SA start-up to drive AI contract management into Africa
Contract Understanding, a South African start-up, has announced ambitions to expand across the rest of the continent following the launch of an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Software-as-a-Service solution to assist businesses handle post-signature contracts.
The solution is intended to assist organisations in storing, organising, and managing post-signature contracts. It collects crucial data from contracts in order to provide visibility into every contract managed by an organisation.
Initially, the organisation is looking for any size operation that works on several contracts in Egypt, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Singapore, and South Africa.
The subscription-based solution's market introduction, according to Norman Kretzmer, founder and CEO of Contract Understanding, is the culmination of three years of work.
"We began developing the product three years ago. We began by creating unique models and conducting our own training, which we then coupled with AI to marry all technologies. We combined several technologies and built them on top of existing infrastructure created by Bird and Spacey to bring it to life," Kretzmer explained.
The Contract Understanding software extracts and repurposes content from scanned or emailed PDF documents using optical character recognition (OCR). Once a contract has been uploaded in a system-compatible format, AI algorithms and machine learning approaches extract crucial information from the text and provide a high-level knowledge of the agreement.
Contract Understanding securely stores contract information on the Microsoft Azure cloud, with SSL standard certification for security.
Two-factor authentication is used for user logins to add an extra degree of protection. Customers can restrict access to secret contracts to specific approved users by using permission-based access.
Data protection, security, and risk reduction continue to be critical considerations for company leaders.
According to Kretzmer, the solution is also intended to assist businesses in complying with POPIA from a South African perspective.
"If all the contracts are in manual cabinets, there is no control over access to them... anyone can open it. We developed a centralised storage area with this solution, which allows users to create rights to access and retrieve information, as well as check who did what to ensure compliance.
"This is a permission driven solution, built on Azure and based on two-factor authentication."
Kretzmer stated that the company is situated in South Africa and that this market is its primary focus for the time being. However, the plan is to grow into the rest of Africa.
When asked how the company will position the solution to satisfy the varying norms and legislation across African markets, Kretzmer responded that in terms of hosting, if a certain country has a high demand, the company can adopt Azure cloud in that region.
In terms of legislative compliance with contract terms and conditions, Kretzmer stated that the company has nothing to do with contract drafting and that the solution is legislation-agnostic.
Kretzmer stated that the local business consists of twenty workers, the majority of whom work in development.
"As we grow and secure finance, we will beef up our staff complement," he went on to say.
Kretzmer is certain that the solution will help drive corporate growth, and the timing of the launch is ideal, considering the vastness of contract management and the market's mostly untapped potential.
"There are people who play in different places and use storage mechanisms, but we are not aware of any solution like ours in South Africa or Africa. Contracts underpin every firm, thus there is a large market and room for many service suppliers. There is enough room for a large number of players.
He also stated that the company will continue to add technical features as the solution gains traction in the market, and that plans are in the works to offer a bulk uploading option. This will allow users to upload several contracts at the same time.