Timesheets don’t just record minutes and hours — they steal them. Anyone who tracks their time by hand knows the dread of poring over sent emails, scribbled notes, calendars and browser histories, trying to reconstruct their day.
If Ping, the thirty-person startup out of San Francisco, has its way, manual timekeeping will soon be a thing of the past. Ping is building AI-powered software that understands what people are doing, as they do it, and keeps their time for them.
Today Ping announced a $13.2 million Series A investment round led by Upfront Ventures, with participation from existing investors BoxGroup, First Round Capital, Initialized Capital and Ulu Ventures, following their $3.7 million seed-round investment in 2017. The Series A brings Ping’s total investment to $17.4 million.
The legal industry is the first on Ping’s list. Timekeeping is a notorious burden for attorneys, who often need to track their hours in six-minute increments. By hand, it’s a miserable, error-prone process. With Ping, it’s practically effortless. Ping integrates with every program a lawyer uses for billable work (including phones) to understand where and how lawyers spend their time. Operating in the background, it uses artificial intelligence to identify which tasks attorneys are performing, for which clients. It automatically distinguishes between personal and professional activities and can even write a narrative and select the correct billing code to automate the entire timesheet. When attorneys submit their hours, they can edit their timesheets however they want — perhaps to record a water-cooler conversation or time spent physically reading a case.
Ping’s AI — a first for enterprise timekeeping — learns the workflow of each lawyer and firm, becoming more accurate by the day.
“Timekeeping in the legal profession has remained virtually unchanged for decades, which means skilled attorneys are wasting time and money on unfulfilling, unproductive work,” says Kara Nortman, partner at Upfront Ventures. “Ryan and the Ping team have lived this problem and developed an elegant, highly technical solution to improve law firms’ work and efficiency. It’s just the tip of the iceberg given the number of industries Ping can serve in the future.”
On average, Ping customers record an additional 32 billable minutes of legal work per attorney per day, resulting in an 11% increase in revenue. By accurately capturing data about where time is spent, Ping also helps firms price the flat-fee arrangements that are becoming increasingly popular with large clients. At present, law firms struggle to price accurately, since they don’t understand exactly where and how staff time is being spent.
By eliminating demotivating tasks, Ping also frees attorneys up for other priorities. The American Lawyer’s 2019 Midlevel Associates Survey noted a 67% increase in references to burnout over 2017, and many commenters said that switching between matters to track time took as much mental energy as working on the matters themselves.
“I’ve experienced first-hand the grind of filling out timesheets,” said Alda Leu Dennis, general partner at Initialized Capital and a former attorney. “It’s the least-favorite part of any lawyer’s job. No one wants to sit in their office counting up billable minutes instead of working on a big case or going home to family and friends. The feeling of sheer waste gets to you after a while. But with Ping, that’s not a problem. Ping takes away the drudgery of manual timekeeping and gives lawyers back all those precious hours.”
Ping will use its latest funding to hire and expand its team, which includes Somik Raha, a member of Ulu Ventures’ seed investment team who joined full time to lead Ping’s Deployment efforts, and Michael Mizono, who was the first product designer at Nest and left Google to join Ping as its Head of Design.
“It’s always a thrill to discover a product that just works,” says Phin Barnes, partner at First Round Capital. “Ping is incredibly transparent and well-designed. It delivers huge benefits without getting in the way. Elegance is one of the hardest things to pull off, but Ping has done it.”
Ping is currently being used by some of the largest global law firms throughout the U.S. and U.K.
“We’ve partnered with Ping since our MDR LAB program in 2017 and it has been a delight to help them reimagine how timekeeping is done,” said Nick West, Chief Strategy Officer at Mishcon de Reya, a 900-person law firm. “Ping transforms how our lawyers work.”
Ping plans to apply its machine learning-powered approach to the entire professional services market, starting with accounting and consulting. Eventually, Ping wants to be the inventory of time for every knowledge worker who uses a screen to create work.
“We as a society are obsessed with time, yet the one place we spend most of it — work — is a complete black box,” says Ping CEO Ryan Alshak. “Today, we can go into any law firm in the world and say that our system will better their lawyers’ lives, boost revenue, give clients more accurate and timely bills and offer management better insight into how to operate. But this is just the beginning. Our mission is to give back people their time, wherever they happen to work. We have a long way to go, but we won’t stop until we get there.”
Ping builds automation tools for professional services. Ping is automating timekeeping for the world’s largest enterprises and then using that data to transform the way these industries price, operate and work. Previously, professionals had to manually record every six minutes of their day into antiquated timekeeping software. Ping is automating this workflow with backing from BoxGroup, First Round Capital, Initialized Capital, Ulu Ventures and Upfront Ventures, so that professionals can concentrate on creating value.