The Innovators: Robert Siegel

By Lisa Holton. This article originally appeared on Law Technology News, October 1, 2013.

The venture capitalist says the legal technology market is between $8 and $16 billion.


Birthplace: Los Angeles

Location: Portola Valley, Calif.

Age: 45

Education: UC Berkeley, B.A. Political Science, 1985. Stanford University, M.B.A., 1994.

Work: Educator, writer, and venture capitalist Robert Siegel is a general partner at XSeed Capital, a venture capital firm building companies “that dramatically change markets.” Legal isn’t all they do, but with a tasty legal tech market they estimate around $8 to $16 billion, their eyes are definitely open. “We’re not trying to be experts in the legal space, but the deals are finding us,” says Siegel. Among them: Lex Machina, a Stanford University Law School/Computer Science Department-developed company that’s invented a crawler that captures IP litigation data — and provides predictive analytics to clients who want to better chart their own IP strategy. The company describes it as “the largest legal-empirical database in the world via natural language processing technology.” Also spawned at Stanford and supported by XSeed, SIPX provides cloud-based copyright management and digital documents delivery to leading universities that want to make sure they have the rights to any article used or assigned on campus, because getting it wrong can cause headaches on the permissions end and cost excess fees.

Path to legal tech: Siegel, who was general management of the video and software solutions division of GE Securities before joining XSeed, is also a lecturer in organizational behavior at Stanford. During his management career at Intel, he helped the company identify and invest in startup companies — and notably served as lead researcher for Intel founder Andrew Grove’s iconic book Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company. He’s co-invented three patents and also worked for Quantum Corp. and consulted for TTTech, Sun Microsystems, Silicon Image, and Bain & Company.

Siegel’s interest in technology began much earlier — elementary school to be exact. Doing his first programming assignments on punch cards, Siegel eventually graduated in the early 1980s to a Franklin Ace 1000, “the first Apple II clone ever built!” He’s all about automating work to allow people to do more high-level thinking while gathering data that can transform tasks and “be useful in whole new ways.”

Hobbies: It’s all about his family —  his wife, Debbie Siegel, and their three kids, aged 15, 13, and 11. “Dance to soccer to basketball. My weekends are filled.”

Personal tech: Siegel loves his MacBook Air — “It’s small enough and light enough for my backpack” and his iPad Mini “for consuming media, newspapers and magazines. I don’t read any physical newspapers anymore,” he says. However, he’s getting to be a big fan of Google’s Android platform for smartphones and beyond, as he recently told Forbes.

What’s next: “We look for companies that have the ability to grow into very big organizations,” Siegel says, adding that the legal space is ripe for ideas “where technology can replace inefficient (human) labor.”

Want more? LTN‘s Editor-in-Chief Monica Bay interviews Siegel on her Law Technology Now podcast: “Getting to Yes: Advice for Legal Entrepreneurs from a Venture Capitalist.”

Lisa Holton is a freelance business journalist based in Chicago. Email: