Happy Heretik Birthday

Claire Williams | October 16, 2018

Two years ago today, on October 16th, Heretik was founded. Happy birthday to us! These past two years have been an absolute whirlwind of triumphs, challenges, and learning experiences that have all shaped Heretik into what we are today.

As we mentioned in our Relativity Fest Favorites post, we’ve seen an enormous amount of growth in the past two years. As we look ahead to the future, we reflect on our hard work of the past that got us to where we are now. In this post, our three founders Charlie Connor (CEO), David Barnes (Chief Architect) and Andy Abbott (CTO) will be giving their take on Heretik’s beginnings, where we are at now, and the bright future ahead.

Andy Abbott (CTO) on Heretik's beginnings:

What was the inspiration for starting Heretik?

The spark came during the acquisition of our last startup.  During the due-diligence phase, we noticed how inefficient and disorganized everything was. From gathering required contracts and documents, reviewing them, and sharing of data points among team members, it took a significant amount of time and effort. All of this tedious and mundane work was keeping several of us from being productive in our actual roles. 

A few months later, after the acquisition was complete, Charlie, David, and myself were reflecting on what we could have done differently, and what was next for all of us. Charlie and David were eager to start something new, while all I wanted was a vacation! It’d been a tough four-year startup grind and I wasn’t really looking for more of it. However, I knew the struggles we faced during our acquisition weren’t unique and were a huge opportunity. 

So, after some additional convincing from Charlie and a push from Relativity’s CEO, Andrew Sieja, Heretik was born.

What was something unexpected that happened that you learned from?

Regulatory and government bodies may be a foe for most, but are a friend for contract review companies. IFRS 16, Brexit, LIBOR, etc. – none of which we predicted, but all of which have drastically grown the opportunity for Heretik.

What were some of your initial goals?

We had two goals from the start:

  1. Win at scale. The overall contract document space was a bit crowded, however nobody was targeting the large contract review workflows (e.g. M&A, regulatory changes, etc).  Our goal was to “win at scale”.
  2. … and have fun doing it

What was one thing you wanted to accomplish that you actually acheived?

One of our initial goals was to improve contract review at scale.  One of our first clients successfully launched Heretik for an extremely time sensitive and business critical project.  Initially they projected needing to review 35,000 documents, but that quickly ballooned into over 300k. We built Heretik for this scale and it showed. They were able to quickly install Heretik, spin up a 100+ member review team, and ultimately deliver over 3x daily throughput than previous projects.

What were some of the challenges you faced in the beginning?

Dealing with burnout was probably the largest challenge. Anybody who has started a company, or worked at a startup can attest. It’s Go. Go. Go.  24/7. So coming off of four years of that life, and trying to re-enter it was difficult. Other challenges for me personally, were having to learn an entire new industry (legal), and ramp up on AI/machine learning. It had been years since I had done anything with AI/ML, so there was a lot to catch up on and learn.

If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?

Sleep more!

David Barnes (Chief Architect) on Heretik today:

How do you feel about where Heretik is now?

I’m very happy with the progress we’ve made since we started this journey. It’s great to see us learning every day and being willing to take chances. The team does a great job of staying focused, but it also allows us to experiment to see if we can be doing things better.

Tell us about the move from 1871 to Heretik’s current office. How does it feel to be in the new spot?

It feels really great to have our own space. Being at 1871 was awesome, but you get to a point when you want a place to call your own and let your company’s culture start to have its own identity. I personally am extremely proud of our new space. We’ve been able to host several events, like our Law Firm Advisory Board and VIP Client Appreciation Party, here and were even recognized as one of the coolest tech offices in Chicago. 

What are some of Heretik's current goals?

Growth, in all aspects of the word. We have established and matured as a business and have a clear line of sight. We are ending the year in a place where we are ready to start growing our internal team so we can support our clients more.

Interested in joining our team? Check out our open positions here.

What is Heretik's biggest current challenge?

Staying focused in an ever-changing landscape. There is a lot going on in the ‘contract space’, and making sure we stay focused and true to our mission will be very important.

What is something that makes you proud of Heretik today?

Working with such amazing people. Everyone on the team is willing to step out of their comfort zone and help the person next to them. I’m very proud of how we all put the company first over anyone’s own individual agenda. It makes the work we do fun and meaningful when you know everyone has each other’s back.

Why do you think Heretik has been so successful so far?

The team. There is no other team I’d rather work with than the group we have now. Everyone is so dedicated to make Heretik the best environment and company it can be.

Charlie Connor (CEO) on Heretik's future:

Where do you see Heretik one year from now?

A year from now, I hope to see our clients differentiating their services by building their own unique models with Heretik. I see Heretik being extremely busy co-creating unique solutions with global customers that are solving complicated regulatory changes for their clients. I also see Heretik continuing to push through all the discourse of AI, losing jobs, and debate over if the legal industry will adapt technology.

What are some of the future challenges you think Heretik will face?

I think Heretik will have the same challenges we have today, which are not uncommon to other startups trying to do what we are doing. We will have to help ensure that our technology is never seen as only the solution that is needed to fix complicated problems.

We always have believed that any problem can solved with right mix of people and technology. We need to continue to ensure that Heretik is always part of a great process AND that the people in that process know how to use our solution to help improve critical jobs.

What are some of the goals you have for the future?

I want to continue our growth as a team, but to not lose our focus on our customers and our core values. I also want to see our team get a chance to share more about themselves, how we work, and what others in similar situations/careers can learn from Heretik experiences.

I am excited to start Heretik’s philanthropic efforts and start helping others outside of legal professionals thrive at their trade. We have such a tremendous opportunity with our technology and network, I am excited that we are approaching a position to be able to run a healthy company and give our time back to the community that helped us.

I want to see the early foundational team of Heretik mentoring and managing the next few cohorts of Heretiks to be able to continue the momentum we have started.

Where do you see future opportunity arising?

I see a unique future opportunity for Heretik in helping our clients with their projects after the initial scope. Right now, due to the cost and sheer amount of work needed to review contracts, clients are willing to pay fines instead of meeting the regulatory requirements. Heretik has started helping reduce that manual review by 45%.

For example, the upcoming “IBOR Transition” and the discontinuation of LIBOR. This IBOR transition affects all loans, securities and floating rate notes. Legacy transactions and contracts maturing after 2021 linked to IBORs that do not have a robust fallback language will require contract amendments to mitigate the risk of a permanent end to IBORs.

What are some things you hope to see Heretik accomplish by the end of the year?

I hope to see Heretik finish building out the departments that are going to be working most closely with our clients. Especially the Client Operations team under Adam Knight, Product Management under Rishi Khullar, and Marketing under Sarah Podella. They have done a great job starting to build their teams and I want to see these efforts accelerate ahead of the growth of the client projects.

In the past two years, we’ve gone from three full-time employees to 11. Our solution has analyzed and indexed over one million contracts and clauses. Heretik has been installed in over 20 unique Relativity instances and is currently being used in six different countries including the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Ireland and India.

We’ve set an expectation for ourselves that will continue to bring us success and opportunities down the line. Today, we celebrate those successes and look forward to the future!



Claire is a Marketing Coordinator at Heretik. She recently graduated from Miami University Ohio with a double major in Journalism and Mandarin Chinese. Prior to Heretik, Claire worked at Amdur Productions and for Miami College of Arts and Science.​

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