Traditional legal routes are failing consumers and small businesses. Founder of startup Amiqus, Callum Murray, is creating an online service to quickly and affordably resolve commercial disputes without appearing in court or tribunal.
The intelligent online platform allows users to achieve outcomes in days or weeks rather than months or years. Callum believes the traditional civil justice system is broken for startups, small businesses and consumers. When EP recently met with Callum, he was confident that with courts closing, costs increasing and legal aid decreasing, now is the right time to change the system.
What is it the company does?
Were using tech to innovate and democratize dispute resolution for startups and SMEs. Were not going to replace litigation solicitors with intelligent algorithms, we are working with law firms, have senior barristers on our advisory board and we respect the law society. None of them have any particular need to change the system of litigation though. We are blending automation with expert intervention. Were not looking to replace solicitors or courts making it easier for business to solve commercial problems and improving their workflows.
The legal services board recently found that 4 out of 5 SMEs are priced out of the legal services market, thats a huge unmet need in the billions of pounds every year. Its not an area that suits every law firm but were happy to help out. We acquire and vet the clients, deal with anti-money laundering and fix the cash flow issues. We then let the solicitors, mediators and arbitrators get on with it.
Photo: Callum Murray
What inspired you to start-up?
In 2012 I got involved in a commercial dispute which cost me £40k and ultimately my business. I realised the civil justice system was slow, complex and unaffordable.
I dusted myself off, retrained to understand arbitration, mediation and other methods of resolving disputes and setup in the Alternative Dispute Resolution industry so I could identify where scalable opportunity might exist.
I knew from my own experiences that there would be thousands of businesses in a similar position whether chasing debt or caught up in contractual issues. We took a disciplined approach to our primary research, segmented the market, identified a window of opportunity related to legislation and EU directives then ran the numbers.
By using tech, were able to create an impact and scale the business quickly and really make a difference to small businesses whether their based in London, LA or Lagos.
How did you go about starting up, did you apply for funding or did you self-fund the project? If so, where did you secure funding from?
I was fortunate to have a previous business, after losing my first business in litigation I started again and was able to sell the customer order book so was able to retrain and get industry experience.
Once we identified the opportunity online, we won funding from RBS via their Edge fund to help us create a digital prototype. Once that was done we got a loan from the Startup Loans Company which enabled us to start building. We then attracted a £30k grant to work with Strathclyde University and IBMs cognitive machine learning program Watson.
Now were looking for seed investment to increase our software development team and quickly reach the market.
Where do you get advice/support/help?
Weve got an advisory board of senior figures in both business and legal sectors, in addition weve got a mentor from RBS through a Chamber of Commerce programme which has been really useful.
We were lucky to attend a program targeted at tech businesses looking to scale and had the chance to learn from both Harvard and MIT entrepreneurship lead professors and 70 other peer businesses. This was massively helpful and really accelerated our plans.
Were based in Edinburgh, there are a lot of other tech orientated businesses around and there are good support networks in place with Entrepreneurial Scotland of which Im a future leader and also the Power of Youth which is a global organisation of growth businesses aligned at building a better world through business. As part of Power of Youth were able to access Ernst & Youngs Vantage programme and the Erasmus for Entreprenurs EU wide initiative.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Balancing our focus on strategy and building momentum whilst having ongoing discussions around investment. Its been a huge distraction undertaking grants, pitches and talking to syndicates. Weve not rushed into a deal as weve got some current resource and looking to find the right people or group who can add value as well as capital. We start generating revenue at the end of this year and with investment well go into January 2016 with a solid position and Ill be back driving our plans forward.
“Weve found a fairly complex problem which affects a large number of people and were working on fixing it. What were doing is solving a problem, how we go about that is innovative.”
What is your next big target?
As part of our minimum viable product build were creating an e verification tool which relates to the Law Societies anti money laundering regulations backed up with bureau checks and an added layer of document scanning and recognition. We need to verify all of our suppliers and users given our subject matter and we realised this small but specific area was a pain shared with law firms, accountants and others.
Thats going to be market ready in November, its part of our overall system but weve been able to partner with a number of law firms to meet their own needs internally which has been excellent to validate our team and create relationships with key players.
Once thats completed well be generating cash which were focussed on at the moment.
What is the best and worst thing about being a start-up?
Were surrounded by opportunities to collaborate and out manoeuvre huge corporations and systems, we can make informed decisions quickly and act on them almost immediately meanwhile we wait for government committees and strategy planning to catchup.
There are lots of challenges, lack of time, limited resources and of course market forces which are against the small startup. If it was easy there wouldnt be much point.
What makes this idea different?
Were disrupting a business model which is focussed on process rather than outcome. Solicitors and all other parts of the civil justice system either like or accept that sending letters is the best way to do things.
I know lots of extraordinarily talented litigation solicitors who can pick apart argument and negotiate complex settlements. Not many of these Ladies or Gentlemen have much interest in changing the current status quo.
Weve found a fairly complex problem which affects a large number of people and were working on fixing it. What were doing is solving a problem, how we go about that is innovative.
Who would be your dream customer?
Id like to tackle the Volkswagen emissions problem, Theyve got a few claims to settle in the next few months.
Where do you see the company in a years time?
One year from now well have currency and language integrations setup to allow us to deal cross border across the G8 countries. We would look to do so with venture capital backing. I look forward to those negotiations.
For more information on the entrepreneurs and innovators EP works with
Please contact Ben Butler