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Ben Malloy

Welcome to Venturi's Voice. If you like the show and would like to hear more from us, give us a follow on your favourite streaming platform. Welcome to the show everyone. Today we've got Rich Somerfield with us. Rich is CTO at Summize. Well, welcome to the show, Rich. It's really good to have you join us today. Yeah, thanks for coming on.

Rich Somerfield

Oh, hey. Hey Ben. Yeah, thanks for having us really. It's interesting to discuss some points, but yeah, really good to speak to you.

Ben Malloy

Yeah, we've got an interesting conversation ahead, but before we get into that, let's get a little bit of background on yourself, and actually just what Summize is as a business if you don't mind.

Rich Somerfield

Yeah. So, Summize, it's in the legal sector, legal tech, and really, the headline is, we're aiming to make legal easy. Legal as a field is quite interesting. You look at some other similar adjacent fields like finance with the FinTech and stuff like that, and I think the way we see it, the way legal is at the moment with legal tech, it's probably a little bit behind that growth curve of FinTech. So, I think there's a bit more opportunity, a bit more white space, a bit more kind of innovation to come in legal tech. So, that's where we are, and like I say, trying to make legal easy with technology. So very exciting, yeah!

Ben Malloy

Yeah, exactly. It's already really interesting this because I've got a lot that I could take just from that introduction. This one, you mentioned there, "Make legal easy," and it's a little bit behind in kind of like the tech curve there or the tipping point of technology. And I just wonder if you've got any thoughts on why it's kind of slow on the uptake as a space, the technology or new technology?

Rich Somerfield

So, that's great question. I mean, just a bit of context, I've been in technology since I can remember, since I was a kid. Always been interested in computers and stuff and, we'll kind of go into to that, but not legally trained. And when I joined, Summize was really my first exposure to what the legal industry is like, and the legal tech. So I can only kind of speak from my perspective on what I've learned along that journey. But I think, like say I touched on finance and FinTech, I think was when you look at that as a sector, where are we today versus 10, 15 years ago? People are paying for stuff on the phone or on the watch, there's access to loans, bank accounts, the whole thing is very different than the brick and mortar of 10, 15 years ago.

You've got all these new start-ups that have come in with innovative ideas, they've disrupted things, processes and practices and approaches. And then, the more traditional banks, they've obviously got a whole load of capabilities in a certain area, but they're not standing still either. They're looking to these markets and working out where they can advance. I bring that towards legal, I think, as a pure consumer, I sit in my seat and I think, "How and when do I touch legal services?" When I move house? When I sign a will. There's kind of very, very few, and probably, I wouldn't even know where start, if I some kind of claim or something, I wouldn't even really know where to go. So I think, immediately you've got a big difference there between finance and legal, as finances is a much clearer in general about where to start, I think and legal isn't.

Rich Somerfield

So, with that legal as a service mindset, how can I, as a consumer engage with legal? How can I as a business user engage with my legal team? Or as a client to a private practice, how do I kind of start that conversation? How do I engage? How to get the most out of it? And that's really where we kind of think a lot about... is that as a service mindset, how can you start that process? So it's access to legal. It's around how effective it is. And I think really where Summize is really trying to tackle this problem from is at that sweet spot. So how can we make the legal team more efficient, more effective, through technology? How can we narrow the gap between a legal professional, whether that be on a team, or private practice, how can we narrow that gap between them and their clients? How can we make that process easier?

So a lot of legal seems to run on Word, Excel, email, and phone calls. Which is fine. None of those tools are purpose built for legal, but they're pretty effective and people are making them work. Well, you look at, for example, the email, how does that work? Well, you engage with someone from legal, you're probably going to send them an email with a contract attachment and say, "Please review this." The first thing the legal team's going to do is ask for some context, "How important is this? How urgent is this?" All these kind of questions. Well, immediately there, if you can shortcut that process, so immediately when you send the contract to this legal inbox, you immediately, automated wise, reply back to the sender and say, "Please answer these three or four quick questions. Give me some context, how urgent is it?" And that's before or even hits the inbox of the legal team. At that point, you've saved what, five minutes, maybe? Maybe 10 minutes, but it's time and effort, repetition. It's the same question you're typing out again and again. I think that's just one kind of aspect of improvements we can kind of see.

