Slaughter and May today (15 January) announced that it has selected a new round of businesses to join its technology entrepreneurs programme, Fast Forward in a week that has seen announcements from Mishcon de Reya and LexisNexis about MDR LAB and the Legaltech Accelerator Programme respectively, with one startup in the latter programme having entirely revised their business model after a 12-week period.
Slaughter and May’s newly extended tech entrepreneurs programme – its third cohort -incorporates six innovative businesses including two with a sustainability and greentech focus.
Having initially focused on the fintech sector, for this third cohort the blue-chip City firm says it wanted to open up Fast Forward to enable a broader range of emerging technology companies to benefit.
The six businesses are:
• bio-bean – an award-winning green technology company, the first in the world to recycle used coffee grounds on an industrial scale for the manufacture of biofuels and biochemicals.
• Bundle – building an email collaboration tool to enable organisations to capture and manage chains of email exchange with clients in a way that will keep project teams synchronised, make inboxes quieter, give the right people access to the right conversations, but without changing existing email workflows.
• Coconut – a fast-growing current account product that takes the pain out of accounting and tax, designed specifically for freelancers, the self-employed people and small business owners.
• CreditMint – building a blockchain infrastructure to facilitate origination and trading of digitised financial assets — starting with syndicated and bilateral loans. It is the first implementation of the company’s AZTEC Protocol, a privacy technology on the Ethereum blockchain.
• Magway – a dynamic company creating a revolutionary e-commerce delivery system using magnetic propulsion that improves air quality and reduces road haulage congestion by transporting parcels to urban areas through utility style pipes.
• Tully – a social impact fintech that helps its users to manage and control their debts with effective planning tools, money coaching and support.
The programme, launched in October 2016, gives young companies access to the legal services that they may need but can struggle to find. 17 innovative tech-driven businesses have joined the Fast Forward programme, benefitting from £30,000 of value each from Slaughter and May in the form of legal advice and other value-add services. Unlike MDR LAB and Legaltech Accelerator, the companies do not have to be applicable to the legal industry.
“We’ve been supporting companies at the coal face of technology entrepreneurship for many years now, and that exposure has really intensified over the life of Fast Forward,” said Ben Kingsley (pictured), partner at Slaughter and May. “We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for the legal support our programme provides from a broad church of tech-driven businesses, so for this latest round we extended the programme beyond its fintech origins, albeit fintech remains an important part of the firm’s tech strategy.”
Mishcon de Reya on 7 January opened applications for MDR LAB 2019. This is also the third year that the programme for early stage and growth technology start-ups in the legal space will run. Applications are welcome from companies at concept through to revenue-generating stage, as long as the product or service is applicable to the legal industry.
The MDR LAB alumni now includes 11 companies covering a range of technologies and geographical areas including the UK, US, Europe, Israel and India.
Last year, Mishcon de Reya announced that it had invested in Thirdfort, which facilitates the exchange of money in property transactions. This follows two previous investments in 2017 in litigation case management platform, Everchron, and automated time-keeping software, Ping. In addition to investment, Mishcon de Reya continues to work closely with all the companies involved in MDR LAB.
This year, MDR LAB has increased the benefits available to eligible start-ups by partnering with Microsoft for Startups, Amazon Web Services through their AWS Activate program and HubSpot for Startups. MDR LAB participants and alumni will be able to take advantage of the benefits offered by these programmes such as free cloud credits and on–demand technical support to scale their businesses and manage their customer pipelines.
MDR LAB has also extended its Advisory Board to include Jason Moyse, Marie Bernard and David Bushby. Jason is a principle of Law Made, an agency supporting the makers of legal innovation, and Manager of Legal Business Solutions on behalf of Elevate Services, a next-generation legal service provider. Marie is the Founder and Managing Director of Bleu de Prusse, a service design boutique, and a Board Member of the European Legal Technology Association (ELTA), and David is Managing Director of InCounsel – a curated panel of over 100 independent legal professionals that gives legal departments, law firms and businesses an easy way to access legal expertise.
Nick West, Chief Strategy Officer at Mishcon de Reya, said, “Over the last couple of years we have had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, 11 great companies and founding teams who are challenging the status quo and bringing new ideas into the legal industry.
“We love helping these companies understand the problems that we face and working with them on product market fit, as well as giving them a better sense of our requirements for security, contract terms and fit with the rest of our technology stack.”
Meanwhile LexisNexis on 10 January announced that six new technology start-ups have graduated from its 12-week Legaltech Accelerator Program.
The six recent participants in the LexisNexis Legaltech Accelerator Program include:
• Attune Capital Group, which identifies metrics from transaction agreements in order to determine and monitor “what is market” for selected transaction parameters across different types of transactions over different time periods.
• Digitory Legal, which uses artificial intelligence to transform and analyze billing data and create predictive pricing models for complex legal work, helping customers effectively manage budgets and resources throughout the life of their matters.
• Disputly, which helps California residents quickly recover their security deposits.
• Justis Connection, which connects top legal talent of color to local residents of color, empowering communities through active engagement and education that teaches fundamental rights and responsibilities in the law.
• Procertas, a competency-based learning platform with an initial focus on helping legal professionals and law students develop proficiency with core technology tools like Microsoft Word and Excel and Adobe Acrobat.
• Specifio, which is changing the way patent applications are created through advanced natural language generation.
As part of the program, participants engaged in a rigorous curriculum designed for early- to mid-stage legal start-ups, including business model development, fundraising, marketing, sales, product development, hiring and team building, technology and more. In addition to receiving hands-on mentorship and training from numerous LexisNexis executives, start-ups had access to the company’s cutting-edge tools, data, technologies and established relationships with businesses, VCs and influencers to help grow their organizations.
What is significant about this class is the amount of growth and change that several participants experienced during the 12-week program. For instance:
• Disputly completely changed its business model mid-way through the program – narrowing its focus from a general consumer dispute resolution platform to helping California residents resolve landlord disputes and get their security deposits back.
• Justis Connection was merely a concept in September, but while engaged in the program the founder hired a full team, began building her technology, website and network of lawyers, and is preparing for a strong launch in Q1.
“Across the board, participants in the third round of our Legaltech Accelerator Program benefited tremendously, learning how to navigate the legal landscape and exponentially grow their start-up businesses. We’re excited to watch these innovative entrepreneurs apply this knowledge and succeed,” said Owen Byrd, general counsel and Chief Evangelist at Lex Machina.
“The legal tech world is relatively small compared to other tech specialties. Having the expertise and support of LexisNexis was an opportunity that I knew would benefit both the development of my company and my personal growth as a founder,” said Kisha Brown, CEO of Justis Connection. “I was exposed to so much information during my six weeks in the Legaltech accelerator, ranging from sales and marketing advice to fundraising and pitching strategies. Completing the program gave me a solid foundation for growing Justis Connection in the coming year. I anticipate a very powerful launch and plan to aggressively expand my network of lawyers.”
Spencer Simonsen, CEO of Disputly, significantly changed his business model while participating in the program. “The Legaltech Accelerator Program connected us to experts with differing points of view, which changed the way we looked at our service. The program helped sharpen our focus on the problem we are trying to solve and the value we bring to the customer, and we also learned how to structure the company to ensure we could properly deliver services to customers while continuing to expand.”