Thursday, 28 February 2019

Magic Circle leads tech foray as Slaughters unveils tech incubator and Linklaters and A&O back Nivaura in $20m funding round

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Magic Circle leads tech foray as Slaughters unveils tech incubator and Linklaters and A&O back Nivaura in $20m funding round

Slaughter and May has announced its much-anticipated legal tech incubator, Slaughter and May Collaborate, with the firm primed to select about six legal tech companies for its first cohort.

Magic Circle counterparts Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters, meanwhile, have both featured in fintech company Nivaura’s $20m funding round as the City elite bustle to achieve a technological advantage.

Collaborate is the first tech incubator at Slaughters with an exclusively legal focus, following the firm’s fintech effort, Fast Forward. The incubator will use a cohort model that will expose participants to clients and lawyers within the firm.

Collaborate will also feature an advisory panel of the firm’s top blue-chip clients, with GlaxoSmithKline, John Lewis Partnership, Santander, Standard Chartered and Vodafone all providing feedback on their technological needs. The programme will not include permanent office space or look to take equity in applicants.

Slaughters’ head of innovation Jane Stewart (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We spoke to a lot of tech companies who had participated in existing incubators to get an idea of what they wanted out of it, we really wanted to find out what was practically useful. One surprising thing that came out of that was companies don’t consider office space something of high importance.’

Part of the offering from Slaughters will include two mentors assigned to each Collaborate member, one coming from the innovation team and another a practicing lawyer relevant to the company’s business. Applications are open until 27 March, with the firm hoping to get the programme underway in April.

Collaborate is mostly aimed at early and mid-stage ventures rather than established businesses, but applications are open to all stages of maturity.

Steward added: ‘Already we have had a very established company express interest.’

Elsewhere, Linklaters and A&O both featured in a funding round for leading fintech prospect Nivaura, a longstanding participant in A&O’s Fuse tech incubator. The funding round raised $20m for the start-up, and was led by the London Stock Exchange Group.

For Linklaters, the investment marks a first for the firm, having never before taken equity in a technology start-up. A&O, meanwhile, has a longer relationship with Nivaura, with the firm investing approximately £100,000 in the company prior to Nivaura entering A&O’s tech incubator Fuse. The latest funding round has seen the firm increase its equity in the company, but the stake remains a small percentage of Nivaura’s overall shareholding.

‘They have a unique proposition,’ A&O debt capital markets partner Philip Smith told Legal Business. ‘They have granulised the various steps involved in a capital markets transaction, from the inception to the finalisation. There are other companies we are working with and we have considerable interest in investing with the model we have developed alongside Nivaura.’

Founded three years ago, Nivaura focuses on the deployment of digital investment banking platforms for banks. Compared to the fledging legal tech scene, fintech remains a more mature and sophisticated market, with Nivaura now set to rapidly expand its leadership, business development and technical teams to focus on large-scale projects throughout 2019.

‘The investment gives us an opportunity to help Nivaura,’ Linklaters capital markets partner Richard Levy told Legal Business. ‘It also gives us the opportunity to be at the centre of innovation. We look at start-ups in different ways and would consider future investments as part of a wider collaboration with a company.’

The funding round also saw US law firm Orrick, Santander InnoVentures and Transamerica Ventures invest, and is the latest influx of capital into the space after Slaughters stepped up earlier this month to help AI company Luminance secure a further $10m of funding, giving the company a valuation of $100m.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk