Lean on your client for feedback and utilize it for advancements in your company and its offerings.
Jerry Ting is the founder and CEO of Evisort, a contract analytics and management system that uses cutting edge artificial intelligence to help enterprises organize and extract information from their legal documents. Evisort was founded in 2016 and under Ting’s leadership has raised over $5.5M from top tier venture capital funds such as Village Global, a fund with a list of LPs that includes Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. As CEO, Ting has advised companies ranging from high-growth startups to Fortune 500 companies on how to adopt artificial intelligence in transformative ways that drive business value.
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Ting started his career as an account executive for Yelp, where he broke an unofficial sales record for most deals closed at the end of a quarter, winning 3 deals in one day. Ting has also spent time at the Boston Consulting Group, Credit Suisse, Fried Frank, and the Supreme Court of the United States. He was recognized on Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was named one of Law.com’s Top 18 Millennials Changing the Face of Legal Technology. Ting’s work in artificial intelligence is the subject of a Columbia Business School case study used to teach MBA students around the country.
Ting is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, where he served as student body treasurer and as a director of the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Program. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Southern California, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude as a Trustee Scholar.
Where did the idea for Evisort come from?
I was in law school In 2015 and using AI for contracts was still a very new concept. I met one of my co-founders, Amine, at MIT while he was getting his PhD. He was working at a different company and I was his student lawyer. At one point, I went to Amine and said, “Look, lawyers are reading all these documents over and over again looking for certain patterns and risks. Is there a way for some form of automation to help do this critical legal work?” This was the original Evisort concept.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day changes a lot. Everyday, there are different decisions and projects in each department to help out on. In general, my daily productivity is measured directly against Evisort’s productivity. This helps keep me organized. I make sure that the top goals are monitored at all times. We have certain revenue goals we want to hit in the fiscal year and certain product goals we want to hit from a milestones perspective. But the most important thing to keep in mind with overall productivity is making sure that we are being successful and attentive with our customers: making sure to check in with them throughout the process, as they are purchasing our product, and when they go through on-boarding, using the product, etc.
How do you bring ideas to life?
At the beginning of Evisort, it was a simple process–just ideas between myself and my co-founders. But as the company continues to expand, everyone has ideas. For example, when I meet with my sales account executives, I receive more in-depth client feedback and new ideas. The first piece is to gather requirements for a product idea we think would be great.Then we create a priority list that we can then work with the product team to put into a roadmap, which we then bring to the engineering team and data scientists to then make a reality.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think different vertical applications of artificial intelligence are going to define the next five to 10 years of technology investments and technology innovation. I often think about what the generation before us did in terms of bringing everything to the Internet and the cloud. I think of companies like Salesforce, Microsoft, Box, and DropBox, as early pioneers in the movement from paper to digital. Fast forward to today, our generation of entrepreneurs has brought a layer of analytics that was previously thought to be only a myth. I have seen investments and innovations in the medical space and financial sectors, all with vertical applications of machine learning that transform industries that is only possible with recent advancements of AI.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A habit of mine is that I like to lean on my team members. Because I realized in the early days of a startup, everyone has to wear many hats, so working as a team was natural, even forced. But our company has grown, people have developed specific domain knowledge and vertical specialties. For example, sales is an area I take a lot of pride in, working directly with clients. Recently, I brought on someone who runs sales operations; that person actually knows what each account is for every sales person, how long we’ve been talking to an account, and how we build momentum quantitatively for our sales pipeline. They have a broader view of how Evisort is doing from a revenue and operations perspective. Leaning on our experts internally that have core domain expertise really helps me be more effective. If I can be more of a support position for the VPs, this makes Evisort as a whole better as an organization.
What advice would you give your younger self?
One piece of advice I got from my sales manager while I was at Yelp is “trust the process.” If you have an idea of where you are going and how you will get there, and you trust the things that happen along the way, it will give you a certain perspective and frame of mind that allows you to take a longer term view. One needs to apply that in a startup environment. As you are going through in the early stages of start-up, having an idea, recruiting co-founders, getting your first investors and customers, there are challenges that come up. If you understand that the struggles are normal for somebody who is trying to start a company, and it is part of the process, it will all work out in the end. Especially if you use your resources and have advisors, you will end up making the best decisions that you can with data you have.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I often think about the current ongoing debate about how AI will impact jobs. I believe the proper role of AI is that it should act as a tool, like any other technology that has come before it, same as having access to a typewriter and Microsoft Word. AI is a tool that is powerful–more powerful than a lot of previous technology innovations we have seen in the last couple decades. I don’t think it is coming for people’s jobs, but rather, I think the reality is the folks that learn to use AI correctly will be more efficient in doing their day to day.
