Time for another thought leader interview on eDiscovery Today! My latest interview was with Dean Brown, the CEO of IPRO, a global leader in eDiscovery technology providing integrated litigation, eDiscovery & information governance solutions who completed a major acquisition!
As Chief Executive Officer of IPRO, Dean Brown is an accomplished leader with a 25-year track record of working with high-growth software and service companies. He brings a collaborative leadership style, emphasizing both operational experience and a passion for customer-care. Prior to joining IPRO Dean served as the Chief Product and Technology Officer for Open Education, a leading international education technology company. Prior to Open Education, Dean co-founded and led a technology startup, NextU, leading it to a successful acquisition by Open Education. Dean has also held senior leadership roles with Pearson and Thomson, focusing on technology and growth.
Doug Austin: Congratulations, Dean on the acquisition of ZyLAB! What was unique about ZyLAB that caused IPRO to target it for acquisition?
Dean Brown: Thanks! When we talked last year, almost a year to the date around the NetGovern acquisition, it’s mainly the same fundamental traits. We were looking for ways to expand where we can help customers move upstream in the EDRM to analyze their data better or identify gaps and inefficient processes so they achieve faster and more accurate downstream results. We’ve made tremendous strides with these goals with our recent acquisitions.
But ZyLAB has been on our radar for a while. We started talking to them about a partnership and found out that they’re doing so many things so well in those areas I mentioned. And they also fit a final index well for us, which was international. We’ve got a number of really impressive international customers and we have a great office in Germany, but to be truly solution focused for our customers – many of which are multinational – we need to grow that presence. Partnership discussions with them led eventually to a realization that we’re very symbiotic companies and very complimentary. So, we just moved very quickly to look at this acquisition opportunity.
Doug Austin: ZyLAB has an on-demand discovery solution that supports collection, review, and production (among other things) and so does IPRO. How will the two platforms co-exist and is there a specific target market for each?
Dean Brown: We anticipate continuing to evolve the ZyLAB One product and ZyLAB Legal Hold for corporate and markets that are very focused on investigations or PRR (public records requests) and those types of use cases. We’ll combine those best options and really push that consolidated ZyLAB plus NetGovern and IPRO at corporate and government. And we’ll continue to evolve and focus IPRO for enterprise for our legal partners and legal service providers, which focus on massive volume and complex cases. So, you’ll see those two products really focus on market centric opportunities.
Doug Austin: Your press release stated that ZyLAB will continue to operate under the “well-respected and recognized ZyLAB brand in Europe. What about in the US? Will the ZyLAB name continue on here or will it be absorbed into the IPRO brand?
Dean Brown: It will continue in the US as a product underneath the IPRO family. So back to my earlier comments: our product focus for corporate and government will be ZyLAB, an IPRO company, and our product focus for law firms and LSPs will be the IPRO for enterprise product. What that allows us to do, especially in the EU, is to maintain the existing hosting and data centers, so there’s no movement of data. We’re very, very focused on GDPR and on regulatory compliance across the EU. By maintaining ZyLAB as a legal entity there under that brand, it protects and maintains all the current data security requirements.
Doug Austin: As the press release notes, and as I covered last year with the NetGovern acquisition, IPRO has been busy in recent years regarding acquisitions. Obviously, you can’t talk about potential other future acquisition targets, but if IPRO is looking to grow anymore, what sort of characteristics would it be looking for in a company to be part of the IPRO family?
Dean Brown: As we continue to think about non-organic M&A opportunities, I think our focus over the next 12 to 18 months would be much more “tuck ins” that fit nicely to augment areas like analytics or some of our IG capabilities. But the focus for us, though, is really on organic growth.
We need to finish the integration between the two companies first, and those technical integrations are really going to focus on helping ZyLAB extend left while giving IPRO an incredibly robust legal hold function. IPRO also just released active learning modules, so, we’ll pull that into ZyLAB’s capabilities. And, ZyLAB has a great analytics team that’s helping them publish the analytics capability of their organization so we’ll fold that into IPRO.
It’s exactly the same playbook as we did with NetGovern: pull the pieces together, continue to move left, and add value to our customers on the unstructured data as it sits. We’re lucky enough to have pulled essentially everyone through the NetGovern implementation. They’re now in all key parts of the overall family. I want to take that same approach with ZyLAB.
Doug Austin: We’ve seen a lot of high-profile acquisitions recently, even during the pandemic. And, you know that all too well because IPRO acquired NetGovern during the pandemic. What do you see for the industry over the next 12 to 24 months? Are we finally getting to a point where we’re truly consolidating, or do you continue to expect to see a lot of players in the market?
Dean Brown: No, I think the pace of consolidation is going to continue to pick up. There are number of point products in the marketplace that really need a home. The cost of capital is incredibly inexpensive right, whether it’s through potential IPO filings or private equity. There’s a lot of available capital to apply to the right strategies. So, the pace, if anything, will continue to pick up across the various sectors. We’re continuing to see it in the service provider marketplace. We reached the point during the pandemic where it settled down a little bit. But it started to pick up again, and I think we’ll continue to see that. And we’ll see it on the software side as IPRO’s move illustrates. I expect to continue to see more of that across the industry. I think it’s all customer centric. Being able to provide more complete solutions for our customers across the board.
There’s also a lot of partnership stuff going on. We have some great partners, but when it comes to the core of the companies, we’ve chosen to build that in through acquisition. You can throw stuff over the wall and hope a partner catches it, but then what happens to the partner? For us, it’s really about lower friction, not having to move data all over the place, lower costs and higher security. All of that is what we’re most excited about taking advantage of.
Doug Austin: What else would you like our audience to know about where IPRO is heading from this point?
Dean Brown: We’re continuing to focus on giving more power to our customers. One of the reasons we did the acquisition with ZyLAB was how highly rated they are by their customers. We serve every market: government, law, service provider, and increasingly corporate. This acquisition allows us to further tune the best capabilities of our products for each individual segment.
Instead of disintermediating various players in the marketplace, we’re most excited about some of our customers who are convening those things in the lowest friction, lowest risk ways. What these customers have said is that they want to own and be able to control more of their own decisions. They want to make more effective decisions, not just take everything and shove it out the door and hope one of their partners will take care of it.
Think about it from a maturity model perspective. They are getting much more mature, making much better decisions about their own data sets. And the ones we’ve seen that are kind of our poster children are those who are using Information Governance to perform hygiene so that the information that does need to be pulled out for investigations or records requests or potential pre-litigation is much more targeted.
But they still need partners, and this is where I think IPRO plays its best: to convene the legal service provider, the outside counsel, and the corporation. Our best customers are those who are using IPRO and our software as that data link to get the best out of all three of those pieces of the triangle. Allowing each piece to do what it does best in a low friction model, not having to move data or send it to the other way.
IPRO is sitting in the middle, not only with those parties we talked about, like LSPs, outside counsel and corporate, but also in the unstructured data to federate that both from a governance and eDiscovery perspective. That’s our plan. We believe fundamentally in reshaping the EDRM from the fairly linear process it has been historically to a much more recursive process. We think we’re at the leading edge of that re-invention of the EDRM.
So, what do you think? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.