Ontra employee spotlight: Mitch Spierer, VP of product

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Mitch Spierer always knew he would be a lawyer. It was the family business and often the focus of dinnertime conversation. So Spierer, Ontra’s VP of Product, went to Stanford University and studied what interested him most: the interface between computer science, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. It was an exciting time as machine learning and AI began moving faster and faster into practical spheres.

After law school, Spierer turned toward tech after quickly realizing he wanted to focus more on legal technology than practicing law. He joined Doximity, an online network for healthcare professionals, directly reporting to the company’s chief product officer. Through launching new products and rebuilding others for scale, he became skilled at leveraging technology to relieve pain points and create new value chains. Everything clicked when he was introduced to Ontra and saw the opportunity to apply his legal background to the way its cloud software and attorney network turn complex contracts into data.

Since Spierer joined in 2019, the company has tripled in size, launched its first SaaS product that empowers global enterprises to turn contracts into actionable data, and optimized architecture to build a runway for growth as a leader in contract intelligence and automation. We sat down with Spierer to learn more about his background and how lessons learned inform and guide the way Ontra helps its customers find the freedom to do their most important work.

Tell us how all of those experiences built on each and helped guide you to where you are today.

By the end of my time at Doximity, I had built or pressure tested almost all of the systems. Those experiences deepened my love for creating network effects and leveraging those effects to create valuable new products and exponential growth. As we continue to build trust with our customers and process more and more documents at Ontra, our data similarly gets bigger and better and we can further leverage that data to serve our customers. As a company, we’re doubling down on that advantage, particularly in areas like financial services, real estate, and healthcare.

For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. When I was introduced to Ontra, I had the chance to see what was under the hood. Meeting the people here, learning about the business and market fit, and seeing the product was a fall-back-in-the-chair moment. I looked at our scorecard summaries — which match key terms in a contract with the underlying text — and was excited about the potential to leverage that labeled data in a human-in-the-loop system to create a product with compounding value. The more contracts we process, the better our data foundations, and the further we can push our machine learning prediction and attorney augmentation capabilities. It really is a virtuous cycle.

As all of that’s happened you’ve also been overseeing rapid growth within Ontra’s product and research and development teams. Can you tell us a bit about managing that?

That’s right. In the past year we’ve tripled in size, growing R&D by more than 42 percent in the first quarter of 2021 alone. It’s hyper-hypergrowth.

It’s not always easy, especially considering that with COVID many of us have still not met face-to-face, but our culture of communication and remote work is strong, and the momentum we feel as a company and R&D team makes it exciting. We find that aligning on a clear roadmap, focusing on clean handoffs and documentation, and doing as much asynchronously as possible allows us to maintain large blocks of time for our makers to focus on building and shipping products with as few interruptions as possible.

Really, it’s about creating empowered product teams and giving them the frameworks and space they need to accomplish meaningful strategic goals.

Explain what you mean by empowered product teams.

I think of an empowered product team as one that focuses on an objective rather than just delivering a feature. Many organizations, even some successful ones, focus on delivering features with the underlying assumption that those features will create value. On those teams, the goal is often on getting fill-in-the-blank built. Measurement and data is an afterthought, if it’s thought about at all.

On an empowered team the organization, planning, and work is toward objectives and measurable strategic goals. At Ontra, for example, we’re laser-focused on reducing turnaround time for our customers. We are aligned in our ownership of that objective and are also relatively agnostic in the tools we use to address it. In that sense, we work cross-functionally to ship features that address that goal in a data-driven way where ideas, best practices, and innovation can bubble up organically. In the end, it’s really about team ownership of the outcomes and empowerment to achieve them.

What does the future look like for Ontra’s product and technology?

Well, there’s a lot, but it all comes down to being the best at understanding the terms and meaning of legal documents, including their negotiation and ongoing maintenance and compliance obligations.

On the one hand, we’ve built and are continuing to invest in our agile development team as we focus on building for scale and versatility. We’re not just developing a solution for one problem and punching out. Instead, we believe that solution may be the answer to another yet-to-be identified solution, and we’re prepared to meet the continued challenge.

On the other, there is the data and our data-driven approach to understanding the meaning and terms in contracts and how they can inform negotiations and our customer’s objectives. There are also some exciting developments in computable contracts on the horizon. The short of it, though, is that we’re always looking for ways to help our customers come to their agreements faster and with more insight so they can focus on what matters most in their businesses.

Really, businesses and legal departments are just beginning to wake up to the possibilities of what can be done with the data currently buried in their documents and file cabinets. It’s an exciting time to be innovating in the space in a way that our customers find valuable.

Mitch Spierer is the VP of Product at Ontra. Prior to Ontra, Mitch was the Director of Product at Doximity. Mitch holds a J.D. from the University of Southern California and a B.S. from Stanford in Symbolic Systems – a mix of computer science, cognitive science, AI, and human-computer interaction. In his spare time, Mitch enjoys surfing, snowboarding, and yoga. Connect with him on LinkedIn


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