Updraft offers legal and procurement consulting, advice and technology solutions to a wide range of corporate clients and financial institutions. Our game-changing contract management platform is revolutionising the practice of law by using systemised algorithms and dynamic legal databases to mimic and automate the legal drafting and professional processes followed by lawyers. It’s so easy, non-lawyers can use it.

The forerunner to Updraft was the award-winning Origin Systems – the first contract management platform in South Africa. Origin has been providing solutions to its corporate and legal support clients since 2006. Based in Cape Town but operating globally, Updraft has a powerful team of legal and technology experts on hand, ready to transform your business processes.


It all began many years ago when Richard hitched a ride with Pancho on the way to the beach. Many big waves, late nights and cups of coffee later, they realised a shared dream: building something that will revolutionise the legal profession.

The birth of Updraft: from surfing waves to making waves

The Updraft story began many years ago when Richard hitched a ride with Pancho on the way to the beach. Pancho had a beaten-up VW bus, a stinky dog and a great mixed tape. What was not to like? Many big waves, late nights and cups of coffee later, they realised they had a shared dream: building something that will revolutionise the way people do business.

Since that first surf, the Richards went down different career paths. But surfing kept them connected – through school, university and travelling abroad. Coming up for air after the hectic early years of their careers, they realised that they both had deep knowledge and intense experience in their respective fields, as well as a persistent and unsettling feeling that there must be another way for large enterprises to simplify repetitive legal tasks.

Cracks in the system

As a litigator, Richard began to notice a pattern. Things were being missed and balls were being dropped. Why? Call it a lack of mutual understanding and communication at the start of a transaction. Or stressed-out legal representatives trying to ‘get the deal documents done’ in amongst a plethora of other demands, while not taking the time to engage at a level that ensures that both parties’ perspectives are fully understood.

Having been there himself, Richard was also all too familiar with the frustrations. He understood the laborious nature of legal drafting, the intense analysis required to ensure that a legal point wasn’t missed, or a compliance risk overlooked. The time wasted, in an industry where time is money! Constantly searching for documents, drafting a slightly different version of a contract you’d done a hundred times before, or fixing wayward contract formatting and cross-references.

Let’s free lawyers from the mundane

Richard suspected that, like him, most lawyers longed to be the lawyers they thought they were going to be when they left university. Less time spent on repetitive, time-consuming tasks. More time to properly consider and research a legal issue. More time to do high-level, bespoke drafting. Applying their minds to solve more complex and nuanced areas of the law, thereby fully justifying the high hourly fees they were charging.

And most importantly, to have the peace of mind of having legal and compliance strategies in place to take full control of legal responsibilities. In short, probably because he is a perennial insomniac himself, Richard wanted lawyers to be able to sleep at night.

What if a computer could do this in minutes?

The answer? Make the delivery of everyday areas of law as cost-effective as possible, which led to the creation of LawUnlocked – creating custom contracts online and automating elements of legal practice through the use of decision-tree algorithms and legal databases. Knowing exactly how a lawyer or business person would want it to work, Richard teamed up with technology expert Pancho to make it happen.

Hearing of the innovative LawUnlocked, the duo was approached by inhouse lawyers at a few large corporates wanting to know if they had any drafting and contract management solutions they could use inhouse. By then, Pancho and Richard had both left their day jobs. With really small kids and bonds to pay, they threw everything into developing a suite of automated legal drafting and contract management solutions for corporate clients.

From day one, they worked closely with clients, listening carefully to the challenges and frustrations they had in their corporate counsel roles. This inspired a solution that was intuitive and easy to use. One that would revolutionise the practice of law.

Updraft: 1000s of legal contracts end-to-end in minutes, inbuilt compliance

Updraft brought out an automated drafting process that could literally draft thousands of legal contracts end-to-end without the direct involvement of a lawyer. The entire process usually takes less than 15 minutes and can be started by simply clicking a link in the system, on a webpage or in an email.

But the team went one step further. They don’t just draft contracts. As part of the process, they simultaneously draft and manage all related compliance and business process documentation – ensuring inbuilt and fail-safe compliance across all transactions.

Today, Updraft is used by thousands of small and medium-sized businesses and listed companies across the world. And while Richard and Pancho might not have much time for surfing any more, they still share a love for great music, good coffee and the deep blue sea.

Meet the founders

Updraft Executive director: Richard van Helden

Richard van Helden

Executive Director

Updraft Executive director: Richard Harding

Richard Harding

Executive Director


Countries where Updraft is used: