For every software company and software developer, SaaS is that one model that guarantees recurring revenue and provides faster deployment time than any other on-premises software. Keeping up with the other cloud services out there, SaaS is said to offer small businesses opportunities to think outside of the box, and make their mark on the existing markets; and when doing all this, it also ensures an advantage of fair pricing models.
Featuring for The Enterprise World’s this issue of Top 5 Contract Management Solution Providers To Watch in 2022 is ContractZen, a company providing modern governance tools for every company.
In this interview with Markus Mikola/ Founder & CEO, find out more about the journey of the company.
Tell us about the company.
ContractZen Ltd. is a start-up based in Helsinki, Finland. Our founders have built a contract management start-up in the past and hit the ground running when founding ContractZen. Our mission is to bring modern governance to millions of SMBs and non-profits around the world and to help organizations be Due Diligence ready every day. We bring peace of mind to executives, investors, and boards. That is why our name is ContractZen.
ContractZen is an easy-to-use and secure governance software with pricing suitable for any organization and consisting of advanced contract management, 100% paperless board meeting management, effortless entity management, seamlessly integrated e-signature providers, and built-in virtual data rooms (VDR) – all in one.
What were the initial challenges you faced?
Cloud based contract management was underappreciated in early 2015 when we started. The early adopters had accepted digital signing, a related technology, but most business owners, board professionals, and corporate counsels did not see the changes digitalization will enable and further force upon them and the companies they represent. Having said that, we wanted to be ahead of the wave.
Which was that point that triggered the growth of the company?
I think it is the combination of many things that opened the window of opportunity. The global Business environment has changed profoundly. There are very demanding business drivers, like tougher competition, digitalization, regulation, and compliance issues, that result in more and more audits, transactions, and due diligence situations. And that is where ContractZen really comes to rescue. Recently, another trigger has been Covid19. Digitalization of corporate governance is a must now.
What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
We focus on contract management and a portal for the board of directors. We are low-cost and able to deliver the crucial features of contract management and board portals in a streamlined way.
In addition, we provide two pieces of functionality often associated with the most expensive and difficult to roll out competitive products: a stellar virtual data room (VDR) for due diligence and an entity management platform for organizations with complex and potentially dynamic corporate structures.
Altogether, these modules form a full Governance Software Suite.
How does Contract Management help companies standardize their operations?
Most companies have both incidental and intentional variety in their approach to contract management. You typically need to have a managerial role to be responsible for contracts, and with this implied trust often comes a desire to “do it your way.” Using a single system for all types of contracts, both outgoing and incoming, and for all departments is, in our view, mandatory for true standardization and the efficiencies and benefits this entails.
We find that most contract management solutions are built for staff members who use contract management intensely and are impossible to roll out to everyone who deals with contracts.
We built ContractZen to be used by both contracting professionals and part-time contract responsible staff members. Having everyone on the same platform is the only way to standardize in the long run.
How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?
Many of our contract management clients have started to use our board portal and, when needed, the virtual data room (VDR) facility for due diligence. The benefits of the board portal are similar to contract management, but in this case, the benefit is getting better governance from your board even during these times of remote working.
We are proud of our due diligence tool, the virtual data room (VDR). Being able to gather the key documents into a VDR, where they can be observed, but not downloaded by others, has helped some of our clients close an M&A activity or funding round much faster. The moment when a strategic move has been decided but has not been consummated is critical as major news related to the company, industry, geographic region, or the world can risk the deal. Being able to run the due diligence as fast as possible at any given time is a piece of strategic advantage the legal counsel can deliver for the corporation.
A full governance suite, including contract management, integrated digital signatures, a board portal, entity management, and virtual data rooms, creates real synergies for the corporation and the legal team that supports it.
Can you please brief us about your professional experience?
I have loved computers since I was a kid and consequently started studying computer science. But then I continued my studies in economics and law. I have worked in IT-business for over 20 years in large multinationals, like for example GE, as well as in small start-ups in various operational and leadership positions. When founding ContractZen, everything I have studied and experienced in my career kind of amazingly came together.
What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?
Every step is meaningful… Founding the company, getting the software ready enough so that people pay money for it, hiring the first employees, getting funded… On entrepreneurial path there is so many things of which one should be proud of.
How do you look after your employees? What makes your team unique?
ContractZen was founded by very experienced people, and we have been able to move rapidly. Thanks to the experience we gained in working for some prior startups.
Our company values are trust, continuous improvement, and kindness. We believe that trust is a key element that creates the foundation for successful and long-lasting business. Kindness shapes how the organization is perceived by employees, customers, and others. It is critical to our ability as people to interact in positive and constructive ways with confidence and support. And obviously, the continuous improvement is a must in the world we live now…we just must be better professionals and human beings. There was a great quote I learned in one company I worked for: “If you’re green you grow, if you’re ripe you rot!”
What would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs?
I recommend meeting a large number of potential clients before starting full-time, if possible. The period before starting full-time is an exciting one, as every meeting helps you better understand the opportunities, and you are more able to truly validate your idea and change it as needed based on your interactions with decision-makers in the industry.
There is a ton of great advice from both the ones who did it and those who did not. But every human is different – we all have our own path. So, the most important thing is to follow your calling. Your mission. If you must do it, do it. So, if you live to be old and look back, you do not need to be sad about not doing the things you would have loved to do. There are risks for sure, but hell, life is a roller coaster anyway! And whatever happens, you will grow as a person.