Zuva closes $20 million CAD Series A round, launches AI document solution

Zuva announced September 29 that it had closed a $20 million CAD Series A funding round as it launched its first product.

New York-based global private equity and venture capital firm, Insight Partners, led the round, which closed September 1.

A document intelligence company that uses AI to help businesses understand the details of their documents, Zuva is a new firm created this summer. It is a spin-out from Kira Systems, a contract analysis and AI business for lawyers. A global legal technology firm, Litera, acquired Kira Systems for an undisclosed amount in August.

“We were able to get a pretty nice financial outcome out of [the Kira System] deal, but also keep rolling with Zuva.”

Noah Waisberg, co-founder and former CEO of Kira Systems, is Zuva’s CEO, while Alexander Hudek, co-founder and CTO of Kira Systems, is a strategic advisor and board director with Zuva.

Peter Sobiloff, managing director at Insight Partners, will also join the board at Zuva.

Both Waisberg and Hudek personally participated in the Series A funding for Zuva. The funding round was the first for Zuva in its short existence.

Zuva has been a long time in the making. Waisberg said the idea for Kira Systems came to him when he was still a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. He and Hudek founded Kira Systems in 2010, bootstrapping the company to more than 100 people.

In 2018, Insight Partners also led a $65 million CAD Series A funding round for Kira. Insight has previously funded such Canadian companies as Shopify and Hootsuite.

Waisberg told BetaKit that at the time they sold Kira Systems, 18 of the top 25 mergers and acquisitions firms in the world used the solution. “We built up a really nice business there in the law firm space, and we were able to get a pretty nice financial outcome out of that in this deal, but also keep rolling with Zuva,” Waisberg said.

Waisberg noted Litera “cared about selling stuff to law firms,” so they agreed to a deal where Litera bought part of the business, but not the entire enterprise.

The deal between Litera and Zuva allowed the latter to keep 34 people, the bulk of them in research and development, including a machine learning research team. It also let Zuva maintain the use of the machine-learning technology developed over the past 10 or so years at Kira Systems.

Zuva will use some of the funding for product development, but also to increase its team. Waisberg hopes to grow the company to 45 people by next year, noting he needs to fill administrative positions, as well as building a finance team, and sales and marketing staff.

Zuva’s focus will be broader than the legal space, according to Waisberg. “We’ll remain very focused on contacts, but not necessarily for legal,” he said. “Customers will be other software companies or technical consultants that are building applications.”

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Zuva’s first product, DocAI, is an API-driven platform that lets developers place AI features into their applications, without requiring AI development from the ground-up. It can classify documents and extract key clauses written in non-standard natural language from business contracts and documents, and comes with over 1,200 pre-trained AI models.

Users can also create their own models without requiring data science or machine learning development knowledge, and leverage Zuva’s cloud platform for their hosting needs, or opt to host it on their own infrastructure on Kubernetes.

The latter is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications.

Before the product had even launched, Zuva landed three customers, including Canada’s Vigilant AI. “That’s pretty cool to have people signing up for five-and-six-figure USD amounts of money to use the product that’s not yet in production on the trust that it will go into production,” Waisberg said.

Competition includes Amazon, Adobe, and Microsoft, Waisberg said, adding that those companies have a product “that at a really high level seems similar to what we’re doing. But none of the big tech ones seem great at the task we’re really great at, which is pulling data out of contracts.”

Waisberg pointed out that Kira Systems held a dominant market position in contract analysis for lawyers. But with Zuva they’ve spotted an opportunity to move into a more corporate-focused, contract analysis space, which the startup believes isn’t as well developed a market as the legal space.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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