by CIO New Zealand

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Jonathan Spence, Xtracta

Mar 28, 2018
APIsArtificial IntelligenceBig Data

Xtracta has enhanced its data identification, capture and interpretation capability of legal documents such as contracts, says Jonathan Spence, CEO and CIO of Xtracta.

Through the company’s machine learning capability, the software learnsfrom interactions with the customer’s users and in doing so, it continues to fine-tune its interpretive and understanding abilities of legal documents he says.

“For example, our AI powered engine can read and interpret multiple pieces of logic used to reach legal conclusions either explicitly stated within the document (but that would be found through interpreting logic such as references between sections, definitions and so on) or that are simply known results that are not explicitly stated in the document, but can be concluded based on the logic.”

“While this was a customer focusing project, it has also created many benefits internally for the organisation, says Spence. “From a customer point of view, this project has been successful in securing a number of large international customers who deal with a high volume of complex legal documents. In terms of business expansion, it has enabled a new global market for the company that spans a wide range of industries including legal, finance, banking and property.

“We created a specific team for this project and invested a significant amount of time and money in the development (for a startup of our size). We started with clear objectives around the functionality we wanted to deliver and the dedicated team met and reported on progress regularly. We also created proof of concepts for customers to validate our ability and commitment.”

A benefit of being a small team is that our customers have direct access to the company’s decision makers and tech solution architects he says.

“Internally, the key impact the project has been bringing the team closer together from a collaboration standpoint. From an organisational culture perspective, it has reinforced our market position and our mission to deliver cutting-edge, market leading innovation to our team and continued their level of enthusiasm,” says Spence.

Last year the company developed and delivered 25 product innovations to the Xtracta software. These were all cloud-based and involved a mix of machine learning, natural language processing, Big Data and artificial intelligence technology.

“Many of our innovations originated as customer requests meeting their specific industry or company needs. An example would be the ability to capture and extract invoice data from an invoice that is embedded in an HTML email (rather than an attachment).

“Others have resulted from our discipline of continuous improvement such as improvements in reliability and processing speeds in an industry where every nanosecond makes a difference.

“Some projects have been more strategic in focus such as our ability to identify, capture and interpret data in contracts and multi-lingual support (that is to say the ability to extract data from documents in a variety of languages).”

All of these projects were developed in-house and some incorporated third party software. Some also involved proof of concepts working collaboratively with customers.

“We are genuinely competing (and winning) against much larger corporate sized competitors in this industry,” says Spence. “We view ourselves as global disrupters challenging the status quo of the traditional optical character market. There are very few competitors that have our capability so we are pioneers in the field of AI.”

“Our solution enables customers to save time and money through automation. We eliminate human error and help an organisation become paperless. We also enable ‘multi-threading’, which is to say multiple processing running concurrently without increasing resources.

“For instance, in the case of contract interpretation we allow a business to process multiple contracts at the same time using our data capture engine versus multiple staff interpreting multiple contracts individually.”

As CEO, CIO and founder, he sets the tone of the business.

“I lead by example with my drive and passion. I lead problem solving sessions with our technical teams and determine the innovation we deliver through our product roadmap – both at a tactical and strategic level.”

There are several lessons he has learnt that have been key to his business success.

“One is to persevere with something you believe in. I started the company in 2010 and it took four years of artificial intelligence and machine learning RD before we commercialised the product. I knew we had a solution that customers were looking for based on my past experience as a customer of such software and knew what customers wanted.

“Another is to be brave and confident in your decisions. Within a year of launching our AI powered technology I made the bold decision to pivot on our business model and moved from a direct selling model to one of a partnership model. This meant our solution became a white label proposition and we developed wholesale pricing so partners could enjoy a recurring revenue stream.

“The last key lesson I would mention is to continue to be passionate and determined about what you are doing and want to achieve,” says Spence.

“In a few short years, I have grown Xtracta from a small start up to one taking on large corporate competitors. I am continually looking at new technologies and how they can help business and the wider community.”