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eDiscovery Leaders Live: Wendell Jisa of Reveal

George Socha
George Socha

eDiscovery Leaders Live: Wendell Jisa of Reveal

Each week on eDiscovery Leaders Live, I chat with a leader in eDiscovery or related areas. Our guest on January 29 was Wendell Jisa, CEO of Reveal.

Wendell and I started with the recently announced merger of Reveal and Brainspace and the investment by K1. Wendell emphasized that Brainspace will continue to be available as a standalone option, with enhancements and innovations continuing to be added to both standalone and integrated versions. We talked about the expanding set of choices that the investment and the merger offer and will continue to offer to people using Reveal and Brainspace. We turned to the philosophy underlying Reveal’s growth and expansion: expanding choices, automating processes so there are fewer buttons to push, increasing power so folk can make better decisions. Wendell talked about the people the recent merger has brought together as one family, the dream team of data scientists, entrepreneurs, business developers, and everyone else now under one roof. He emphasized the importance of a strong, positive culture, and talked, as well, about the great fit with the larger K1 family that Reveal now is a part of. Finally, Wendell closed by reiterating that Reveal is and will continue to be all in on eDiscovery.

 

Recorded live on January 29, 2021 | Transcription below

Note: This content has been edited and condensed for clarity.

George Socha:

Welcome to eDiscovery Leaders Live, hosted by ACEDS and sponsored by Reveal. I am George Socha, Senior Vice President of Brand Awareness at Reveal. Each Friday morning at 11 am Eastern, I host an episode of eDiscovery Leaders Live, where I get the chance to chat with Luminaries in eDiscovery and related areas.

Past episodes are available on the Reveal website; go to revealdata.com, select “Resources'', and then select “eDiscovery Leaders Live Cast”.

This week, our guest, our very special guest,  is our very own, Wendell Jisa, CEO of Reveal. I have kept this spot open for today because this week as well has been a rather major announcement by Reveal. Wendell thanks for joining us. You and Jay were our very first guests on our first episode, I'm thrilled to have you back and let's talk merger, let’s talk Brainspace, let’s talk K1.

Reveal and Brainspace Merge

Wendell Jisa:

Thanks for having me. I'm hardly a luminary, but I appreciate you saying that. And I'm really excited about being on this platform to talk a little bit about everything that's going on, which is all hopefully good for the eDiscovery industry, which I know is both a passion of yours and a passion of mine.

George Socha:

In case someone missed the press release, and I hope that's not true, I hope nobody missed it, tell us, what was in there?

Wendell Jisa:

We've been working on this for a while, but we announced on Tuesday that Brainspace, the leading visual analytics software in the legal industry, and Reveal, the industry's only AI powered eDiscovery platform, have merged into one company, which I think creates an absolutely fantastic platform, but also a fantastic opportunity for those that are using Brainspace independently and will continue to use Brainspace independently as an independent product, to see what else is out there. We're really excited about it. We're excited about the people. We're excited about the investment that we received from K1. One of the things about K1 that really resonated with me personally, was their approach towards the investment itself and really trying to better understand the vision of Reveal - and I was also on the Brainspace calls - the vision and the needs of Brainspace as they carved out of Appgate. They're not just investing in you and me and Brainspace and Reveal, I truly feel they're investing in the eDiscovery space, it's not just a spreadsheet formula for them. They're welcoming us into their family, which is incredibly powerful, but they're investing in us as a community, as an industry, as a market. That spoke to me personally because I'm very passionate about eDiscovery, I spent my entire career in this space, and I want to end my career in this space. K1 is a believer in all of us, and that's why they've made this possible.

Standalone Brainspace: Here to Stay

George Socha:

There's a lot to unpack there. Let's start with what is a concern, and then we'll move to the things we really want to talk about. I've heard already from a number of folks this week, a fear that this merger of Reveal and Brainspace means that - never mind what you just said a moment ago -  the standalone version of Brainspace will quietly disappear or it won't disappear but it will become like an orphan child. New features will appear for those who have everything, but for those with the standalone version of Brainspace, will they have the 6 week old, the 6 month old, the 18 month old version and not the current version?

