Talking to UBIC’s founder about its past and its future

I wrote recently about the admission of eDiscovery company UBIC to the NASDAQ market and about the ringing of the closing bell at NASDAQ on 5 August. I wanted to find out more about the background to the company and about its plans for the money raised on the flotation, and spoke to Mr Masahiro Morimoto, UBIC’s founder and CEO and to Mr. Naritomo Ikeue, UBIC’s President and COO. I started by asking Mr Morimoto about his own background and the circumstances in which he set up UBIC. Before 2003, he said, there was no concept of electronic discovery in Japan. That changed as Japanese companies increasingly expanded abroad, bringing them within the ambit of regulators, particularly US regulators. That inevitably gave rise to a requirement to find and produce electronic information, both as part of the relevant compliance regimes and in response to investigations.

Mr Morimoto was a graduate in economic science and had joined the Japanese Navy before moving to a role at a semiconductor company. His experience in the Navy had given him an interest in both damage control and the anticipation of risk. The development of UBIC was partly in response to this and partly because he saw an area for business development which was not then occupied by anyone else.

The management and searching of electronic documents gives rise to particular problems in Japan and in Asia-Pacific generally, where languages are not just “not English” but involve completely different character sets from the English-speaking world in which most of the search technology has been developed.

The first stage of taking UBIC public began with an IPO in Japan, raising money for investment both to develop new technology and to establish a brand. The admission to NASDAQ was, Mr Morimoto said, the logical extension of that and of UBIC’s ambitions in the US and beyond. The technology developed for the company’s niche specialisation in
Asian-language discovery has much wider application than that. The need for regional language discovery is growing as trade increases between Asia-Pacific countries and the rest of the world, but the pure English language, US-led market for discovery is very much bigger.

I asked him what his investment plans were for the proceeds from the flotation. Top of the list, he said, was the application of development resources towards continuous improvement to UBIC’s own software, with development resources applied to that. In parallel with that was R&D activity on behavioural science, specifically as it related to the business processes of giving discovery.

Mr Morimoto is passionate about the potential for the use of predictive coding technology, the use of which had produced very significant savings in time and cost for a very large discovery exercise on behalf of one of UBIC’s Asian-language clients facing a US-led investigation. It had been necessary, he said, to educate the clients as to the benefits of using predictive coding, although the US lawyers were already used to using predictive coding for big anti-trust matters, especially for quality control and to find gaps and mistakes in the work of contract reviewers.

Mr Morimoto’s interest in the behaviour of business people and their lawyers includes a focus on how people separate their data and on how behaviour can be modified to increase efficiency by studying how people work.  This is leading UBIC into wider areas than merely eDiscovery for litigation and related purposes and into information governance and any other areas where large volumes of data and Big Data (these are not necessarily the same thing) generate a business need.

This was an interesting conversation from my point of view, giving me an insight into the company’s motivation for the future as well as of its existing business. I look forward to seeing how UBIC makes progress with these plans.

About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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