Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

How This Company Is Helping Business Executives Improve Their Digital Governance

The founder and CEO of ContractZen shares how his Finnish cloud technology is helping executives manage their contracts, board-meeting minutes and other corporate documents.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Back in 2014, Markus Mikola wanted to find a way to make it easier for companies to improve corporate governance and business operations. Mikola set out to create a SaaS solution that reduces costs, accelerates processes, and minimizes risks. Today, his Finnish cloud technology company, ContractZen, has offices in Helsinki and Palo Alto and customers in more than 30 countries. Mikola sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss how ContractZen is helping executives manage their contracts, board meeting minutes and other corporate documents.

Jessica Abo: Tell us about your company.

Markus Mikola: ContractZen is a new kind of governance software for the creation, management and secure sharing of critical governance documents. We put together previously separated software solutions like contract management, board portals, virtual data rooms, e-signatures, entity management systems, all-in-one easy-to-use solution, which you can take into use right away from the internet. Ultimately, we bring peace of mind to executives, investors, and entrepreneurs. That's where our name actually comes from, ContractZen.

What trends are you seeing when it comes to companies' workloads, around audits, major transactions and other due diligence situations?

We are living in very transformative times in many ways, especially as the business environment has changed profoundly all around the world in recent years. So we have this increased global competition, growing regulation and compliance issues. We have this globalization happening, digitalization, and now we even have the pandemic fast-tracking the digital transformation and affecting us all.

And all these business drivers are creating tremendous pressure on companies of all sizes. And as a result, there's more and more mergers and acquisitions happening, more financing rounds, regulatory audits, joint ventures when companies are trying to cope with the situation. And unfortunately, in general, SMBs for instance, are not ready for due diligence. They lack the speed and agility needed to react to these challenges and they also cannot afford complex governance solutions. So there is a little bit of pain there.

In these scenarios, what happens when a business is not prepared, and how does proper digital governance help?

Well, the first risk is to lose some once-in-a-lifetime deal, right? There was this one company who got into negotiations with Google and for a very large business venture. The first thing they had to go through is the appropriate due diligence process, right? And the owners and executives started to look for all the documents throughout their 20-year-old history. And they, you know, both physical forms and paper formats at their home, drives and wherever. And it took them six months, and they were like this close to losing this awesome deal.

Certainly, there are many situations that have failed because the parties were not able to create trust between the companies as they were missing critical documents. But we properly managed governance and then with some new digital solutions available, companies of all sizes can be ready for due diligence. Actually, every day, if you have access to the right documents when you need it, it's very helpful, very important. For instance, you can go to negotiation and check on the way from your mobile what was decided in certain board meetings.

Many businesses have been slow to take their documents and the process around creating those documents to the cloud. With everyone having gone remote over the pandemic, how have companies adjusted?

There's more and more assets being migrated to the cloud everywhere. The paper-based processes are digitized, and there's a huge growth happening both in the digital contract management side or board portal market, meeting management side and moving to paperless processes. Generally, as you and I both, we have used e-signatures but around the world, they are not used commonly even now.

I'm thinking in one or two years from now with the speed of adoption, everybody will be using those. And lastly, I would say that the increased spending on data security.

What is your number-one tip for companies who want to make sure that their company is as agile and as ready for opportunities as possible?

The transformation to digital governance of the company, our organization, includes a lot of things. And many executives see this as a huge and expensive process, right? And they think they have to change everything in one go and learn and buy expensive solutions and learn to use them and train the people. So my main tip is actually to start now, but start easy. One step at a time.

For instance, without moving all contracts or meetings to the digital form right away, but start with the most important ones and move the new ones. Sign them digitally. Have them in digital format. You can take the other valid contracts later on and other processes as you move on. But don't stress on having to take everything in one go and being exhausted on the way.


The Key to Effectively Communicating Important Messages Is All About Simplicity

In our 'Creative Conversations in Advertising' series, award-winning Group Creative Director Giancarlo Rodas and Entrepreneur magazine Editor in Chief Jason Feifer discuss distilling complex ideas down to a simple message.

How to Deliver a Serious Message Through Humor

In our series 'Anatomy of an Ad,' Creative Director David Stevanov explains how humor can be a storyteller's most effective tool.

This Successful Shark Tank Entrepreneur Shares His Latest Innovation

The Founder of Ooonimals, Club 44, and the OOO Studio Lab talks about his current projects and what you need to know about the risks and rewards that exist in the NFT space.

Brendan Sweeney of Popmenu on How Ego is the Root of All Evil

Interview with Popmenu CEO Brendan Sweeney about building a positive user experience, the state of restaurant technology, and the importance of providing answers.

Recession-Proof Your Mindset with Neuroscience

With top economists fearing a recession, award-winning author Ben Angel teaches how to recession-proof your mindset with neuroscience to manage stress levels.

How to Find Your "Oxygen Points" to Sustain and Grow Your Business, According to an Investment CEO

Entrepreneur Network Partner Ashley Crouch sits down with the CEO of Al Zarooni Emirates Investments, Dr. Adil Alzarooni.

How to Get Investment Funding for Your Business

Entrepreneur magazine's Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer and Narya Partner Falon Donohue have a lively and informative conversation about securing the funding you need to launch your dream.

Keith Koo Explains How Angel Investors Prioritize Startup Funding Decisions

Entrepreneur Network Partner Ashley Crouch sits down with the Managing Partner of Guardian Insight Group and Angel Investor, Keith Koo.

Why this Popular Web3 Esports Game Was Designed with a Play-to-Earn Model

The Chief Product Officer of MonkeyLeague discusses his company, why monkeys are all the rage for NFTs and gaming, and his advice for developers.

Want to Get Customers' Attention? Tell Them a Great Story.

In our 'Creative Conversations in Advertising' series, award-winning creative director Josh DiMarcantonio and Entrepreneur magazine Editor in Chief discuss the power of storytelling.

How Do You Get People Excited About a Product That Doesn't Exist?

In our series 'Anatomy of an Ad,' producer Liz O'Connor breaks down the components of the award-winning True Name by Mastercard campaign.

After Hearing "No" Dozens of Times This Entrepreneur Became Orlando's First $1 Billion Fintech Unicorn

The co-founder of Stax talks about the finding success, the pride she has as a child of Pakistani immigrants, and her advice for other women.

Noah Glass of Olo on Having a 'Day 1' Mindset

Interview with the CEO and founder of restaurant SaaS company Olo about using data to make every guest feel like a regular, on-demand commerce, and why they 'Embrace The Suck'.

Do Nootropics Make You Smarter? Science Says Yes.

Ben Angel discusses nootropics and how they might help boost your performance.

Discover Entrepreneur Series

Whether you need advice on how to get your business off the ground or you’re just looking for inspiration, our video series have something for everyone. Browse our library below to find a series that speaks to you and your interests.