I think another one is around again, Word isn't purpose built for contracts or legal, so how can we make that more effective? So, Summize has got a Word Add-In, so it's where the lawyers are anyway, and then how can we make them more effective through... Perhaps it's a case of reusing, or they've got a favourite clause they've written three weeks ago, the note's in the contract somewhere... Typically what they're going to do, they're going to search the hard disc for 20 minutes, either give up, or eventually find it, then copy and paste that out of the original, into the new contract they're creating. Makes complete sense, but at their fingertips, if we can make that available in a Word Add-In, with a quick search in the Add-In, make it available, a one button to insert into the contract, then the time saved when you multiply that out is just astronomical. Again, we have that capability and that's really kind of this stuff we focus on.

And I think, the other main part of the Summize suite that we tackle is really around contract review. So, can we produce a quick summary of a contract that then we tap into the legal expertise of the human, say, "These are things we think are red flags. These are the things we think look good. This is what contravenes this particular client's risk profile." Produce that in a summary... we're not eliminating the lawyer at all and all their experience and their skills, we're just kind of short in part of the process, giving that quick summary. That means they can work more effectively and quicker with their clients. That makes the clients happier. And the whole thing means clients are more likely to engage with legal, which is a good thing for SMEs particularly, because you've got a lot less risk that you are exposed to, because it's always going through the legal team. And then a client's more engaged with using the legal team, it means you can do it more effectively, more cost effectively.

And then, I mean, it's a bit cliché to say, but it really does feel like a win-win at that point. Clients getting a better service, more effective, probably cheaper. And the lawyers not doing that fairly laborious, low value work on a repeated basis, and they get to focus more on what they started being lawyer in the first place for, which is experience and guidance, really.

Ben Malloy

Yeah. Blimey, there's a lot to take from this. We'll come onto your history and your background in a little while. There's one question that I really want to ask, which is, what are some of the risks involved with this? Because legal's quite, everything has to be watertight, doesn't it? So, if you're automating things and what are some of the risks involved in this space?

Rich Somerfield

Yeah, so, I think, where we start our thinking from is that the lawyer, the human, they're the expert in the room, no question. So, start with that as your premise and then you're looking for, well, what can technology do to support? And I think that key thing we talk about, so a lot of people talk about AI (as in artificial intelligence), which is effectively replacing the human's capability of producing results or whatever that may be. We really much more think around augmented intelligence. So, how can we bring together all the good stuff of humans; experience, guidance, judgment, context awareness, how can we bring all those bits together (and relationships obviously with individuals), bring those together with what computers are great at, which is pattern recognition, repeated task. A computer generally doesn't complain if you asked it to do the same task over and over again 1000 times, a human gets pretty bored after the third or fourth time.

So, it's really kind of like, that's really where we start when we're trying to bring the good bits of both together and then superpower. So, like I say, on terms of the summaries we produce, the intention, and when we speak to our customers as well, is, this is there to speed you up, but it's not there to replace you. So, you are always the expert and this is really just kind of to help you. Again, in many cases with a human paralegal, you are always going to want to skim read the results. That's just what you do. I think the same kind of mindset would be true in what we're talking about.

Ben Malloy

Yeah, absolutely. It's really interesting because, you mentioned that you didn't have much history in this legal space before you started at Summize, so is your role as CTO just making things happen essentially? And do you get a lot of advice or insight from legal people to know how the industry works? That was such an awfully worded question, but it made sense in my head, Rich, sorry.

Rich Somerfield

I understand what you're asking. So I think that we are really fortunate that our CEO, Tom, he was ex-GC. Not only that, but he was involved in a of fast growth startup companies, he was the GC at those as well. So, really interesting insight when you've got limited resources; how can you be lean and mean and effective as a GC in a small company? It's different, I think, than how can you be a GC in a more established company with much more resources on hand and everything's... well, not everything, but there's a chunk of things already figured out. So I think that experience from Tom is incredibly valuable to us.

