DocuSign wants to help write contracts with AI

Today: DocuSign President Inhi Cho Suh explains its hybrid cloud strategy and plans for generative AI, Zoom takes on Microsoft Office and Google Docs, and the latest funding rounds in enterprise tech.

DocuSign wants to help write contracts with AI
Photo by Romain Dancre / Unsplash

Welcome to Runtime! Today: DocuSign President Inhi Cho Suh explains its hybrid cloud strategy and plans for generative AI, Zoom takes on Microsoft Office and Google Docs, and the latest funding rounds in enterprise tech.

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DocuSign was a popular service in SIlicon Valley for signing contracts online when Inhi Cho Suh joined the company's board of directors following its 2018 IPO, but it wasn't exactly a household name. Two years later the world ground to a halt, and as businesses around the world looked for ways to keep the contracts flowing, the company went from 300,000 paying customers to over 1 million paying customers in rapid fashion.

Founded in 2003, DocuSign had relied on its own mix of homegrown infrastructure right up until around the time of that IPO, but that approach was not going to scale as DocuSign started to experience rapid growth and the advent of data localization laws around the world, Suh said in a recent interview. She joined the company last year as president, and oversees its product and technology groups.

"When you talk about (the) speed and scale of application builds, and what we want to do for machine learning and AI, you've got to take advantage of much more distributed computer architecture and data availability and open-source large language models," she said.

  • Microsoft is DocuSign's primary cloud provider, but the company does run some workloads in AWS and in Google Cloud.
  • Given DocuSign's international footprint, a dizzying array of data localization laws and security regulations specific to contracts apply across regions like Europe, she said.
  • In Australia, for example, DocuSign runs both an Azure instance and its own private data center because the laws in that country require local control of that data.
  • "Data sovereignty is something that will impact each geographic region and government postures differently," Suh said.

A large part of Suh's current job involves setting DocuSign up for the AI era, and she is most excited about generative AI capabilities that could have a unique impact on contract law, even with the wide variety of laws in place around the world.

  • Contracts are written with specific terms and phrases that have strict legal definitions, and those terms might mean something very different in a legal context than they mean in regular English.
  • However, that means that LLMs trained on contract data could be able to easily summarize and even prepare long, detailed contracts with greater accuracy because DocuSign can train a custom model on the specific definitions of those terms, rather than asking it to interpret conversational text, Suh said.
  • "What we want to do is have a common approach and schema for agreement semantics, an agreement knowledge graph, and data models across the portfolio that can also build on top of existing open source models and connect to core system-of-record models," she said, citing CRM data as an common system of record.

Training that model requires DocuSign to access customer data, but Suh said that the company asks its customers for consent to use that data for training purposes.

  • "It's the customer's data, it's not our data," she said. "We work with them to ask them what they want us to train on and not train on."
  • Suh thinks DocuSign has a key advantage over several other companies working on LLMs right now when it comes to customer trust.
  • "They understand that we're not in any of their businesses. So they don't see us as a threat or risk in that scenario, because they understand that our number one goal is to actually accelerate their business transactions and the businesses that they run," she said.

Read the full account of the latest edition to our How We Built It series tomorrow on Runtime.

Word up

Zoom has been trying to cash in on an audacious bet that it can parlay the central role it played during the pandemic into a lasting presence at the heart of the office. Displacing Microsoft and Google will be quite a challenge, but it unveiled the biggest step yet in that process Tuesday.

Zoom Docs lives inside the Zoom app, and appears to offer a similar word-processing experience to Microsoft Word or Google Docs. It's not expected to launch until next year, and it will be an uphill battle to get companies that have standardized on one office suite to change gears, even if they are already Zoom customers.

“The goal is that when a customer starts using Zoom in the morning, they can stay in the Zoom client,” CEO Eric Yuan told Forbes. In our interview earlier this year Zoom Chief Product Officer Smita Hashim said us office drones are tired of the "toggle tax," or the need to switch back and forth across applications to get our work done, and we're about to find out just how sticky Zoom's video conferencing application really is.

Enterprise funding

Stampli raised $61 million led by Blackstone Group to expand its AI accounts-payable service.

Pulumi landed $41 million in Series C funding for its infrastructure-as-code product, which allows developers to manage infrastructure using popular programming languages.

Slope raised $30 million in new funding to add new features to its own take on automating payments for businesses.

Nextdata scored $12 million in seed funding to build out its data-mesh concept, which holds that decentralized data analytics will be more efficient as centralized data stores grow.

The Runtime roundup

Cloud providers and data center operators ordered 23.2% fewer servers in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC, but spent so much on AI servers that overall spending on cloud infrastructure rose 7.9%.

Anthropic could raise an additional $2 billion in the near future, with Google playing a significant role in any new funding round right after Anthropic signed a sweeping investment deal with AWS, according to The Information.

AWS and Microsoft look set to face an antitrust investigation in the U.K. after concerns about their "dominance of the UK's cloud computing market," according to Reuters.

Security provider IronNet shut down on Friday, laying off all remaining employees two years after it went public through a SPAC deal.

Thanks for reading — see you Thursday!

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