The acquisition of the UK’s most successful legal artificial intelligence (AI) start-up by an established office systems vendor has been hailed as a sign of the technology entering the mainstream.

RAVN was bought last month for an undisclosed sum by US-based iManage, a leading privately held supplier of document management systems. The deal ‘validates both emerging and maturing trends’, Ron Friedmann and Joshua Fireman of consultancy Fireman & Company commented.

RAVN, founded in 2010, offers a system which can organise, discover and summarise relevant information from large volumes of documents and unstructured data such as emails. Users include international firm Berwin Leighton Paisner and the Serious Fraud Office.

Geoff Hornsby, European general manager of iManage, said that integrating RAVN’s technology will give iManage’s 3,000 users new ways of unlocking the value in their data. For RAVN, the deal creates an ability to scale up quickly in a fast-moving sector. ‘RAVN will give iManage users unprecedented opportunities to make their content aware,’ said RAVN chief executive David Lumsden.

Clients that do not need a document management system will still be able to access RAVN artificial intelligence as a standalone service, Lumsden said.

The iManage/RAVN deal heralds a shift in the competitive landscape as other mainstream technology vendors gear up to take advantage of AI breakthroughs. Businesses with such products are in a strong position. Canadian firm Kira Systems, which has a system for extracting information from contracts, says it is expanding its client base and not currently looking for suitors. Meanwhile, UK start-up Luminance, which analyses and classifies unstructured data, is already backed by Dr Mike Lynch’s technology fund Invoke Capital and magic circle firm Slaughter and May.

Big IT vendors will be looking to the next wave of AI start-ups for potential acquisitions.