In this episode, Legislate meets Ivor Colson, CEO & Founder of Omnifia. Omnifia brings together disconnected applications to make workplace knowledge discoverable and searchable. Ivor shares the story behind Omnifia and how early stage founders can protect their intellectual property with contracts.
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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property, technology, business building and contract drafting. Today I'm excited to welcome Ivor, founder and CEO of Omnifia on the show. Omnifia is an AI powered productivity tool that allows companies to bring together all of their disconnected applications to find information quickly in order to supercharge productivity. Ivor, thank you for taking the time. Would you like to please share a bit of background about yourself and Omnifia?
Ivor Colson: Yes. Sure. Thanks a lot for having me on the podcast, Charles. So, yes, I've been a remote worker since I was 27 and in this environment I was working in the start-up world where I headed up the marketing function. And I really enjoyed that role because it grew so fast and we were, like, profitable in the first year. We achieved seed funding from a publicly listed company and awards from KPMG and were recognised as one of the most promising start-ups, alongside Coinbase. So, like, we had some real growth and some great, kind of, success. But it was also really difficult to keep pace in terms of the business knowledge, especially as a, kind of, commercial person, what I needed to know was constantly changing and evolving in this, kind of, start-up world. And whilst my, kind of, my position there was remote I essentially found it really difficult to get up to speed with our latest pitch. To find what projects were progressing in the company, what's happening on the, kind of, product development side of the company and, on the commercial side, like, what deals were, kind of, what status for the company as well. And I was always in-between meetings in this position. Because of the fact that I was remote, I often just found myself out of the loop a lot of the time with information and, essentially, the latest ongoings of the company. And that affected my productivity but also, in relation to that, it also affected my, kind of, overall motivation because so much information was essentially inaccessible and lost in a bunch of different applications. So, at that time, I mentioned this to my friend, Chris, who I met at university.
And he's been developing some really interesting AI and SaaS applications over the last ten years. And we realised we could connect all of these currently disconnected applications, with the use of APIs, into one platform. So, this is applications, like, meetings and documents and CRMs and emails and Slacks and so on and so forth. And the idea was, essentially, conceived then and we wanted to present all of the information from different vendors into one single, kind of, place. And that's our role in the ecosystem, it's to drive productivity for the connection of workplace information. So, essentially, we then started Omnifia with this, kind of, mission in mind. And we started it alongside our full time jobs and then we went part time, in the middle of last year we went part time. So, we created the product which is as it is today, it's a workplace feed and this, essentially, allows you to integrate all of your disconnected applications and you can see updates in real time across them. So, you can see all of your Slack, your project updates, deal flow, boards on GitHub perhaps, document changes, Notion updates and so on and so forth. And you can see all of that in a single glance, in a type of Facebook-style fashion. And we've got some really good feedback so far with some, kind of, notable companies. And we'll be taking this private beta more public in May. So, yes, really excited for that. And in December we finally closed some funding and that allowed us to take the company full time and transition out of our days jobs and basically work on our dream.
Charles Brecque: That's really exciting. Well done. And when you aggregate and connect all that information and you present it in a feed but can users alter those feeds to try and access key resources?
Ivor Colson: Yes. Yes, sure. Yes, is the short answer. So, we thought searching is, obviously, quite important because you can often know that you're looking for a project or a, kind of, a key word and some, kind of, context around a topic in question. So, then you might want to use the search and this exists in a bunch of different applications and some other companies do that as well. But I think what's really interesting is finding information intuitively because you often don't really know what you need to do and you don't know what to search for. And that's exactly why we have the search across the different applications. But we're really focused on intuitive discovery, so you can just rely on the workplace feed and find exactly what you need to know.
Charles Brecque: Very interesting. And from that journey, from working on this on the side to now doing it full time, what's been your favourite moment so far?
Ivor Colson: I know that, potentially, this shouldn't probably be, like, the Holy Grail and maybe you shouldn't focus on solely this for validation. But certainly getting that first yes from investors that are reputable, and know what they're doing was a really, kind of, key moment for me, heading up the fundraising process for the company. In the whole investment process, you often get a lot of rejections and you really have to read between the lines and try different things to understand why you were rejected. Because often people aren't brutally honest with you and you have to adapt and come up with a new version of the pitch and, kind of, yes, put it forward in a different way. So getting that first yes from investors was a really key moment. Because you can know and you can then find out, or discover, that you can go to other different investors and, essentially, complete the round. So, getting that, kind of, yes, first yes from investors was a real good moment for the company.
Charles Brecque: Well, congratulations. And, yes, in fundraising you only need one yes, at the end of the day.
Ivor Colson: Yes, exactly. Yes.
Charles Brecque: Many nos but one yes is all you need.
Ivor Colson: Yes.
Charles Brecque: And what do you wish you had known before starting Omnifia?
