kCura’s growth prompts thoughts about how companies and industries (and empires and whole civilisations come to that) start and grow, and how they must keep moving forward to stay at the top.
The accepted wisdom, promoted by Gartner in its Magic Quadrant for E-Discovery Software of May 2011, is that there will be no new entrants into the eDiscovery / eDisclosure software market. A number of factors appear to support this idea: the cost of entry is too high; corporate counsel and law firms are, in general, looking to reduce the number of providers with whom they work; whilst the technology improves every year, the improvements are refinements of a by now fairly standard set of core technologies, with attention focused on wringing more speed, more accuracy, and greater usability out of them; the trend is towards consolidation, as players merge or acquire each other, and any new players will come in by buying an existing one; there are not enough skilled people to float a new eDiscovery player; the emphasis is on better ways of meeting clients’ objectives, of becoming more consultative and of improving both the user experience and support rather than on inventing new technology.
It would be foolish, of course, to look too far ahead in this as in any technology-driven industry. I live by a canal, for example, which, when it was completed in 1790, was the last word in transport infrastructure, the latest venture in a short and intensive spate of development which had underpinned fast industrial and sociological change, making it possible for the first time to bring food, fuel and raw materials into the cities which grew as a result, and to carry the products of the factories out to new markets. On the other side of my house is the railway, which reached Oxford 50 years later and made the canal more or less redundant overnight. Over the next 120 years, railway technology barely changed – engines became faster and more reliable, and infrastructure and safety were improved, but the pioneers would have recognised the railways which they invented right down to the point when they were wiped out in their turn by cars, trucks and buses. Other industries show similar patterns.
Much the same happens with companies. New players appear, work hard at developing new ideas and grow, becoming, perhaps, the industrial giants of their time, before either falling apart under their own, by then ponderous, weight, or being overtaken by more agile rivals. The history of the British Empire followed the same pattern, and it seems likely that the supremacy of the whole Western world is going the same way. Furthermore, the wheels are turning faster, and one can go from nothing to domination and back again in a very short space. Longevity lies in constant reinvention and in retaining the ability to keep the freshness of youthful success whilst expanding and prospering.
I have not looked back at my archive, but I suspect that I have written in these terms before about kCura, the makers of the Relativity eDiscovery software for analysis, review and production. The earliest reference I made to Relativity was in July 2008, when I first met its founder and CEO, Andrew Sieja. He came to see me in Oxford, and we walked up the canal and by the railway which gave me the parallels which appear above. If I had had any spare money, I think I would have invested in kCura on the strength of his ambition to make it succeed. It was not the technology which would have parted me from my money – Andrew may have known where that was going, but I certainly did not – but the ambitious yet wholly credible roadmap. This is what I said at the time: Read the rest of this entry »