Change Agent

Beagle uses machine learning to point out red flags in contracts

Due diligence on contracts is necessary, but also time consuming and expensive. Beagle CEO Cian O’Sullivan thought there was another way

header for Canadian Business series Change Agents
Beagle founder Cian O’Sullivan

Beagle founder Cian O’Sullivan. (Portrait by Roberto Caruso)

A lawyer by training, Cian O’Sullivan spent several years as a contract negotiator before founding Beagle in 2014. The Kitchener, Ont. startup’s product uses artificial intelligence to analyze contracts and facilitates real-time collaboration and review of documents.

“A friend was bidding on a construction job. He asked me on a Friday to take a quick look at the contract. He sent it over, and it was 90 pages long. By Saturday afternoon, I was on page 40 and my fourth beer, and I had a eureka moment: If I put 10 lawyers or contract experts in a room with highlighters and said, “You’ve got a quick look and 10 minutes,” there are common things they would all identify. It’s simple things: Who’s responsible for what? What happens if things go south? I thought, There has to be a way we can automate that. So I wrote a program that weekend to pull out key things my friend needed to know. He ended up getting the job because he understood the contract.

“Beagle uses artificial intelligence to scan a contract automatically for you, highlighting key areas like responsibilities, liabilities and termination rights. And there are sharing, review and collaboration tools, so you can examine a particular section or clause with colleagues or lawyers. As you collaborate, the system learns and automatically improves. We certainly don’t think it should replace individual due diligence. We don’t tell you whether the contract’s legal or not, or whether it’s good or bad—that’s up to you.”