And then, as a team, not just me, but as a team, we regularly join the sales demos that we do. We regularly speak to customers on support calls or customer onboarding calls. We, as a team, well, we like to call ourselves more of a product team rather than a development team. I think that's really an interesting shift in thought, is that we want to make the best product we can, based on what we talked about, where Summize is coming from. How can we do that? Well, the only way you can do that is talking and listening to domain experts, people who are involved in those process, who kind of do those things daily. Listen to those, ask questions, try and figure out, wind it all the way back to what's the core of what you're trying to achieve, not necessarily what steps you use today. So, we take a lot of input from, like I say, customers, potential customers, just generally surveying the market, seeing what's going on, keeping an ear to the ground. And I think, all those bits kind of feed in with, again, as a product team, our knowledge on how to build things, how you might piece things together.

And I think if you can collect all those in one circle, in one sphere, in one small collection of people, I think it's incredibly powerful. Yeah, I think it's just incredibly powerful, if you can get all those bits together in a small, motivated, cohesive team. It almost looks like a superpower from the outside, I think, but really it's just the case of it... if you've got everything to hand, those millions of decisions you make as a developer on a daily basis, you've already got the answers ready to go. Yeah, I think that's really core to how we work, but generally how we see product development. And then, what my role in that is I'm part of the team. I might be talking to customers slightly more than some of the other people on the team, but what I think is critical that everyone on the team kind of steps up into that same position, that they understand why we're doing things, how people are using it, and we don't kind of pigeonhole people into just writing code. That's critical to us. Yeah.

Ben Malloy

Yeah, definitely. And I want to find out a little bit about your history now. So, if you can kind of rewind time to the day you were born. No, I'm joking. To when you started your career, and then just kind of how you've navigated to get to where you are as CTO. I think that be really interesting?

Rich Somerfield

Yes. Just to get a bit of context. I was born late '70s, really late '70s, just my dad bought us an Amstrad. It was a UK computer.

Yeah. Fairly basic. But it was, you're really quite almost at the bare metal. When you power your phone these days, everything's ready to go, apps are all there. On that generation, the '80s, you got dumped at a command prompt and you kind of had to figure out what to do. So, was that 8 or 10 or whatever age I was. So it was kind of like... Scan the manual, trying to work out how to do things. Loads of trial and error. And I think the bit that kind of, I struggled with, I think at the time was the internet wasn't available at that point, and I'd go to the library on a weekly basis and look for computer books, and in a kind of a small village, the number of computer books in the library at that time was extremely limited. So, quite frustrating really. But you get to play with things, and learn and discover.

Fast forward then to university... did a computer science degree and that coincided, I went to university in '98 and at that time, that was my first touch of the internet.

And yeah, I mean, mind just blown at that point. All that struggling to find information, and people are just putting this available for free and you can find it. And that was a huge, as for many people really once you discover the internet, but it's just a huge point that all this information at your fingertips.

And I think that really ties into what I enjoy most, is that thirst for knowledge, discovery. Kind of, finding new things out. I love listening to podcasts and all the rest of it. So, that's kind of like university. And then coming out of that... went through a few different roles, telecoms, and then eventually settled in a company that was doing some really low level software on Windows. Very interesting, kind of got to learn a lot from that. Then at the same company (this is around the early 2010s), a lot of technology, it was talking about mobile, social, all that kind of stuff. And as a company, we were quite deep into Windows technology, but we were also looking at how can we be relevant in this next wave of mobile and stuff? So as part of that, I got asked to head up a research team, trying to think through what we could possibly do, what was relevant for us. That was really interesting.

And then eventually what we decided as a company was we wanted to expand to another location, and looked all over the world, tried to work out where that best be. And we chose as a company, Silicon Valley. And as part of that, with my role in the research team, it was a natural thing for me to go out there, and then start up a team over there. So, we had a small sales office at that time, went out with my family, so two young kids as well, moved out there. Started a product team over there, that kind of grew. Eventually after a couple of years, came back. We as a business closed down that Silicon Valley office, just through things we'd discovered. But my experience being there was just incredibly valuable. Just very, very different to what I was used to. The mindset - everything's, "Go faster, ruthlessly attack."

I remember, this was early on, we recruited the first guy out there, very early on. And we were playing around with some ideas. We were kind of exploring some ideas. We had something kind of very roughly working. We came into the office the next day, me and this other guy. And on TechCrunch, the lead article was around, there was a brand new start-up that was doing something, and what they were doing was identical to what we were doing. And I, just based off what I was used to, kind of sat back in a chair and thought, "Oh, well, somebody else is doing it. We'll have to go and find another idea."

