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Former DLA Piper partner banks $28m for breakout tech venture

“What became really apparent to me in my legal career was that there were lots of really competent lawyers out there across all the top-tier firms, but there was actually no way for an in-house team member to work out, who’s actually the best firm, lawyer or legal team at an individual level,” Mr Delkousis said.

“As a lawyer I knew that as long as I kept my clients really close, I didn’t have to worry too much about competition and transparency, but I could see this transparency coming in to almost every other market and wanted to get ahead of the pack.”

While Persuit is on a roll after a bumper period, and consistent growth over a number of years, Mr Delkousis acknowledges it was no overnight success story.

After leaving DLA Piper in 2016 its first two product releases failed to make much impact in the market, and it wasn’t until September 2017 that it made its first important deal, when the Australia and New Zealand operations of Microsoft signed up as a paying customer.

Realising growth was too slow he decamped to New York in late 2017, with a major breakthrough coming in April 2018, when it signed up Walmart as a client.

“It became really apparent to me that if we stayed in Australia, it was too early for the market, and also the market wasn’t big enough, so it was really a question of survival at the end of 2017,” Mr Delkousis said.

“I thought ‘I have to go the biggest market in the world, and if I can’t win there, I just go home,’ because we would literally run out of money.

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“The Walmart deal was the seminal moment for us, and it was 100 per cent hustle to get them to appreciate the product. I spent a lot of time in Arkansas at head office really getting them over the line.

“That really gave us the validation from the number one in the Fortune 500, and things really took off from there.”

Persuit’s software lets organisations automate the preparation and management of some request for proposals (RFPs) and captures data related to legal pricing and performance, so that it can be reviewed and analysed.

After Walmart signed up, the vast majority of the world’s largest law firms were responding to RFPs on Persuit and it led to big name companies such as British Telecom, Twilio, Square, AT&T, HSBC, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and UBS signing up as customers.

The funding round is the latest in a run of recent local legal tech funding news, which has included Lawpath raising $7.5 million earlier this week and New Zealand-based LawVu banking $16 million in August.

Mr Delkousis said the company is profitable and had grown significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown era as companies look for more efficient options. In total it has transacted over $4 billion of fees on the Persuit platform.

Scott Maxwell the founder and managing partner at OpenView Partners said his firm trawled the globe to analyse every new business software provider, but that he had recognised the problem Persuit was solving was unique from his experiences in a pre-venture capital career at Mckinsey and Company and Lehman Brothers.

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“I went to Lehman Brothers when it was being spun out from American Express and they had a huge cost problem, so I architected a cost reduction program,” Mr Maxwell said.

“But there were some costs that were impossible for us to figure out, and it’s the costs that Jim’s company works on. It is a problem that hadn’t really been solved before with software, and it is an extensive market, which gets even bigger when it grows [beyond legal] to include sophisticated services companies.”


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