A&O’s Fuse Cohort 6 Takes ‘Sector Agnostic’ Approach

Allen & Overy’s Fuse legal tech programme is opening applications for its sixth cohort, and this year it will also take a sector-agnostic group of companies recommended by the firm’s clients.

In previous years Fuse has also asked clients to suggest which companies they’d like to see take part, but in the past this has usually meant fintech. Now they are opening the field to cover any and all categories. So, for example, this could see an ESG company join Fuse, or perhaps one focused on ethical aspects of AI.

The key point is: will that tech company help the firm to better serve its clients?

As Shruti Ajitsaria, (pictured), a partner and Head of Fuse, told Artificial Lawyer: ‘We talk to clients about the matters they are working on, and some of the legal questions they are facing could be in unchartered waters, for example, creating a bond with cryptocurrencies.’

In the market there may be tech companies, whether startups or well-developed businesses, that work in that area. Bringing them into Fuse allows the lawyers of Allen & Overy to understand some of the key issues in what is a cutting edge area. This in turn helps the firm to support the clients with their legal needs.

As for the tech companies, they may benefit from connecting to Allen & Overy’s vast client network, especially in the financial services sector. They may also gain some useful insights into the legal dimensions of their offering.

The clients that will be recommending companies will include major banks and other large financial institutions.  

Going back to the main legal and regtech aspect of Fuse, this will carry on as before, and companies that would like to join should apply now for the new cohort.

In total, the last cohort was 13 members, with some of those being ‘remainers’ who were also members of previous cohorts. Ajitsaria noted that they are aiming to have about 12 companies in total for cohort six.

She also highlighted that Fuse has never been just about start-ups. ‘We are not an accelerator, and we don’t take stakes in the companies (aside from on one occasion in Nivaura). Different companies get different things from Fuse. For some it’s product development, others want to focus on building their client network. Size is not important to us,’ Ajitsaria explained.

One other new aspect aside from the agnostic approach is that they are ‘also looking to support a social entrepreneurship enterprise’ as part of the cohort.

Now, given that there are so many programmes that welcome legal tech companies you may wonder what the benefits are. Here are some of the things that Fuse members have experienced since joining:

– The launch of LMA.Automate, a collaboration between Fuse cohort member, Avvoka, the Loan Market Association and Allen & Overy,

– Definely was selected to win an award from the inaugural Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, successfully completed a £2.2 million ‘Seed-Plus’ investment round, co-led by Microsoft’s venture fund, M12, and CRE Venture Capital and signed an enterprise-wide license with A&O,

– Greenomy was admitted to the FCA and City of London Corporation’s Digital Sandbox, and won first prize at the 2021 G20 Techsprint for the ‘Data collection, verification and sharing’ category.

– Arteria AI acquired the financial services arm of H4, another leading provider of contract lifecycle management services.

Applications will be accepted from 17 January 2022 to 7 February 2022, with final selection days to take place in March. The new cohort is set to join Fuse in April this year.

Fuse will once again operate a hybrid programme, providing cohort companies with ‘the best of physical and virtual collaboration, allowing them to engage with A&O’s global client base and internal international network’.

2021 saw the Fuse cohort provide demonstrations to 78% of A&O London teams, and 87% of international offices. Fuse also met with over 50 different client institutions during the 2021 cohort.

So, there you go. Get your applications in!