The Perils of Innovation

Earlier this year I wrote this post about Ridacto, a new contract-analysis tool. When recently a reader asked me what had happened to Ridacto, I went to its website and found it vacant. Ridacto is no more.

That doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s a safe bet that most new ventures in any field are more likely to fail than succeed. But the legal field, and the transactional world in particular, feature barriers to success that don’t stand in the way of innovators in most other fields.

Because inertia holds sway, it’s not a matter of building a better mousetrap:

Law Firm: “A better mousetrap! We don’t need that! Our blindfolded, wet-noodle-wielding mousecatchers are getting the deal done just fine! Have you read my recent article on optimal strategies for blindfolded, wet-noodle-wielding mousecatching? The fact that I’m making a good living renting out my mousecatchers is beside the point.”

Customer: “Sure, blindfolded, wet-noodle-wielding mousecatchers aren’t as efficient as they might be. But the mousecatching firm I use, Blind & Flaccid, they’ve got me covered. I can’t go wrong with them. And anyway, I was a blindfolded, wet-noodle-wielding mousecatcher myself in the old days. I’ve still got the knack!

Bringing innovation to the transactional world is like competing against a giant cartel. It’s like competing against faith. That’s what makes it so bracing, but it’s also why most people offering technology solutions to the transactional world will fail.

There’s some reason for optimism, as noted by Ron Friedmann in this post. Meanwhile, I happily forge on, assuming that enough people will find value in what I do, but I’m keenly aware of the passing of the likes of Ridacto.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

2 thoughts on “The Perils of Innovation”

  1. I’m pretty optimistic about the future of transactional legal tech, but I think that any startup trying to enter the space has to be incredibly strategic about how they build momentum.  I tried Ridacto – it seemed interesting, though the UI was a bit confusing.  But I think the real issue was that their approach to how they analyzed contracts would simply be a non-starter at a law firm of almost any size – hey, upload this contract for a private transaction that hasn’t occurred or been announced yet, we’ll analyze it for you, but we promise we’ll delete it afterwards!  Umm, yeah, good luck with that one.  I got my hand slapped by my IT overlords because Box, not Dropbox, but crazy-secure used by like the CIA Box, wasn’t secure enough for them.  Just suggesting Ridacto would get me laughed at.
    Lesson: If you’re a legal startup, your customers, or at least those controlling their buying/use decisions, are pathologically paranoid about security and credibility.  You simply can’t be a $100K, bootstrapped, “lean startup” and expect to get any momentum in this space.  In some ways, you never get to truly enjoy the Early Adopter phases of most tech startups. You start out right in the middle of Geoff Moore’s famous “Chasm” – all the problems of a startup – burning cash, an un-proven business model or product + all the problems of a scaling tech co. that usually has revenue to rely on, like gaining credibility and convincing conservative customers.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.