Inside the Accelerator: Paqt

The Catalyst Cyber Accelerator is the first cybersecurity-focused commercial accelerator in Canada. Headquartered at the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst at Toronto Metropolitan University, the Accelerator offers technical, strategic advice, mentorship and business resources to cybersecurity businesses that are ready to become national and international competitors.

In February, the Accelerator launched its third cohort with seven innovative Canadian cybersecurity businesses. In this series of articles, we’ll be talking to the entrepreneurs behind each business about the Accelerator experience.

Paqt provides the deal-making advantage: an agreement platform for SMBs and professionals without compromising speed and legal security. Their technology includes professional chat, smart document editor, digital ID, digital signatures, live negotiation and contract creation in one platform, with an easy-to-access audit log for compliance and in case of a dispute. We talked to co-founder Anatolii Shkliaruk about how it works.

What is the elevator pitch for Paqt?

Paqt is an agreement platform for SMB decision-makers. Messaging is at the heart of any agreement and, especially after the pandemic, businesses are now entering into deals and agreements fully online. Paqt supports businesses throughout their deal-making start-to-finish, from the initial introduction up to the moment they’re drafting a document and signing, and through the ongoing relationship afterwards. We’re able to do that with our professional messenger app and smart document editor, which help support our customers’ live negotiation and ongoing business relationships.

Paqt’s advantage is that it is an all-in-one tool that is designed for negotiation. With DocuSign or similar e-signature and contracts tools, they really only offer signatures on a static document — you can’t edit the text or send messages to negotiate the document. This means you’re left with a take-it-or-leave-it situation, where you then have to ask for a draft if you want to make any changes, send versions back and forth in multiple rounds of emails, and that generally puts the brakes on getting a deal done. Paqt’s main value-add is to add flexibility to this process and reduce a lot of the back and forth, which means a faster agreement cycle for our customers and an increased close rate for their contracts. We can do that while boosting legal and user security because we’ve built-in legal and user security know-how right into our app.

Our target market is SMBs and IT service providers, as well as business owners, consultants, professionals, freelancers — really, all of the folks that have a lot of communication with their customers and vendors, and are taking (or would like to take) their negotiation and contracts management fully online.

What has been the evolution of the business?

I met with William Muir [co-founder and Director of Product] at a LegalTech Hackathon where we were working on building tech solutions to legal problems. From there (laughs), we were the only two people who endured from the Hackathon group.

Our experiences collided. I’m a second-time founder, and Will is living these efficiency problems as a lawyer every day — managing communications back and forth, getting approvals, all the stuff that’s missing in current communications tools. Paqt grew out of that collaboration — and it was a journey! We built a prototype, got a lot of feedback, iterated it, and ultimately graduated from Founder Institute in their Select Portfolio in the top two per cent of their alumni. Since then, we’ve collected our initial waitlist and fully bootstrapped the company. We’ve raised a team of seven people without funding, on micro-equity participation — they exchange part-time collaboration for equity in the company. We’re getting close to launching a commercial-grade MVP (minimum viable product), and we have close to 300 waitlist users at the moment. Now the latest chapter is working with the Legal Innovation Zone and the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst startup accelerators.

How do you anticipate the Accelerator will be able to help you?

It’s been a fantastic experience with wonderful mentors and great advice. I think this will definitely help us improve and get us to a more fundable stage. There are also some good potential partnerships with Corporates-in-Residence, for us to better understand our customers’ user journeys and how the agreement process works for medium- and large-scale companies.

What do the next five years look like for PAQT?

Well, anything can happen tomorrow in the startup world, but definitely, we want to be the go-to application for commercial deal-making and communication with customers and external partners. We aim to be as efficient and as easy-to-use as possible for both SMBs and larger companies and keep improving the value we provide for them: speeding up their agreement time, minimizing their legal risks, and giving good recommendations that improve the quality of their business relationships. We will further add automation and connect with other tools — connectivity to CRMs, accounting systems, ERP systems, shipping portals and so on. There is a lot on our roadmap. Our goal is to reach an international arena, so we can cover international business relationships and connect multiple jurisdictions and legal systems in an efficient and secure way.

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Toronto Metropolitan University’s national centre for Cybersecurity training, acceleration, applied R&D, and public education

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