I will take care of some lighter items or do some “back burner”-thinking until around 21:00. I’m actually answering this question during that point in the day.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Contractuali  in five years?

Startup survival is far from guaranteed, but I am confident Contractuali will be alive and thriving. More specifically, I see Contractuali being a profitable, up-and-coming player in the European contract management market and a great member of the Hamburg and broader German ecosystem — working with both companies and local governments to improve their contract workflows and contract data infrastructure.

What 3 tips would you give to founders?

Know when to “turn off for the day”. This doesn’t mean don’t work late if you are still in a productive state of mind. What it means is to realize when you are fatigued to the point of being distracted and no longer producing good work. Take a walk, sleep, or if it’s the weekend, go and enjoy the time with your friends and family. Let yourself recharge.

If you don’t already have them, find a good corporate lawyer, tax advisor, and accountant. When factoring the costs that can arise from mistakes in these areas, these professionals are absolutely worth the fees they charge.

Don’t play house. Know, within the context of your company, when and why you should be conducting a certain activity, especially if you are paying for it with more than your own time. Make sure it makes sense within the context of where your business is at a certain point in time. Don’t just do something because that’s what other companies are doing or because you think that’s what a company should be doing at X stage in its life.

That being said, if there’s one activity you should really do before anything else, it is to develop a mockup and use it to build up a waiting list for your service before you even start engineering. You will either get confirmation that the idea and envisioned execution hold water — which investors love to see — or you will save yourself a lot of time and money by finding out the market doesn’t exist to support the product. 

Thank you John Pressman for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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