In a significant boost for the case management sector, Manchester based tech provider slicedbread has raised £1m in Series A funding, we can reveal, led by Sussex Place Ventures – the venture capital arm of the London Business School.
The previously bootstrapped company, which was founded in 2011, will use the money to develop its predictive costs capability as well as ‘out-of-the-box’ functionality of case management platform sharedo across practice areas ranging from personal injury to M&A, as the company matures and builds out a less bespoke offering.
Customers now include Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Eversheds Sutherland and Hall & Wilcox and slicedbread worked with Keoghs on the early incarnation of its predictive CMS. Early clients included Hill Dickinson, which in October 2017 transferred its insurance business to Keoghs.
While slicedbread is profitable, speaking to Legal IT Insider about the investment, founder Ben Nicholson (pictured) said: “Like any small tech business we burn through cash – our R&D budget is £2.5m a year – and this investment enables us not to worry what cash looks like in three months’ time.”
slicedbread ran the investment beauty parade over the last six months and Nicholson said: “We’re all a bit older and we’ve run businesses for a while and all the VCs were young European Silicon Valley types who unless you’re ‘the next Facebook 100 to 1 longshot’ weren’t interested. We met a few but need to deal with proper business people. The guys from the London Business School are more traditional VCs and want proper businesses with proper clients and proper profits.”
The deal signed on 19 September and one of slicedbread’s first priorities will be to invest in its machine learning-backed predictive costs modelling. Nicholson said: “We’ve put a load of effort into doing calculations around how much it costs you to deliver a matter, which is amazing stuff for law firms because they often don’t know that. The next piece is the smart calculation: ‘based on this new matter we think it will cost you X to deliver it based on machine learning and, more importantly, we can suggest the level of fees and tell you that in these cases you’re going to make money and these you’re going to lose money.”
He adds: “We’re putting a bunch of cash into making our platform quicker to implement – our clients are becoming more midmarket and it’s about giving people the tools to do it themselves rather than a big bespoke project.
“Our main thrust is saying to midmarket firms, ‘here is all your out of the box commercial contract/ real estate/ disputes /PI and this is our suggested implementation plan’. Rather than saying ‘we can do anything, what do you want?’ We now understand law firms and are saying ‘this is what we think you need, and you can change these three areas.’”
Nicholson’s ambition is to create what he calls ‘next, next, next software’: referring to the easy installation of many consumer focussed software packages. Nicholson said: “It’s the next, next, next experience I want clients to have.”
slicedbread uses machine learning to identify repetitive processes and build process maps that help fee-earners automate and resource their tasks. Nicholson says: “We will end up with 50 different work types from commercial to law to claimant and defendant to IP to M&A.”
Given these ambitions, £1m doesn’t seem an awful lot of money but Nicholson says: “It’s a really minor share because we’re quite fiercely independent. We’ve been on the sharedo road for about four years and have a decent client base and have proved what we’re doing people want. Now is the time to scale.”
Much like Kira Systems, which in September took a much larger $50m investment, for slicedbread the involvement of an experienced adviser is welcome. From Sussex Place Ventures, which also invests in professional services SaaS company Kimble, managing partner Barnaby Terry will join the slicedbread board.
Nicholson said: “It’s the fact these guys have done it before,” and he jokes, “It’s like we’ve got a new Dad! We look after the business well but sometimes you need someone to help and they have the experience we need.”
For law firms, the investment can only be good news. The CMS sector is highly fragmented, and yet to see the kind of competition-driven shake up that we’ve seen in the document management space. slicedbread has won considerable plaudits from commentators such as Neil Cameron and some good clients but hasn’t made the kind of dent we expected when Hill Dickinson signed up to sharedo in 2015 (Hill Dicks insurance practice was sold to Keoghs).
This could well be a tipping point.
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