How does time in the Brazilian rainforest translate into an innovative, blockchain-driven contract management application? Find out in today’s episode of The Legal Helm. Our guest is Dr. Elena Mechik, founder of INHUBBER, a revolutionary new approach to contract management that uses blockchain technology. Tune in to hear how Dr. Mechik’s unique approach to this foundational business process not only brings contract generation and its use forward, but also supports climate health.
Bim Dave is Helm360’s Executive Vice President. With 15+ years in the legal industry, his keen understanding of how law firms and lawyers use technology has propelled Helm360 to the industry’s forefront. A technical expert with a penchant for developing solutions that improve business systems and user experience, Bim has a knack for bringing high quality IT architects and developers together to create innovative, useable solutions to the legal arena.
Dr Elena Mechik spent over five months in the rainforest of Brazil writing her PhD on climate change mitigation through sustainable conservation of tropical forests. In 2009, she founded an NGO to minimize poverty and protect the environment. In 2020, she founded INHUBBER, a SaaS solution for contract management, which uses blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies to reduce paper consumption at companies on the one hand and to create a total transparency of contractual relationships on the other.
Bim: Hello, Legal Helm listeners! Today on our show I am excited to be talking with Dr. Elena Mechik, COO and founder of INHUBBER, a SaaS solution for contract management.
Elena spent over five months in the rainforest of Brazil writing her PhD on climate change mitigation through sustainable conservation of tropical forests. In 2009, she founded an NGO to minimize poverty and protect the environment. And in 2020, she founded INHUBBER, a SaaS solution for contract management, which uses blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies to reduce paper consumption at companies on the one hand, and to create a total transparency of contractual relationships on the other. I’m really excited to be talking to her today on the topic of contract management and digital signature software for law firms.
Welcome Elena and thank you for joining us.
Elena: Thank you very much, Bim, for the introduction.
Bim: Before we dive into INHUBBER, it would be great to hear from you about your background and your journey to explain the journey led you to build INHUBBER.
Elena: Yes, of course. This introduction explained it quite well. My journey started in 2004, when I was participating in an adventurous university project, which seemed very cool. Go to Brazil to spend few months in the Amazon rainforest and protect the tropical forest from illegal logging.
That’s where my love for nature came out. It sounded interesting and I never imagined spending time in the rainforest. So, I went, and I fell in love with the forest. I fell in love with the beauty of nature and actually being there.
We heard the forest was being cut. We didn’t know where it was happening and there was no clear idea of what was going on, but it sounded terrible. I was studying industrial engineering with a topic on engineering for airplanes. I decided to write my PhD on that topic after graduating, after writing my master thesis.
So., I visited Brazil, Thailand, India and wrote, my PhD paper on how economical methods can provide for the people living in the forest to sustain the forest and have economic stability so that they don’t need to leave it. By the end of my PhD, I got to know blockchain technology. That technology made me realize that in the end, we can change the world, or we can change the existing challenges. The existing technologies, that’s what we see.
For instance, illegal logging is continuing. We’re using the same methods as we have for the last 20, 30, 40 years and nothing is changing. So, I thought something new needs to be tried that might actually change something. Once I got to know the blockchain technology, the possibility of creating a sustainable, transparent supply chain where we can follow all the steps starting with logging the timber and ending with the final product, furniture, etc.
That’s how the idea INHUBBER was born. Then we started investigating the situation on the market. We started talking to furniture producers and trying to understand if the market was ready for this kind of solution. What we saw was in the business world, and I was coming from research NGO world, people are thinking totally different. You need to make money at the end. Investing more in production makes no sense if there’s no pressure from outside, like the government, telling you you need supply chain transparency.
What we did realize was that within the companies we were talking to there was no real contract management. That’s the beginning of supply chain transparency for us. Every supply chain starts with a contract. It can be a contract for the license to log timber where you clearly see which timber can be logged and which not. Then the transportation logistical contracts. Then the contracts regarding production and the final contracts for selling the products. The whole supply chain, the entire production, is based on contracts.
Then we started from here. We create a transparent contract management solution where companies can see all the contractual relationships very transparently. The system is based on the blockchain. We have all the possibilities to go together with the companies we provide our solution to. That’s the big vision. To come to this transparency of all contractual relationships with help of our product.
Bim: That’s very helpful. Thank you for that background. It’s interesting to hear about the journey and how from where you were in the rainforest all the way to bringing that to firms and businesses that can benefit from the technology platform. So that’s much appreciated.
In terms of the technology, you touched a little bit on the underlying technology being blockchain-based. For our audience who may be new to blockchain and may have only heard it in the context of Bitcoin, for example, can you help us with a simple understanding of what blockchain is and what the technology actually means?
Elena: Yes. Bitcoin, as you mentioned, is cryptocurrency, which a lot of people might know. We have nothing to do with it. But Bitcoin is based on blockchain technology. What does it mean? It means that the same information is being stored on different servers, on different devices simultaneously.
Usually when I save a document on my laptop, it’s only saved on my laptop. But with blockchain, you save the same document simultaneously on let’s say on 10 laptops at the same time, in the same moment. If someone wants to change this information, which has been saved simultaneously on 10 computers, the other nine other computers will say “no, there’s something wrong.” Because this saving of information happens simultaneously everywhere, changing some information on one spot makes it impossible. This is how we provide transparent data protection. We can see if something is being changed, manipulated et cetera.
Bim: What I’m hearing is there’s an element of additional security that’s inherent with blockchain that you are introducing into the contract management process, which is really good and a positive kind of outcome.
I’m interested just to get into the minds of our customers who might be interested in looking at technology like this, but maybe they’re stuck in between a semi-automated process at the moment that could be workflow driven. A lot of the traditional contract management processes and softwares out there are more focused on a workflow that you run through, and you get a digital signature, but ultimately, it’s kind of just a simple workflow-based approach.
