Meet Nick Brestoff, 69, the founder and CEO of Intraspexion, which prevents litigation via artificial intelligence. Brestoff incorporated the company in August, 2015. He presented his startup at the CodeX meeting on June 8, 2017.
Home base: Sequim, Washington—about a two hour drive west of Seattle.
Education: Bachelor of Science, Engineering Systems, University of California at Los Angeles, 1971. Master of Science, Environmental Engineering Science, California Institute of Technology, 1972. J.D., Law, University of Southern California, 1975. I retired from practicing law in 2014, after a 38-year career as a litigation and insurance coverage practitioner.
Past jobs: In 1971, when I was a Caltech, I was the script consultant for the United Nations film, “Survival of Spaceship Earth,” which was narrated and by Hugh Downs and Raymond Burr. [My name was misspelled.]
In 1974, I was the assistant to Harold Willens, the chairman of the campaign to pass “Proposition 9,” which created California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
Is this your first start-up? Yes.
What problem does your startup address? Intraspexion addresses the painful problem that bedevils corporate legal departments: the frequency and cost of litigation. Intraspexion provides an early warning of specific types of possible litigation to in-house legal staff. Then they can conduct an investigation and advise executives—and they can nip the risk in the bud.
We surface risks by using “Deep Learning” (DL), a form of artificial intelligence. DL is the street name for a multi-layered neural network, a subset of AI. DL enables a computer to “learn” by training with examples. We use Google’s open-source version of its DL algorithm, “TensorFlow.”
Our system learns the patterns of specific types of lawsuits from hundreds (or thousands) of examples of each type of case. The examples consist of factual allegations, which we currently extract from the federal litigation database, PACER—The Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
For each type of lawsuit (for example: employment discrimination), we build a DL model. We pass the unstructured text in company emails and other documents through each DL model and report to company-designated users. The output is easy to understand. The system is surfacing an email that is related to the training set, and so may be risky, along with a score indicating to what degree. This near real-time early warning gives a user a chance to investigate and avoid the risks before they have to manage the lawsuits.
Is Intraspexion currently on the market? We’re currently walking up slowly to the starting gate. In Sept. 2017 we graduated from the Enron Email Dataset to company-level data, and, at about the same time, received a marketing study from North State Consulting. We’re exploring different ways to go to market.
What inspired you to pursue this startup? My law professor at U.S.C., Louis M. Brown, was the “father of preventive law.” The highest calling for an attorney is to see what went wrong, handle the mess, but then advise the client how to prevent the next lawsuit. Brown spoke to the engineer in me.
How did you come up with the company name? Intraspexion enables counsel to be “introspective” about the company’s own “intranet.” I added the “x” in place of the “ct” to help with the trademarking process.
Do you have patents? We have a patent “family” of seven Deep Learning patents. The core patent is for “Using Classified Text and Deep Learning Algorithms to Identify Risk and Provide Early Warning.” U.S. Pat. No. 9,552,548, which issued on January 24, 2017. The last of our “family” issued on September 12, 2017.
Do you have funding yet? Because each of our co-founders joined Intraspexion for a share of equity, we have not needed outside investors. I cover the out-of-pocket costs.
What is your biggest challenge re: the start-up? The members of the team fit Intraspexion into their lives when they can. They are attorneys or engineers, and aren’t skilled in marketing or selling a software product.
What do you need now? In six months? In a year? Now: We need to decide between the different strategic partners who have expressed interest in Intraspexion’s prevention mission. Do we go with a giant chip maker, a giant e-discovery firm, a small startup with a similar vision or a company that specializes in launching tech companies with their funding and marketing and sales expertise?
Six months: We need to complete the integration process and start working with the “early adopters.” One Year: Once we show customer results, I would anticipate that we’ll need to scale out by adding more use cases and customers—and hope that journalists will continue to write about Intraspexion.
What does your workspace look like? (Borrowed from Sam Gosling.) I work in a small co-working space where, as far as Intraspexion is concerned, I’m alone. The space is BYOC (bring your own computer), so I just find an empty desk and get started.
What book influenced you? Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. (Little Brown & Co. 2000).
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs? Find the pain to address first. Find the return on investment for your vision. Then, have the courage to fight off the depressing occasions.
What are you afraid of? I’m only afraid the company might fail for some currently unknown reason.
What would be your dream career if you were not a lawyer and entrepreneur?
Music: My father, Philip Brestoff, was playing violin with an orchestra when he was 14. My mother, Adele Pikus, sang professionally with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra and with Vaughn Monroe. Her stage name was Dee Parker. She was a great singer. Both parents had perfect pitch. I can’t sing “Happy Birthday.”
Where do you expect to be in 10 years? Kauai, but only because I’m too old for the lunar cave the Chinese just found.
Favorite food: Anything with raisins.
Favorite quote: Davy Crockett’s motto: “Be always sure you’re right. Then go ahead.”
What’s your mantra? Satchel Paige’s advice: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
Who would you want sitting next to you if you got stuck for three hours on the tarmac in a 737? John Holdren was the Science Advisor for President Barack Obama. Holdren also worked on “Survival of Spaceship Earth.”
Monica Bay is a Fellow at CodeX and a freelance journalist. She is a member of the California bar. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @MonicaBay.
• Photo of Nick Brestoff and image of Intraspexion provided by Brestoff.
• All other images (including cover): Clipart.com.