And the bit there was it just like, again, it made me completely differently, the guy we'd recruited, he was a Silicon Valley native, his first thought, and he said, was, "Brilliant. Someone's validated the idea. Let's go faster."

And I think, that difference is probably I'd say was the best way I summed up my entire experience in Silicon Valley. Is, yeah, then that was, I mean, I just looking at you now on the call, it's just mind blowing-ly different, isn't it?

Ben Malloy

It is though, yeah. The mindset is, like you mentioned, completely different, isn't it? I don't know whether that's something to do with the UK as a whole, or compared to Silicon Valley, but what is Silicon Valley actually like? I mean, you mentioned it was faster and more harder than what you're used to, but in day-to-day life, what's it actually like? I mean, I can't picture it. I mean, I've seen obviously there's sitcoms based around Silicon Valley that are on the internet now, but I can't imagine what it's actually like being there. So, what is it actually like? It blows my mind to even imagine. I imagine some crazy place.

Rich Somerfield

Yeah. The thing that jumps out immediately is the weather. I mean California is an incredible place, there's a huge amount of diversity just in California alone. Never mind the states total. But the thing that really hits you straight away coming from Britain particularly, is the weather. It's pretty much constant. A nice 25 to 30 degrees. It's not too humid. It's just like that every day. So, like I say, I went out there, my young family, my youngest at the time was six months old, but just meant you could plan. You could plan three weeks ahead, and you knew the weather was going to be good. I think that's the biggest bit, although nothing to do with Silicon Valley necessarily itself. The other bit was, we kind of obviously made friends and talked to other people and 95, close to 100% of people you spoke to were in a tech company that you'd probably heard of.

Again, compared back to Britain, and you're kind of saying... you kind of speak under your breath with, "I work in IT." And the conversation just dies at that point, really. So, yeah, that was interesting as well. Getting into the location, it's just, you're driving down the street, and you see an Apple on one side of the road, and it's Google on the other side of the road.

And it's like a kid sweet shop really, if you interested in tech, it really is. And then, when you get actually into doing the work, and speaking to people, I think like you said, like intensity, there's just an intensity around things. There's this drive. I think the other thing I thought was coupled with that, was just this ruthless mindset in terms of attacking the problem. So, whereas what I was typically more used to, you know, you come across a problem, maybe on a Thursday, and you think, "Oh man, this is too big. I don't really want to wrestle with this today. Well, let's have a meeting next week, early next week sometime." You eventually book it for Wednesday, Thursday or whatever, and you've kind of lost all that time. I think, another big difference is people we worked with over there, it was kind of, you've got a problem, it's like, stop everything. Let's everybody get together in a room, lets whiteboard this out. Let's just attack this problem as hard as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can. Let's see what falls out. And it's really going from soup to nuts. So start, let's go right back to the starting points to work out why we've got this problem in the first place and let's play through that, and let's just keep on playing that through where many times possibly can, until we can then see the resolution.

And I think the reason that made such a difference doing it that way is, quite often you'll discover new things as part of that process that then meant the other things you're working on, that we're actually fine, but they actually don't make sense anymore, or that's the wrong direction. So then you kind of go back. You look at the Toyota approach to manufacturing with the Andon Cord, which is where something goes wrong, you stop it immediately, versus a lot of the other kind of car manufacturers will fix up the problems after the car comes off the production line. You know, "We'll fix those up later." But then you've got this kind of repeated, this problem's going to continue to happen, and you kind of spend a lot of time further downstream.

I think, again, that intensity was really focused on, let's figure out the problem as early as we possibly can, go as quick as we possibly can, because we're in a race with everybody else. And like I said, that ruthless intensity, it was tough, it was draining, but equally the kind of like the satisfaction you get of that is great. And that fitted really well with me, because that's what I enjoyed the most was kind of attacking the problems, and doing the thing that makes sense based on what you know on day 50, rather than kind of trying to hang on to what you've thought was correct on day one, because you've already signed off some documents, so that's what you're going to do.

