Get to know our CEO

Sarah Podella | June 15, 2018

As a CEO with more than a decade of experience in technical product management in enterprise SaaS, Charlie Connor believes that any challenge can be solved through the right mix of people and technology. In this article, we take a deeper look at his life, professional career, and vision for Heretik!

Where are you from and what is your professional background?

I was born in Evanston, IL and grew up in Geneva, a western suburb of Chicago. I went to school at Indiana University Bloomington and after I graduated, I took my first job at Intercall selling ‘virtual meeting technology’ to the Southern and Northern Pacific states. Intercall was one of 20 companies being acquired by West Corporation over the next few years. I was focused on growing their international offering and global agreements, which eventually landed me a sales operations role in Singapore. A little over a year later, I returned home to grow our audio conferencing platform into West’s largest product line.

In 2012, I enrolled in a part-time MBA program at Northwestern University ­– Kellogg School of Management and joined (at the time) kCura as a Group Product Manager working on the company’s first mobile applications. A few years later, I found my next opportunity as SVP of Product & Operations at BookedOut, a mobile marketplace platform, converting the business from a service-focused offering to a SaaS model. It was at this time I met Andy Abbott and was reconnected with David Barnes. In 2016, I helped negotiate BookedOut’s acquisition by Shiftgig, and Andy, David, and I were ready to start our next thing.

Why did you and your co-founders decide to found Heretik?

After our successful exit at Shiftgig, my co-founders and I had developed what we call ‘deal fatigue.’ As career entrepreneurs, we’d always dreamed about having a glorious exit someday, but we had no idea how much work just getting the deal done would actually require.

With our extensive backgrounds in legal and enterprise software, David, Andy, and I realized how transformational an intelligent contract analytic solution could be for the legal industry. We began researching current market solutions, interviewing firms, and eventually brought our idea to Relativity’s CEO & Co-founder, Andrew Sieja. Sieja excitedly confirmed a contract analytic solution was their clients’ number one request and he himself had been looking for opportunities to expand the core of Relativity outside of litigation.

A heretic, by definition, is someone who refuses to conform to established standards of conduct. They challenge society with their alternative beliefs and are often the outcast. This word really resonated with the all of us. After much debate, we decided to replace the ‘c’ with a ‘k’ (for knowledge) and Heretik was born in October 2016.

Founders 2
(Left to right – Andy Abbott, Charlie Connor, David Barnes)

What do you believe has been the most pivotal point in your career in technology?

Definitely moving to Singapore! I learned so much being out there both professionally and personally.

Once I got adapted to my new surroundings and the massive scale that exists in Asia, I quickly learned that technology is only as good as the environment around it. During my time there, I got to experience the ‘real-world’ lifecycle of a product through ideation, onboarding, training, support, and up-selling. I think my key takeaway from that experience is that the most important feature of any product is a relationship.

How do you believe Heretik will transform contract review?

The same way Relativity changed e-Discovery. Heretik is extremely focused on contract review right now, but we do have a much larger vision.

What have you taken from your experience at Relativity and applied to your role as CEO of Heretik?

Something that was instilled in me day one at Relativity was the focus on customers, and to this day, that is still mine, and Heretik’s, top priority. We are extremely reliant on client feedback, and look to our users to give us their opinions and ideas so to ensure we are building a solution everyone is excited about.

What do you want to see Heretik accomplish this year?

I have three things I want Heretik to accomplish this year, first being to build a happy and busy user community. I would also like to see the teams and departments start to grow under the original founding members. Lastly, I want to build out our strategic partnerships and start helping other legal tech start-ups.


How has your life experience shaped your leadership style?

Life has taught me two very important lessons – to celebrate the half-wins because sometimes those are the hardest and mean the most to the team and patience. My team makes fun of me for the “Any Given Sunday” reference, but I truly believe life is really just a game of inches.

What keeps you busy in your spare time?

This might be unpopular, but I really don’t have spare time. The whole reason behind co-founding Heretik was to build a place that we loved to work, so we really enjoy being here. Even when I am not working, I am still thinking about what we could be doing better, or how we can better serve our customers, teammates, and partners. I think we’ve found success with our approach in creating an environment and culture that makes work not only enjoyable, but dare I say… fun?

On the weekends, I spend all my ‘spare time’ with my four amazing kids: Annie, Jack, Teddy, and Finn. They give me unconditional love that really motivates me to be keep pushing when I sometimes just want to throw it.


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Sarah is the Director of Marketing at Heretik. Prior to Heretik, she worked as the Product Marketing Manager for Shiftgig. Sarah began her career in advertising, working for brands like Nike, Verizon, Fireball, Coca Cola, the NFL, and more.

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