For those firms that have something in place but are thinking of a shift to a platform like INHUBBER what are the main advantages? I think you touched on one of them, security. Give us a feel for what that transition might look like from an implementation perspective. How easy is it to implement a solution like this coming from a more traditional software approach?
We have a digital signature on our platform so it’s possible to sign contracts directly. This is unique in the sense that it is also based on blockchain technology. We can sign any document format. Let’s say an Excel sheet, which you usually would have to save as a PDF first, or a video picture, whatever it is, we can upload it and it can be signed. We provide security that nothing has been changed or manipulated afterwards.
Bim: The AI sounds interesting and a differentiator in terms of what your product brings to the market. Are you able to delve in a little bit deeper there and help us with some examples of the kind of benefits of AI doing the analysis of the context of the contract? Are there any real-world examples you can give us as to the types of things that that can uncover? That would be beneficial?
Elena: It depends on the use case, of course. We have been going deep into real estate contracts. As an example, let’s say there’s a transaction with a building for sale and someone wants to check all the documentation and contracts connected to this building. All the rental apartments, offices being rented, and so on. What are the rental conditions? The whole due diligence to decide on whether this building is worth the money being asked for it. Someone needs to look at all the documentation, all the contracts. Our AI is able to scan through the documents and find the relevant information so decisions can be made faster.
Bim: To touch on a little bit further on the AI side of things, because obviously as I’m sure you know, AI and particularly Open AI’s ChatGPT platform has been plastered all over the news over the last few weeks and months. Some people are calling it as revolutionary as the internet. I’m interested to get your thoughts in terms of what impact you think AI, from what you’re seeing in terms of some of the machine learning models that are coming out at the moment, will have not just on the industries that we serve, but overall from an impact perspective in the way we look at AI and apply AI in our world.
Elena: I definitely think it is a revolutionary technology, especially the chat bot. We see all the potential there. We can ask any question and get a very high qualitative answer. AI can go through all the information there is and find the most optimal solution for any problem. That’s why we need to change the way we are learning, thinking and working. In my perspective, Google will have to think about this because Google is a technology which is like a library. We don’t need to go to the library anymore. We can open Google and find the information we are looking for, but still, we need to go through various websites, through Wikipedia, whatever there is to find the answer.
Bim: Definitely. I think the accuracy of what’s coming back is obviously going to be something that needs to. Be looked at from a human perspective to make sure that it’s relevant and the models are trained accordingly.
I was thinking about this the other day. I have a daughter who’s six years old and growing up in this moment. I remember going through education and putting a big emphasis on writing essays, for example. I think the generative writing capability of some of these models will transform the way she’ll think about writing content for the stuff that she has to do from an education perspective. It’ll be interesting to see how all the different industries that are leveraging AI in different ways as well as the young kids coming up in education now will think about how to leverage the technology to their advantage. But also, how we assess how much we learn in the process as individuals, right? And as humans. We definitely have interesting years ahead of us as we come to terms with what impact it will make.
Elena, it’s been really good learning a little bit about INHUBBER and the product. It sounds like an amazing solution. So really appreciate you sharing some of that with us. I have a few wrap up questions if I may which I ask all my guests that come on the show. The first is, if you could borrow Dr. Who’s time machine and go back to Elena at 18 years old, what advice would you.
Elena: Very interesting. Yes. Just do it. Just do it. If you have an idea, just do it. Try it out. I would tell her to start your entrepreneurship journey a little bit earlier. My time of traveling and getting to know the world, I would never want to miss it, but maybe there were a few possibilities of starting a business earlier. All the challenges I’m facing now, or a few years ago, I would already have learned from them. Of course, I see how education needs to change. We need to try; we shouldn’t just learn and study and that won’t be possible anymore because of this technology coming up. We can’t just read through the books and give this same information to someone like it’s an essay. It’s not going to work that way. We need to start and just do it. That would be my advice.
Bim: I love that. I think that is great advice because I think a lot of people will be familiar with procrastinating about deciding to do something. But nine times out of 10, the right thing to do is go with your gut, make it happen. Yes, you may fall over but that’s when you learn, right? That’s when you learn. The biggest lessons of life are when you fall over, and you pick yourself up and carry on. Totally agree.
Bim: Next question: What one question would you’ve asked yourself today that I didn’t.
Elena: What is your vision? What’s the big goal of INHUBBER?
Bim: Tell us about that. I’d love, I’d love to hear it. I think that’s also quite interesting. I do see that the contract, as we know it today, is just a piece of paper, right? It’s just paper we are negotiating about it. We put it aside and we hope not to look at it again because we just spent so much time. Like the PhD. You’ll write it and at some point, of time you just want to finish and put it somewhere and never touch it again. That’s what happens with contracts as well. We write them and it’s complicated. We want just to put it aside but at the end, all the processes, everything happening within companies are based on this contract.
Elena: Yes. If we go deep into the company’s operations, the contract is the heart of it. That’s why we say the contract should be seen as the heart of the company. That’s why a contract management solution can actually provide total transparency into everything, all the processes, everything. What is happening within the company, whether it is related to employees, to the production to the supply chain, whatever it is, it comes back to the contract. So, a contract management solution should not be the storage of paper documents. It should be a way of seeing everything happening in the company. It should be the first point of truth for everything, for the CEO, the C-level, for, for everyone in the company.
Bim: Yep. I love it. Thank you. And finally, what is the best way for my listeners to contact you if they want to learn more about your product offering?
Bim: Thank you very much for spending time with me today. It’s been really great talking to you and learning a little bit more about your product and yourself and your journey. So, thank you very much.
Elena: Yeah. Thank you, Bim. Thanks a lot.