Ivor Colson: Yes. For me, there's probably a ton of things that I can't think of right now. But, for me, maybe it's, like, having a focus on validating the product as fast as possible. So, instead of maybe doing a lot of development in regards to the back-end. And we did a lot of work around building this whole integration system and we could have actually validated our product faster without doing that whole piece of work. So, really, if I started another company or did this whole thing again it would be focusing on maybe mock-ups first and getting a frontend to users. And getting something really visual in front of people to validate the product in a, kind of, really fast and streamlined way, that would save months and, in some cases, maybe a year or so.
Charles Brecque: Yes. User testing is really key.
Ivor Colson: Yes.
Charles Brecque: Because otherwise it's much harder to fix afterwards.
Ivor Colson: Precisely, yes.
Charles Brecque: Yes. And, as a founder and CEO of a start-up, I imagine you, you know, come across various sorts of contracts. What are the key contracts that you interact with the most?
Ivor Colson: Yes. Being a tech company it'd probably be NDAs. Critical importance is that we keep our IP confidential and secure and so on and so forth. We do a lot with NDAs but also advisor agreements as well and, generally, employment contracts as well I would say are the ones we use the most. Yes. What do you see at Legislate that start-ups use the most?
Charles Brecque: Yes. When we work for start-ups we often help them with their employment contracts. Because, yes, you can borrow someone's template, you could, if, for example, you're leaving the corporate world, take your own employment contract and use that as the template. But often what you don't realise is that template, the philosophy of that template, is aligned with that specific company. Whether it's around IP, whether it's around restrictions and that's something which isn't really great to just copy, paste over. And especially in employment law there are often updates. Unless you're monitoring the laws or the updates then you can have clauses which are not enforceable or if you have been editing the contract yourself then you do have references which are not consistent with each other, which just makes it all a bit messy. And really, at Legislate, what we try to do is say, 'There's no need to worry about your templates. You can just use Legislate. Answer questions about yourself, your company, your employees and you'll end up with contracts which are tailored to your specific requirement on no legal budget.'
Ivor Colson: Yes.
Charles Brecque: So, with everything which is consistent it gives you the protection, gives you the transparency post-signature as well. Because, for example, if you're a founder and you've hired a bunch of people and, for example, let's say, three or four employees are still on their probationary periods, we can very easily help you answer questions like, 'Okay, how many of my employees' probation periods are ending in, you know, the next month?' Or, 'When is an employee's anniversary coming up?' Or, you know, 'How many of my employees have a three month notice period versus a six month notice period?' For example, these are all questions which we make it easy to answer. That was a very long answer but employment contracts are pretty much the key contracts with start-ups.
Ivor Colson: Yes.
Charles Brecque: Because IP is really critical in the early days.
Ivor Colson: Yes. Yes. No, that's really interesting and we could definitely use some, kind of, specific type of contracts. Because when you go out searching for a lot of these templates, as you often do at the start of a business and creating a company, none of them, I don't know, a lot of them aren't relevant to you and to technology businesses. And there's not many available for use. So, yes, having them tailored for that, kind of, specific case is really important.
Charles Brecque: And when you mentioned you were looking for templates and it's important to tailor them, did you use a lawyer or a law firm or did you rely on some tool?
Ivor Colson: We used a combination of different solutions. We utilised SeedLegals through a lot of the different, kind of, contract templates. Because we did the whole round with them, so it was a lot easier to utilise their agreements that they have in place and they typically work with some start-ups. So, yes, that's mainly what we used. But, yes, we're, kind of, open to also looking at all these other different options on the table as well. Because there's a lot of complexity involved and often you don't see everything that you need in different vendors. So, yes, it'd be interesting to see what you guys have as well.
Charles Brecque: We can give you a tour of Legislate! And I think it is important to have a tool which gives you access to your contract data. Obviously, we want to make sure that the templates are great and top-notch and easy to tailor. But really, at the end of the day, our focus is around the data in the contracts and making that data usable to users. And, who knows, maybe one day that data could be accessible to Omnifia in itself. Yes. Yes. Yes. Great. So, I'm conscious that I've already taken a lot of your time. So, I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests. If you were being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
Ivor Colson: I'll keep it short and sweet then. I think for me brevity because I'm not a lawyer myself and it's important that they're as simple as possible and it's easily understandable for people that aren't lawyers as well. And, also, I think, secondly, just the ability to sign easily as well is really important. Sometimes you don't always get, kind of, a chance to do the quick signature. So, I think that saves a lot of time.
Charles Brecque: Great. Well, great answer. Obviously, signing quickly is really key but only if you really understand what you're signing because otherwise you might, you know, regret, yes, in that case. But, yes, that's definitely something we try to do at Legislate. Great. Thank you very much for taking the time. Best of luck going out of beta and going to the public and speak soon.
Ivor Colson: Yes. Cheers, Charles. Thanks a lot for having me on the podcast and speak soon.
Charles Brecque: Thank you.