Ben Malloy

Yeah. Do you still follow that ruthless intensity mindset now, or did that kind of slowly fade the further you got away from Silicon Valley?

Rich Somerfield

I mean, the team I work in, that's still core to how I think about things and how I operate. I mean, I find it really quite stressful at times when I was over in Silicon Valley, that intensity. You do have to kind of stop and breathe sometimes. And it's really, like I say, intense, difficult all the rest of it, all the stuff that comes with that. I'd like to think I've kind of toned that down a bit with the team that we work with today, so they don't feel quite that same pressure and all the rest of it. But, I think the mindset is absolutely critical to what we do, to how we think. Like I say, everybody's got an equal voice, everybody's experience needs to come together. Let's not sit on things. Let's not cling onto what we decided ages ago. If something's wrong, it's wrong, let's fix that as quickly. So, like, kind of bring in that mindset 100% to what we do.

In fact, I was quite fortunate that when I came back from Silicon Valley, I stayed with the same company for a couple of years, and was fortunate enough, we formed a new team, a couple of us who I had not worked with before, but we formed this team, and we recruited a few other people. And I think, I was the tech lead on that team, but that my experiences from Silicon Valley, I brought into that team, and it worked well with the rest of the team as well. And so, we kind of had that feel with our team there.

And then, because I'd worked previously with Tom and Dave, the co-founders of Summize, we just kind of started a coffee conversation around what it could look like if I was to swap companies. And really one of the things that jumped out immediately were around legal as a sector has got some way to go. There's innovation that's available to, not just us, but to anybody that's producing legal; the innovation's available. It's certainly interesting work. It's a new field. And what works best in a startup product team is that kind of that ruthless intensity. So, it was almost a case of, I can do what I enjoy at the moment as part of a larger organization, probably not having a huge impact, but get paid, and kind of get to enjoy life, or I could take all the things I love, switch companies, switch sector, and experience that 100% of the time. So, wrestled with it a little bit about whether that made sense to make the jump with a family and all the rest of it. But in terms of personally, it was obviously the right choice, and been here now for almost two years and loved every minute of it.

Ben Malloy

Yeah. Brilliant. And what's the future of the development team at Summize? And what's the product vision going forward?

Rich Somerfield

So, the development team wise, the team we've got today, I mean, I'd say it's small, really. It's a very capable team. We all work really well together. And I think, there's something around retaining that for long as you possibly can. That small, really closely knit, really collaborative team. Once you've gone beyond what, eight to 10 people, the dynamics change quite a bit. So, I think product development team wise, we want to work out how we maintain that feel as we grow. So, I think it's a case of bringing people in who are culture-first. Culture's the most important bit. I mean, when you're recruiting people talk about RATS, like Recruit Attitudes, Teach Skills, and it's 100% the right thing to think. If you haven't perhaps used the technology we use today, that's really not a problem, you can figure it out, people can learn that, not a problem.. But if you've got an attitude that doesn't gel with us, it's not good for you, and it's not good for us as well. So, I think product development team, we are definitely growing.

If you've got individuals like us that love to do work, love to use their skills, but also love to understand what they're doing and why. Why are we doing this? Who are we doing it for? How are we doing it? All those kind of questions. If you love that stuff, then I think companies like Summize and other companies who have the same mindset are incredible opportunities. The amount of stuff you'd learn in a short space of time is incredible. Whether that's a stepping stone to your next part of your career, or whether it be somewhere where you feel home for a long time. But yeah, like I said, we are growing, but that culture first, really is just critical.

Ben Malloy

Yeah. It feels like in this space, there's a lot of new developments that are about to be made. It seems like in this space, it's a little bit behind, like we mentioned at the start, it's little bit behind the curve, but it seems like there's a lot to be done. Yeah, a lot of tech to be introduced, essentially.

Rich Somerfield

Yeah. I mean, it definitely feels that way. I mean, as a tech person, you look at every single problem as like, "How can I apply a computer to this?". Maybe not always the right choice necessarily, but, I mean, it definitely feels like there's opportunities all over the place in legal. And I think, there's obviously deep debates in the legal sector around billable hours. You can kind of understand why that is, how a lot of companies work. It makes sense, given the incentives and the context that a lot of companies are in, but you look to the future and most, if not all sectors are moving more towards the, as a service style approach and delivery. So, whether that be finance as a service - a lot of SMEs perhaps don't need that salaried financial team that's large. They don't necessarily need a large legal team and all the way through.