Wendell Jisa:

That could not be farther from the truth. Not only is it not a vision of mine and yours and the rest of the teams at Reveal, but it's not a vision of K1. We actually have the development team broken down by product; so you've got Brainspace, you've got NexLP, you’ve got processing, you've got review, et cetera. The Brainspace component of this technology itself, it's critical that it remains its own product. There are so many other great technologies out there that are connected to it in certain ways - DISCO, Relativity, Nuix, they’re all out there - that many of your viewers and our industry peers, they use that. We don't want to force them into using Reveal.

We want to give folks freedom of choice. It’s our job to make sure that Brainspace continues to be innovative, so that it is able to be used. It's also our job to make sure the overarching Reveal platform is innovative and automates some of the process to push fewer buttons.

We can't [take away the standalone version], we won't do that, and the reason we won’t do it is because it's very important for us, from a strategy perspective, to give folks that freedom of choice. Whether they're using Brainspace or they’re using NexLP or they’re using Reveal Review or Reveal processing, it shouldn’t really matter because they're still a customer of ours. I come from a sales background and the customer is always right. We have to listen to the customer not just about the product but also about the deployments of the product. We've heard it loud and clear, going through the process, speaking to Brainspace customers, that that was important to them. And it'll continue to be important to us.

Expanding Choices

George Socha:

The Reveal platform itself is available in four deployment models. You choose, right?

Wendell Jisa:

Correct.

George Socha:

Cloud in AWS; on-prem, whatever your on-prem might be; a hybrid if you want that; and if you need to go mobile, you can do that. Brainspace historically hasn't been able to offer those choices. This sounds like maybe an expansion of choices for people using Brainspace.

Wendell Jisa:

Yeah, that’s a great point, George, and it is. It’s one of the thesis points on the investment that K1 made into Brainspace and Reveal. It was providing Brainspace more opportunity to expand beyond just that on-prem licensing model. We are already working on that, our teams are diligently collaborating and designing how that's going to happen and when that's going to happen. I don't have specific times now, but as a for-instance Brainspace is immediately available in the Reveal cloud, the Reveal AWS from a SaaS perspective. It’s available for our existing customers right now.

Our phones are ringing off the hook to get access to that, which is really exciting. But we want to give it to everyone. We want to make sure that we can offer Brainspace as a standalone, not just on-prem but in AWS, on a mobile kit, globally, around the world.

Push Fewer Buttons, Make Better Decisions

George Socha:

One of the things that you have talked about in connection with this merger, but more broadly, is the use of eDiscovery technology to help automate and enhance the eDiscovery and investigative processes we all go through. Talk about that a bit.

Wendell Jisa:

That's a passion of mine and our development teams. Matthew Brothers McGrew does a really good job of articulating that. He's our EVP of Research and Development, you were very closely with him. He says, “Our goal is to automate the process so that there will be fewer buttons to push”. We're not trying to take away the jobs of attorneys. We just want to have fewer buttons, make it less confusing, so that we're actually able to really utilize the power of automation and the underlying technology. Dr. Irina Matveeva, one of our data scientists, always holds up her phone with me and I love it. She says, “You know Wendell, it's just like your iPhone. Your iPhone is helping you make better decisions, it's helping you be better at your job”. It might be telling me, “Hey you need to make a call here, you need to do this”, but it always gives me information that I didn't even know that it was tracking.

It's tracking it so that things are easier for me to do, which is absolutely where the Reveal platform is and is headed to go further and further, especially with not just a product of Brainspace and the customers of Brainspace, but the people that were working at Brainspace and Appgate, that are now part of the overarching organization.

A Dream Team

George Socha:

I've been able to see that focus and emphasis on automating and reducing the button-pushing part of it with Version 10 of the review platform and how simplified it appears compared to the earlier version and how much more quickly you can get to where you want, especially with the search capabilities. I've seen it with integration in NexLP’s active learning, the COSMIC capability, so that you can run multiple active learning threads right from within the review platform. This merger has to mean that those types of capabilities from Brainspace are going to come into the review platform, perhaps be rolled in as part of processing and early case assessment as well.

