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Legal tech startup Luminance rides AI hype to $40 million fundraise


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Legal technology firm Luminance has raised $40 million in fresh funding from investors to grow its U.S. footprint, capitalizing on the wave of investor interest surrounding artificial intelligence.

The company told CNBC that it raised the fresh capital in a Series B funding round led by U.S. venture fund March Capital. National Grid Partners, the venture capital arm of the National Grid, and law firm Slaughter and May, also invested in the round.

“We had lots of interest from lots of VCs,” Eleanor Lightbody, CEO of Luminance, told CNBC in an interview on Tuesday.

The fact that AI is now a “hot topic” certainly helped, Lightbody said, but she added that Luminance had the metrics — such as its annual sales performance — to match the interest it’s gotten from investors.

Lightbody said that businesses are investing in AI tools like Luminance’s to keep a competitive edge, as well as to reduce costs.

“Everyone wants to stay competitive,” she told CNBC. “We want to build opportunities they didn’t know existed.”

Luminance said its annual recurring revenue jumped roughly fivefold in the past two years, but declined to share figures with CNBC. The company counts the likes of Koch Industries, Hitachi, Yokogawa, Liberty Mutual, LG Chem, and BBC Studios as its clients.

Legal business

Founded in September 2015, Luminance develops machine learning models that help lawyers automate contract reviews and shorten the time it takes to get them signed. The company was founded by a combination of lawyers, mathematicians, and experts in mergers and acquisitions at the University of Cambridge.

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Luminance is one firm of the many generating buzz from investors thanks to the hype swirling around artificial intelligence. Companies like OpenAI, Anthropic, Cohere, and Mistral have raised billions of dollars from venture capitalists — along with interest from large tech firms like Microsoft and Amazon.

Microsoft has invested north of $10 billion into OpenAI, and the firm recently completed a secondary share sale led by Thrive Capital, valuing it at $80 billion.

Luminance declined to comment on its valuation, but Lightbody said that it fetched a “significant premium” over the $100 million assessment that the company secured in 2018, when it last raised external funds.

Investors have been placing bets on sector-specific AI companies lately, sometimes in favor of businesses pursuing a form of “general” AI that would be capable of performing any task imaginable.

In a sector like law, where a high level of attention needs to be paid to a company’s specific legal controls and decision-making, Lightbody said that general-purpose AI solutions like ChatGPT aren’t the answer.

“We’re going to start seeing a lot more specialized AI companies come out,” Lightbody said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

She noted that domain-specific large language models are “absolutely key” in the legal field.

“It’s important because, unlike generative AI, where it doesn’t really matter whether the answer is wrong because the whole point of AI is to come up with an answer, when it comes to legal that just can’t happen.”

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT have become known for producing “hallucinations” — answers that contain false information about certain historical events, in an effort to guess the answer to a user’s question.

Luminance plans to invest aggressively toward expanding its U.S. footprint, in an effort that Lightbody said will include hiring new executives locally, as well as exploring new offices.

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