So, how can you do that as an SME? Well, let's as a service, having it on tap. So, like I say, HR as a service, finance as a service, and I think legal as a service, that's where we see things and then playing that backwards, how do you get to that point? Well, it's around having legal services that are easy to engage with - they're cost effective cost efficient, really the way we see it is, you can't provide those cost effective, predictable, as a service guarantees without technology. If you've not got the technology, it goes much more back towards the billable hour, which is, "You want a contract, I'll produce you a contract, not a problem. And it takes as long as it takes." And then there's that trust around the fact that you are not wasting time and charging billable hours, but it's kind of, it comes back all to that one.

I think, like I say, if you start with the, as a service future, you can only do that with tech. I think really Summize's journey is, we see that, so how can we, today, someone in legal's not using any technology, what's the first step we can make to help them? Whatever that is. We can introduce to their current process. So they're probably in Word, so we need to be in Word. Simple things like that is how can we make the easiest step for them. Once they're on that journey with us, then they can learn from us, adapt more features. And then, before they know it, they're kind of a much bigger user of our legal tech perhaps, other legal tech as well, but our legal tech. And then as we continue on the journey, we're slightly ahead obviously with the features and where we look at it, but they can kind of come with us on that journey, to that point where they've got better view of risk across the business, they're more engaged with anybody that's using their services, they're more predictable about how they can deliver those services, and all the other good stuff that comes without a service.

Ben Malloy

I'm just wondering, maybe to wrap up here, I've got a couple more questions, but there's one thing that I keep thinking about whilst I've been talking is, where do you learn about this stuff? Because it's moving all the time and it's quite a specific area, it's quite a niche area to work in. So, where'd you go for your resources? You mentioned podcasts, where else do you look?

Rich Somerfield

I mean, podcasts are huge for me. I love listening to podcasts when I'm doing the dishes and all the rest of it. And whether it be from legal tech podcasts, all the way through to short story fiction and all the rest. Podcasts are such a useful medium to kind of absorb information, listen to different things, connect the dots in completely different sectors. I think that that kind of innovation, we look at innovation perhaps slightly... it's not really that light bulb moment really. It's really just connecting different experiences, different dots. So, that's why diversity is really important in companies, as well as someone who comes with, maybe some construction experience, and you connect that to your experience in the motor industry. Pair two innovations between the two, which would be completely disconnected, but you put those two bits together and you've got that innovation that makes complete sense in a different sector.

So, I think, like I say, podcasts are super important to me and a lot of the people on the team as well. I think, the internet in general is an incredible source of information. Just, listening in, having that kind of ear to the ground, whether that be on legal tech, review sites, news sites, whatever, just looking about how other people are thinking about the problem. And I think a lot of it's really about, it's not necessarily how the product looks, but you really want to hear about how they think about the problem. What is it they're trying to do? How are they trying to do it connecting into, I mean, the most valuable source is the legal professions themselves. What are they doing? What are they thinking? Where did they think things need to go? So, I and the rest of the team regularly are on conversations with people all the way from really small law departments. What are they struggling with today? All the way up to global private practice law firms and what do they experience?

So, it's just kind of keeping that open ear, trying to connect the dots, and then kind of playing that back. And then coupled to what I said before, kind of ruthlessly going through that iterative cycle about, does this make sense for us? Can we help in that particular area? How would we deliver that? How would we get the customer onboarded. Connecting all those bits together, like I said, with those sources of information is how we see we can be most effective and how we can deliver most value.

Ben Malloy

That's really interesting. I could literally sit here all day Rich and chat to you about this. It feels though I've just scraped the surface, but there's one thing that stuck out to me was in this day and age with startups... a lot of startups nowadays, particularly because of COVID, are all working remotely basically and saving money by not having that physical premise. So, when you moved to Silicon Valley, if it was today, would you have moved out there or would you have just had a distributed team?

Rich Somerfield

Oh, so hard to answer that question. So, I think some of the learnings that I was out there was just a general cultural mindset. So, if you're remote working with someone who is a Silicon Valley native, that stuff's going to rub off anyway. But there's just something nice sometimes around being in the same room on a whiteboard, just kicking something around.

