I was away speaking at a discovery event when the news broke that Relativity has appointed a new CEO and that Andrew Sieja is moving up to be executive chairman. Since I have no aspirations to be a first-with-the-news journalist, I can be content that others had the splash, and can look at a couple of aspects of the story which seem important to me.
The facts are set out in the Relativity press release. Mike Gamson comes to Relativity from LinkedIn where his most recent post was Senior Vice President of Global Solutions, and brings deep experience of setting up and managing products at LinkedIn, which had not defined a monetisation strategy when he joined it.
It is no small thing to step into the shoes of a company founder who brought the business from nothing to global dominance, and who has been its public face for so long.
The questions which interested me at a press call earlier this week were firstly why Mike Gamson and secondly what will Andrew Sieja do next?
One of the questions asked on the press call was about Mike Gamson’s legal experience, with the implication that a company whose client base consists largely of lawyers should be led by someone with legal experience.
One possible answer to this question is that Andrew Sieja has managed to build a product used largely by lawyers for legal purposes, and with a large user base of lawyers, without himself being a lawyer. There is no obvious reason why his successor needs to have that qualification. There are plenty of lawyers to turn to if purely legal input is required, but there are not many people out there who have developed SaaS products from scratch as Mike Gamson has at LinkedIn. As he pointed out, “Andrew is still there and nothing is being taken away”.
What is more interesting is Relativity’s potential to move beyond the support of purely legal functions. We have already seen a broadening beyond eDiscovery, as Relativity and its partners take the technology and the skills into other areas. My recent interview published here, for example Interview: Rishi Khullar of Heretik on Heretik Forge and its use with RelativityOne is about a product built on RelativityOne by Heretik whose uses identified in the interview include contract review, M&A, regulatory response, vendor management, analysis of RFPs and RFIs, of court transcripts, of outside counsel guidelines, and of any document which has some structure. If most of these have a legal purpose, the sky is the limit once you lift your eyes above that already wide market and think about taking Relativity’s technology and its skills into areas not instantly recognisable as legal.
Referring to the Heretik example, Mike Gamson said that the extensibility of SaaS was “pretty staggering” and “intellectually interesting”, which implies an open-minded approach in someone charged with expanding RelativityOne’s possible uses and markets. Mike Gamson’s first 100 days will include asking “What do we double down on, and what do we de-prioritise?”
What of Andrew Sieja’s plans? When I first met him, in 2008, Andrew Sieja was in the UK to give hands-on training and implementation. That and the technology itself were his first loves, things which must inevitably give way to managerial responsibilities as a company grows. I asked him what he intended to do once Mike Gamson’s first 100 days were over. A little time off, he sensibly said, then getting involved in the technology, from “small and tactical” things through to broader platform considerations. He would, he said, get involved in new markets, like Relativity’s Trace product – compliance and surveillance are among the broad areas which Relativity has identified for future growth.
Andrew Sieja will, in other words, be free to get back to his first loves, the things he really likes doing, confident that the company is in good hands.
That first 100 days takes us pretty well to Relativity Fest in Chicago, which opens on 20 October, and which will be Mike Gamson’s debut on the big Relativity stage. I look forward to being there and hearing what his plans are.