This law startup is simplifying contracts involving new technologies like blockchain and AI for companies
From handling blockchain and crypto cases in the Supreme Court to drafting policies that can simplify future tech contracts, Ikigai Law works with engineers and designers to shape the law for a future in technology.
With technology developing at breakneck speed, policies and policymakers are trying hard to catch up. Governments are slowly warming up to deep tech like blockchain, drones, and artificial intelligence in their own departments, but an evolving scene as this requires expertise and a constant watch on trends.
Enter Ikigai Law, a startup run by Anirudh Rastogi, a lawyer explaining to lawmakers and politicians the foundation of blockchain and AI and their impact on people and businesses. Set up in 2017 in Delhi, Ikigai Law acts as an alternative law firm that focuses on technologies that can change the world.
"Our vision is to enable futurists. We have assisted in building the policy and legal foundation for entirely new industries, take drones or blockchain, for example,’’ says Anirudh, 35.
The young lawyer has graduated from Harvard Law, and National Law Institute University, in Delhi. He was part of a couple of top law firms before branching out on his own in 2012 with another partner with TRA Law. But seeing how new technologies became more complex for government and other stakeholders to handle, Anirudh decided to found Ikigai Law.
Simplifying technology and law
Recently, Ikigai Law helped a rooftop solar power company understand a power purchase agreement drafted by another firm. “We found the agreement itself to be good but we pointed out to our client that it was hard to sell a new commercial model that locked in a residential user for 20 years and this wasn’t made easier by a complex contract that the user could not understand,” Anirudh recalls.
Ikigai Law took the contract apart and created a document with infographics that explained the substance of the deal in an easy-to-digest format, reducing the sales cycle. “We believe it is harder to draft simple contracts, because the nuance and complexity still needs to be retained but in fewer words. In a B2C relationship, legal documents need to be as well-designed as your marketing document. That is why we have a design specialist in-house. We also have an engineer on our rolls,’’ he adds.
Doing away with complexities
The firm has a history of working in sectors defined by regulatory uncertainties and complex policy issues: blockchain, tele-medicine, virtual reality, social media networks, aerospace, and unmanned aviation.
For example, an agro company that was entering into high-stake arrangements with farmers worked with Ikigai Law to simplify its contract to ensure enforceability and the farmer understood what he was signing into. “We prepared audio contracts in vernacular,’’ says Anirudh.
Other cases include Proto for social media, regulatory framework for drone ops, Koinex for setting up their cryptocurrency exchange, and initial coin offering of a company. Today, Anirudh says, they represent the crypto-exchanges before the Supreme Court challenging the ban by the RBI.
Some of their other clients include Cred, Udacity, MPL, and Stanza Living.
“We are very entrenched in the new technology sector, as lawyers of course but also as mentors, and investors even. We build deep relationships with stakeholders in the industry and always keep track of new sectors and invest time and effort in understanding these better, producing research in these areas. We see ourselves as investors of time that take informed bets on emerging sectors,’’ says Anirudh.
Ikigai has a multi-disciplinary team. “Besides lawyers, we have an engineer and a designer on our rolls. Many of us have worked in more than one jurisdiction – the US, Singapore, Dubai. We deep dive into areas that we work on and engage 360 degrees, even academically. My colleagues and I curated a course, ‘Law, Policy, and Emerging Technology’, which we offer at National Law University, Delhi, and a course on law for business at IIM Indore,’’ Anirudh notes.
A lawyer works on contracts drafted based on simplifying the complexity and charges a success and retainer fee for every case. The company has more than 120 clients and wants to work with more businesses that
use cutting-edge technology. They did not want to disclose their revenues. Apart from competing with J Sagar & Associates and Khaitan Law the startup law firm competes modern-day firms like Burgeon Law, Vertices Partners and Leegality.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)