I think, in terms of us as a product team, we've embraced remote working. Most of us on the team have got a family, kids, other things that are part of your life. Work is obviously super important, but you've got other things going on as well. You blend those two bits together. So, it may be the case that some days, you get up early and you work early, and then maybe you do some family time in the middle of the day. We are really fortunate as a team that we can do that. Other kind of areas of the business, if you're talking to customers, you're a bit more on their time scales. So, things are different. But I think really, the backbone for all of this and what many companies have had to accelerate, the plans, is around that virtual office. You've kind of gone from a physical office, to that virtual office. And I think having that, and leveraging that is incredibly useful, whether that be Slack, Microsoft Teams or whatever it may be. That kind of gives you that baseline foundation, that if you are at home, and other people in the office, you're not then a second class citizen. You can be you, and you're an equal peer and you can contribute, no matter what day it is.

And I think that that mindset shift. It's kind of been forced a little bit on some people. And I think perhaps right now, maybe rebelling against it a little bit where people are keen to get back to that, we're kind of in terms of an elastic band, springing back a little bit more towards, "I desperately want to be in the office and around people." I think, what we're going to see in the next 6, 12, 18 months is probably that elastic band settling down a little bit, which will be, and much more balanced. So, work from home sometimes, work from the office other the times, but you are not missing out, you're not losing out, whether that be in productivity and awareness, knowledge, anything like that. Because you've got that virtual office backbone, everything else is fine.

Ben Malloy

I completely agree. It will be really interesting in the next 18 months or two years just to see how the dust settles, basically. I remember when everyone had to work from home overnight, pretty much, wasn't it? It's kind of crazy, wasn't it? And everyone was absolutely loving it for two weeks, and then thought, "Oh no, I actually want to see some people now." But it's weird, because some people absolutely adore working from home, and other people absolutely adore working from the office. So, it'll be weird to see, or interesting to see where that balance naturally sets for people.

Rich Somerfield

Yeah. All you can really do is like a part of a company maybe as a leader, but maybe just part of being an individual contributor is just keep your eyes and ears open. If the sense is that people are struggling because they've not got that human contact, then maybe you need to think about what you're doing as a team to kind of move more in that direction. If people are struggling to cope with being in the office and the commute and all the rest of it, then you kind of maybe go slightly the other way. But I think, I guess it's part your culture; it's individual and it's the team. Just kind of listen, and learn, and adapt. None of this stuff is written down that you have to do X or Y.

I think that's a challenge for me is when you see a CEO of a large company come down with an edict that says, "We're going to do X, Y, Z now." I think that, some parts of the business will be fine with that, and other parts will struggle. And I think that that global edict is, you can understand why it happens, but it just feels like it's the wrong approach. Every team has responsibilities to themselves, and the wider business, and really empower that team to satisfy those. And if that team's missing the mark, if that team's not engaging with the rest of the business, then that's a conversation you need to have. But really, kind of empower the team to figure it out themselves.

Ben Malloy

It's really good advice, Rich. Yeah, like I said, we could just talk all day really. But like you mentioned, I can't believe, I don't want to take up too much of your time here, I'm sure you're incredibly busy. So, I'll let you go for now, but thanks so much for coming on the show, Rich. I've really, really enjoyed this conversation.

Rich Somerfield

Yeah, me too. Yeah. Certainly, if anyone's interested in continuing conversation, or talking further, or interested in Summize itself, then yeah, just reach out.

Ben Malloy

Absolutely. You'll have to come back on the show in maybe six months time or something, just to see where Summize is at. And as we mentioned, things are happening really quickly, so it'd be really cool to see what development you made, and maybe have a technical conversation around that in the future.

Rich Somerfield

Yeah. Sounds great.

Ben Malloy

Excellent.

Rich Somerfield

Great to talk to you, Ben.

Ben Malloy

Yeah. Excellent. Thanks Rich.

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About the author

Richard Somerfield

With experience working in several leadership positions, Rich focuses on bringing new ideas and concepts to market. Before starting at Summize, he lived and worked in Silicon Valley, and holds a number of European and US patents for his innovations.
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