Exclusive: Syncly closes seed funding round led by Stuart Barr 

Sydney-headquartered legal data management and governance platform Syncly has closed a seed funding round led by Stuart Barr, the former chief product & strategy officer of HighQ, who will become a significant shareholder and join Syncly’s board as an investor director. The investment from Barr, which is in the “hundreds of thousands of pounds,” will help to grow Syncly’s development team to help build out the vision and roadmap.

Syncly provides real time, two-way synchronisation between legal platforms such as iManage, NetDocuments, HighQ and Microsoft Teams, to ensure that data is in the right place and complies with information governance requirements. It helps law firms to synchronise and move documents between platforms to ensure that the system of record is complete, and it also provides an audit trail of where documents have been moved from and to. 

This is the first investment that Syncly has taken since it was founded in 2021. It will enable the six-person company, which has operations in Sydney and the UK, to expand both in terms of people and product development. 

Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Syncly’s co-founder and CEO Stewart Rasmussen, who between 2015 and 2018 was head of client services, APAC at HighQ, said: “The investment is to accelerate our growth and further productise the vision that we have around the movement and governance of data.” 

He added: “Having Stuart specifically is what you would call ‘smart money,’ because it is also about tapping into his skillsets, knowledge and networks.” 

At HighQ, which was acquired by Thomson Reuters in 2019, Barr spent 12 years building a product that became one of the most widely adopted global legal technology tools, and Rasmussen said: “It’s really key to us to get that insight and knowledge. With Stuart on board, we’ll benefit from his learning and experience and be able to take a few shortcuts.” 

Barr and Rasmussen know each other from working together at HighQ and Barr told us: “There was an obvious connection and trust. Stew reached out to me probably almost 18 months ago for general advice and it became clear that there was an opportunity to invest in the business. I’m very aware that there are some core problems that remain unresolved in the industry – at HighQ we never truly resolved the issue of how to seamlessly integrate with the core DMS platforms and other core systems of truth inside the organisation, iManage being the most popular one. It was something that HighQ, for various reasons over the years, never decided to solve directly for themselves, we always partnered with third parties to build integrations. 

“None of those third parties have truly solved the problem to the satisfaction of customers and it doesn’t go beyond the basic ‘let’s move a document from here to over there.’ What I saw with Syncly, was that they have a modern technology platform, as opposed to something that was developed a long time ago. It is a cloud native platform, and it has its foundations in some of the work that the Syncly team has been doing with one of the big Australian banks for a long time, moving very large data sets across different systems. So, it has really robust and mature capabilities as well.” 

While Barr was impressed by the existing capabilities of Syncly, he says that he was also attracted by the possibilities, such as solving problems around the governance of data. He told Legal IT Insider: “What we mean by that is not just moving a document from A to B, it’s about proactively managing that data once it has gone somewhere. 

“Say you have loads of data in HighQ or Teams and you’re managing potentially thousands of matters. Some of the big HighQ customers do have literally thousands of matters in their HighQ instance. But over time those sites aren’t used anymore, and you still have a lot of data in there. The opportunity for Syncly is to be able to proactively monitor that data, shut down sites that no longer need to be active, pull the users out and get the data out of there as well.” 

Having data sat in multiple different repositories is an enduring problem for law firms, which in addition to meeting privacy requirements, must also adhere to strict regulation around the destruction of data after a set period of time. 

Barr said: “You’re obviously moving data from the DMS into collaboration systems like Teams and HighQ so that data might stay there for a while, and then it needs to be taken back out again. Bigger clients particularly have a headache managing their HighQ instances and sometimes it can even hold back adoption, because they are scared of losing control. Quite often the teams managing these systems are quite small and they don’t have the capacity to manage it if they let it loose. 

“We want to help automate that process to make sure that your data is where it needs to be and only where it needs to be.”  

This could also mean setting rules around external Teams users, whereby if they leave the company their account will be deleted if inactive after, for example, 30 days.  

Syncly can already archive HighQ sites now – including iSheets and Wiki content as opposed to just documents. There is an archive workflow in which you need to select the source and the target once a matter is finished, and the site needs to be closed down. It is the automation of that process that is not yet available, and Rasmussen says: “That’s the first step of the vision that we have, to build a more proactive governance platform.” 

Syncly has a joint venture agreement with a top 50 US law firm to build additional capabilities and Rasmussen says: “We’re tapping into their knowledge and processes and making sure we’re solving real problems.” 

While Barr will not be operating the business and says “that’s Stew’s job and his team’s,” he will take on a proactive role and says: “We are bringing some new people in to up-skill the business and help strengthen the team.” 

Watch this space.