Celebrating 10 Years of Onit: A Podcast With Our Four Co-Founders

2021 marks 10 years of Onit! In honor of our 10th anniversary, we sat down with Onit’s co-founders, CEO Eric M. Elfman, COO Eric Smith, VP of Marketing Jill Black and VP of Products John Gilman. The quartet, who have known each other for more than 20 years, chatted about how Onit began, pivots and successes along the way and what customers can expect to see from Onit in the future.


How Onit Started

Onit was born out of two early ideas:

  1. Finding ways to read invoices and get more value from them than existing rules engines
  2. Exploring how project management and workflow could be used with legal technology software.

“We were using some early natural language processing and concluded that we couldn’t extract the value [from invoices] at that time. The tools were not really at a point where we could do that,” explains Smith in the podcast. “We moved from what was the straight value proposition around the billing into something that we thought was a little more interesting, and it was around how project management and workflow could be used with legal technology software.”

Discussions with newer general counsels at the time underscored a growing priority for process improvement.

“We started heading down a path that was somewhat similar to support workflow and with a real sense that this needs to be ad hoc,” shares Gilman. “The problem with the business process tools at the time was that they were not flexible at all. We baked in some notions that anybody can add anybody else.”

Ultimately, they created a low-code business process automation platform – Apptitude – that allowed Onit to quickly build solutions such as enterprise legal management, contract lifecycle management, legal holds and legal service requests.

The Onit Nation, which includes Fortune 500 customers, partners and Onit employees, has also built more than 5,500 Apps and solutions on Apptitude that handle process challenges across the entire enterprise.

As Gilman summarizes in the podcast, “Our customers and partners are building apps that we’ve never even thought of. It’s really exciting to see.”

Building from 20+ Years of Entrepreneurial Experience

As with any business, there was some trial and error over the past decade. However, the co-founders have dedicated themselves to not repeating mistakes that had happened with past startups. This includes Datacert, the enterprise legal management company founded by Elfman and Smith in 1998 where all four worked together.

“It felt like we made every first-time entrepreneurial mistake possible at Datacert. The exit was great for all of the investors, but we felt like we could do it better. That’s what we dedicated the last 10 years trying to do at a minimum – not repeat those old mistakes. We’ve made plenty of new mistakes, but we don’t want to make any of those old ones again,” describes Elfman.

Award-Winning Legal Technology

Onit launched at a tradeshow and secured approximately 2,000 beta users – one of several proud moments for the co-founders. According to Black, an inspiring moment came from the industry’s validation of Onit and its customers’ work.

“About five years ago, we submitted a pretty prestigious award on behalf of one of our customers and he won. Not only did he win that award, he actually won four awards that year for legal technology and innovation in this space. For me, that was the pinnacle because I thought not only are we helping advance the industry, but our customers are seeing the value in this and the industry is taking notice,” she recounts.

The industry recognition continues to this day, with Onit and its customers winning titles including ACC Value Champion, Legal Innovation Awards, Legal Procurement Awards, Corporate Counsel Best Legal Department of the Year, Transatlantic Legal Awards and more.

Ten Years of Onit (and Beyond)

Since its launch, the company has gained more than 10,550 Fortune 500 and law firm customers and has grown into the only two-platform company in the market. Apptitude focuses on workflows and business process automation, and Precedent uses AI to drive business intelligence. More than 450 employees call Onit home and the company has a global presence with offices in Texas, California, New Zealand, Ukraine, the UK and India.

During the past 12 months, Onit has launched three AI offerings – Precedent and ReviewAI, ExtractAI for pre- and post-signature contract management. It debuted InvoiceAI, its AI-enabled invoice review tool, to customers in May, with a broader launch happening later this year. It also acquired two companies (McCarthyFinch and AXDRAFT) and its rapid revenue growth has been recognized in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, the Inc. 5000, the Inc. Private Titans and the Growjo 10K.

“We are building something significant here,” Elfman explains in the podcast. “I think that transcends any of us as individuals.”

To learn more about Onit, its founding and what to expect in the future, listen to the podcast embedded above or find the Onit podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify or anywhere you listen.

If you’d like to see Onit’s technology in action, you can reserve a demonstration here or email [email protected].

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