For example, we have a client using AI right now to look across their supply chain and nobody has lost jobs. What they have now is more data to analyze insights and this is making their overall department a more integral part of their larger organization. AI is an exciting advancement but someone needs to make the AI and use the AI; it’s not going to use itself.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Talking to the customer with a product hat on is really important. A lot of business owners talk to customers and they try to sell as the bottom line. Then they go into engineering and try to innovate. For me the two are actually the same and sometimes I actually bring engineers and data scientists to talk directly to the customer. I think a part of design thinking is understanding why are you building what you are building, and what problems does it actually solve. Customers have good ideas and they don’t know what they are giving us to understand because they are actually often talking about a problem. But, if you put an engineer or data scientist in the room and they are thinking about it from a problem solving perspective, the two are actually thinking of the same thing.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One thing that we do that is a bit different from other start-ups is we lean on our clients as advisors when thinking about products and building them. My first five clients really influenced how I thought about the market. It’s one thing to go to a customer and say we have a solution and we think you should use it. But when you are working at an enterprise software application company, there are a lot of other considerations. There are questions like– How is it going to work with IT? How is it going to be approved from a budgeting perspective? What is the core workflow? What is the main problem we are trying to solve? Our clients have ways of solving problems with different methods; perhaps it is through process and not technology. By working with clients and allowing them to influence and advise us on what is a helpful solution, this in turn has helped us build product market fit early on in Evisort’s life cycle.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Evisort is my second startup. I created one when I was 18 out of my dorm room with my dorm mates. The idea was to build a natural language processing-based tech tool that helped people write better. An early version of Grammarly. We were too excited about the science fiction component of it. We thought we could make a breakthrough in science with it. We spent 90% of our time on coding the product and 10% on the business side. A lot of technical entrepreneurs fall into a similar fallacy of thinking if they build really good technology, it will market itself. This was more true in the social media era of Internet technologies but when you are building an enterprise application, the customer needs to be part of the development journey.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
When I moved to the Bay Area I wanted to play sports. I think about college and kids, everyone has leagues to join. But what about leagues for adults? I think there is a large gap from a social networking perspective for folks who come together to do shared activities, whether it is going on hikes or playing sports. It doesn’t have to be competitive and you don’t have to be a weekend warrior to go and play five on five pickup basketball. I think there is a really big disconnect for folks, especially in urban areas, where they aren’t meeting each other, not in a structured low pressure environment. They aren’t meeting each other to make friends. Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you don’t want to play sports and make friends.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Taking out a vendor to dinner. The dinner was important, we talked about life values and a little bit of work. But I ended up getting advice on PR strategy from someone who has been an expert in legal technology for the past two decades. The ideas that come when you have a free-flowing conversation with someone are priceless, and they are not something you can get in a phone call or video conference. Meeting people in person, for coffee or dinner and being human in a business environment is very important.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I really enjoy using my Apple Watch because it helps me stay on top of my calendar and helps me know when I need to end my meetings to make the next one. I’ve been in meetings that have gone on really long because the meeting is going really well, so having something discreet that can buzz me without looking like I’m checking my phone during a meeting has been game changing.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read a book in an entrepreneurship class while I was in undergrad called The Monk and The Riddle. In the book, the author discussed the concept of a “deferred life plan.” The deferred life plan is the idea of deferring what you actually want to do to do something you feel like you must do now. I think happiness is avoiding the deferred life plan and living right now. Leading a high growth startup in Silicon Valley is a high pressured job, but building Evisort has been my dream. This is my life plan, and I’m living it now. I feel truly blessed to be able to live my life plan right now.
What is your favorite quote?
“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
- AI is an exciting and fast paced industry that needs more trust and support. It needs to be viewed as a fundamental tool like prior advancements before it, and only then will it be used to its maximum capacity.
- Have faith in the journey you take for your company/start-up. Keep the customer in mind throughout it and have a balanced approach with your time and investment toward the different segments of your company. Most importantly, live the life you want to live now, don’t wait.
- Lean on your client for feedback and utilize it for advancements in your company and its offerings.
- Relationships with clients, vendors and colleagues are critical to success. Lean on them for support and keep in mind that face to face conversations can go a long way.