S+M Calls for Emerging Tech Co.s to Join Fast Forward

Elite legal services business (LSB), Slaughter and May, is calling for early-to-mid stage companies to join its Fast Forward emerging tech incubator programme, now in its fourth iteration, and which in theory legal tech companies could also join.

Fast Forward V.4 is aimed at multiple sectors – and while the advisory-focused LSB already has a dedicated legal tech incubator called Collaborate (see article) – the firm told Artificial Lawyer that legal tech companies could join as well if they meet the criteria.

‘Collaborate is of course entirely legal tech focused, but yes, if there was a legal tech business in need of legal advice on how to take a certain step or grow, they would of course be eligible,’ said a spokesperson.

That said, Fast Forward is a little different to Collaborate. The programme will offer:

  • Each of its successful applicants gain £30,000 of value-add services, including legal advice;
  • Model documents, including non‑disclosure agreements, employment contracts and intellectual property transfers;
  • Introductions and networking opportunities through Slaughter and May’s existing networks and Fast Forward’s consultative panel of leading industry and legal professionals.
  • Tailored individual coaching and development sessions in crucial areas such as pitching, presentations, people management, communications and negotiation.

The firm is now seeking another five technology-driven, innovative businesses to join the programme, which has already accepted seventeen companies across three cohorts.

The latest round of applications, which closes on 31 August 2020, is open to any UK-based start-up or high-growth company utilising emerging technologies.

Slaughter and May will particularly welcome applications from companies with strong ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) or diversity credentials, and those using cutting edge technologies in areas such as IoT, telematics, quantum, and biometrics/genomics.

That may rule out many legal tech companies in terms of tech, as few are focused on IoT (i.e. the Internet of Things), or telematics, which refers to devices which merge telecommunications and infomatics, such as GPS-based systems.

In any case, it’s a further sign that the current crisis is not stopping the firm from holding two incubators in parallel. And, as with others across the market, it’s expected that much of the interaction with be remote.

Ben Kingsley, co-founder of the programme, said: ‘The past three rounds of Fast Forward have introduced us to some really exciting businesses across a diverse range of sectors.

‘We know there are plenty more out there, some of which will be having a really tough time while others will be racing to capture the opportunities presented by the remote environment to which we’re all adapting. Despite the obvious challenges now feels like the perfect time to reopen the programme.’

While co-founder Rob Sumroy added: ‘Each time we have opened Fast Forward for applications over the past four years, we have received a flow of excellent, exciting companies keen to share their story with us, and willing us to support them on their journey.  

We’ve gained a huge amount of enjoyment, knowledge and experience, from our work with the previous cohorts, and we’re really excited about re-opening our Fast Forward programme at what is a critical time for young and emerging businesses.’

Cohort three from 2019 included:

  • bio-bean – coffee recycling
  • Bundle – events data
  • Coconut – financial assistant for the self-employed
  • CreditMint – blockchain-based debt trading platform
  • Tully – online finance
  • Magway – a new transport system (yes….a whole new transport system) that uses 1m wide tunnels and magnetically powered carriages to zoom parcels around underneath a city. It’s backed also by Ocado.

As you can see, the companies ranged from very down-to-earth and practical, to the economy-shaping – for example, check out the video of Magway below, which Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos would no doubt find interesting.

If you’d like to join and or have a closer look at the requirements then you can find more information here. Although, as noted, if you’re a legal tech company then you’re probably going to have to be something really new and different to get into this programme.