Wendell Jisa:

You’re spot on. When we started the meetings with the collaborative teams, when you see these different individuals come together from different organizations, you think that there would be egos in the room, but no. When you see Jay Leib speaking to Ravi Sathyanna, or Dave Lewis speaking to Dr. Irina Matveeva, it's been fascinating to watch.

It goes beyond just what's happening in those product design meetings. Even the sales meetings, I'm not sure if you’ve been fortunate to join any of those, but it’s incredible. They're sharing ideas on different road bumps that they’ve had, where Jeff Fehrman in our DC office, who’s originally with Mindseye before that acquisition, he's talking to Steve Rapp or Craig Lee or Katie Barr from Brainspace about issues that he's had in trying to sell beyond that. They’re collaborating on that, solving the problems the customers are having, between the two organizations, is also something that's going to feed back into the product design of the overarching platform.

A Strong, Positive Common Culture 

George Socha:

A couple of points. When I was trying to figure out the next step in my career this spring and summer, I had, for the third time in my career, the luxury of having a period of months to step back and think about, “What do I really want to be doing?” There are two points I want to get to address on this. The first one is that it was very important for me as I looked at different organizations and different opportunities to try to understand what the culture of the organization was like. At least from my perspective, if you don't have a good culture, nothing else is going to matter. And I was very impressed with what I thought I saw to be the culture of Reveal; that's only been confirmed. What I see now with Brainspace and with K1 are very similar simpatico cultures that all seem to be coming together very quickly as one. I'm reading the tea leaves right here, aren’t I?

Wendell Jisa:

Yeah, you are. This is an interesting story. I received a text on Wednesday from Chris Rohde about how happy he was that I would have the opportunity to continue to shepherd Brainspace.

George Socha:

For those people who don't know who Chris Rohde is...

Wendell Jisa:

One of the founders of Brainspace. Dave Copps and Chris Rohde founded Brainspace back in 2009, I think. He reached out to me, he sent me a text, and it was humbling for me because of how important Brainspace was to our industry. But back to your point of the cultures, it's something that a lot of people don't recognize, it’s something that’s significant in these integrations of organizations and products.

Culture is wildly important. From my perspective as the CEO of Reveal, I really try to invest in building a culture and representing a culture that fits the direction of not just the company, but how I lead myself. We have assembled an absolutely ridiculous group of individuals across the entire organization, who quite frankly make me expendable because I'm not as important anymore. K1 has that same type of culture that Reveal and Brainspace and NexLP and Mindseye have over these years.

We've got on our wall when you walk in, a sign that says “Do your job”. The word “OUR” is highlighted - our job, we’re a team, we're doing this together, and if we do that, the block and tackle, we will be successful. We are family. I know that could sound a little bit cliché, but it's true.

George Socha:

With COVID, I haven't had a chance to come to the office yet, but I gather that's a 15 foot banner, right?

Wendell Jisa:

It's not a banner; it’s a 15 foot sign on the wall, in letters. It’s meant for us to remind ourselves every day what we're there for. I have this policy, a cultural policy, where in the morning I come in incredibly early because I like to get home to be with my kids, and my door is always open, it’s open until about 7:30. Anyone that wants to walk in can walk in and chit chat. There's someone in inside sales that takes advantage of it, he does it a lot. He gets there early and he comes in. He made me feel so proud. Of all the things that happened this week, the greatest moment was when he came into my office this morning and thanked me for my leadership. And again, I'm not saying he's right, but he talked about how he was reading a book last week and how the book talked about leadership and culture and how they have to be passionate about what they're doing, how they're doing it. He came in and he thanked me for representing that , and I felt really good about that.

A Strong Fit with the K1 Family

Back to your question. Thinking about K1, I get that same sense with K1 through the whole process. It was really unique, because Brainspace was a carve out and Reveal was a clear acquisition from a former private equity firm. I was engaged in a lot of the Brainspace process as well as the Reveal process as the impending CEO. I got to know these folks from K1. I got to understand what they were doing and how they interacted on these calls.

They told me point blank, we are here to help Reveal execute upon what you and Brainspace are doing. We want to help you, we want to lift you up to give you the operational expertise, the financial support, the investment in your industry that we can. But we also want to know that you're now part of our family. I think that's something that was really unique, and I've never experienced. And maybe it’s something that’s typical for the COVID world.

Our entire organization, combined organization, Brainspace and Reveal, got on a “Welcome to K1” call. They broke these things down and the lead person from K1, actually popped up these three pictures, which I love: one of him and his wife at their wedding, and then a picture of his three-week old baby at his first photo shoot. I feel like when he shared that, you think about a two hundred plus million dollar investment, there’s all these employees on the call that’s probably wondering “Who are these people we're speaking to?” When he did that, it resonates with people like me who... I’ve got children, you've got children. We're all human, we're all humble, and I think it was a nice welcoming moment.

Then they broke down the other opportunities that they’re bringing, which are career opportunities. They don't just want to invest in Reveal as an investment, they want to invest in us as an organization - which goes back to what you led with, on making sure that we provide Brainspace in perpetuity but also innovate Brainspace as a standalone product.

It couldn't be a better fit from a cultural perspective. Based on all the reference calls, I spoke to Eric Elfman from Onit, I spoke to a few other CEOs from their portfolio, and the message was consistent: “This organization is a family”. And that's the same way we try to run Reveal and Brainspace.

All in On eDiscovery

George Socha:

I know we are drawing close to the end of the time available. I have one last question, which was the second from what I was experiencing during that four-month period of “what next?” I talked to hundreds of people during that time, trying to figure out what next and your name kept coming up.

One of the things I kept hearing from people was, “eDiscovery is dead, there's nothing new that's going to happen there, you've got to find a new path for your career in another area”. People would tell me cyber, they'd tell me information governance, they’d tell me privacy, whatever it might be. But they kept telling me eDiscovery is dead, forget about it. Well, I couldn't forget about it, I wouldn't forget about it, and I didn't forget about it; I'm here. So, what do you think? I mean, I know what you think. eDiscovery is not dead, it's worth investing in.

Wendell Jisa:

No, this merger, what we stand for, what we're building in that frictionless AI experience, is for eDiscovery. I started and I will finish my career in eDiscovery. We will invest in making the eDiscovery market more recognizable, invest in the people within the organization to get them certifications, get them trained, make sure that we can help them improve their career within our industry. This industry, I'm proud to be a part of it, I wear it with a badge of honor. We at Reveal and Brainspace need to invest in this industry more heavily, make sure that we're not moving on to what's considered bigger and better. Because that's to me, in my business experience, that’s the kiss of death. Things aren't always better on the other side of the fence, the grass isn't always greener. I think that this is a lot of fun, there’s a lot of fantastic people that are in this industry that I’ve formed friendships with, and I think that the loyalty of folks like you in this industry is incredible. Why would I want to go anywhere else? Why would we want to take Reveal to anything else? Sure, people will say for financial benefit, but from my perspective, there are still a hundred other problems we can solve in eDiscovery, to make this experience in the practice of law better, more efficient, smarter. Instead of moving away from it, let’s put it on the map, let's rise it up, and let's make it stronger for everyone that's invested in it over the years. So absolutely not: we're all in on AI, but we're all in on eDiscovery. This is our thing, we're going to crush it!

George Socha:

With that Wendell, thank you very much. You and I will move on from here to go out there and crush it in eDiscovery! Any closing comments before I announce our guest for next week?

Wendell Jisa:

No, I don't think so. I want to again thank ACEDS for having us on here. I think it's a fantastic organization. Allowing us to put myself and you and us and Reveal and Brainspace on the platform. I couldn’t be more thankful, so thank you.

George Socha:

Thanks again Wendell. Our guest this week of course, is Wendell Jisa, CEO of Reveal. Next week we will have with us Adam Brown and David Fisk from Salient, one of them joining us from the UK, the other from South Africa. Thanks again, Wendell.

Wendell Jisa:

Thank you.