The entrepreneurs transforming traditional industries

11 November 2019

7 minute read

From legal aid to meat production, innovative technology is providing new tools and smarter ways of working in sectors that are ripe for disruption.

Over the last few years, digital technology has delivered seismic changes to many parts of the economy. ‘Uberisation’ has become a cliché, yet the disruption to traditional industries that it describes remains in its infancy, with many businesses and sectors still behind the curve.

Now, entrepreneurs are leading a new wave of innovation that is transforming some of the most complex, professionalised areas of the economy. These require specialised knowledge and bespoke partnerships on top of the usual raft of technical innovation, business acumen and rock-solid team structures necessary to help a great idea take-off.

We highlight some of the entrepreneurs embracing technological innovation to transform their sectors.

Lawyers go entrepreneurial

Investment into UK legal technology start-ups more than doubled to £61m last year according to Legaltech Startup Report 20191. This has been fuelled by the emergence of new technologies that the legal industry needs – like natural language processing (NLP), which wasn’t usable until recently – and partly due to new talent and thinking within the industry.

As a practicing lawyer for over a decade, Tetiana Bersheda found the first hour she spent with new clients was always taken up answering the same five to 10 questions. It was a waste of her time – and their money – so she set up LexSnap to streamline the process.

Using NLP, this free-to-use website provides answers to standard questions on family law, before recommending suitable lawyers to progress the case. “This can be viewed as a substitute for legal aid,” says Bersheda at Barclays’ New Frontiers event. The company is based in the largest LawTech incubator in Europe, launched by Barclays Eagle Labs in partnership with The Law Society.

Another company, Legl, provides over 300 law firms with tools necessary to grow their client bases, improve revenue and get paid quicker – all while providing better service and increased flexibility. “Two thirds of people with legal problems don’t get legal advice,” explains Julia Salasky, CEO of Legl, another lawyer turned entrepreneur. “It’s a massive unaddressed market.”

Biology takes on health

The rise in menopause technology over the last year or so has shown just what big business female health can be, and it is just one niche in a fast-growing sector. In fact, 2019 has already seen $26.9 bn global investment in health tech in its entirety.

Dr Helen O'Neill, a lecturer in Molecular and Reproductive genetics and Dr Natalie Getreu, an ovarian biologist specialising in fertility preservation, have dedicated their research careers to women's health, yet felt powerless to help women outside of their own labs.

They founded Hertility Health to change this. Hertility provides a simple at-home blood test which monitors hormones and other biological markers that indicate a woman's reproductive biology and fertility. It provides clinically relevant questions combined with personalised answers to deliver a bespoke report and pathway to care.

Based on a subscription model to be launched next Easter, it will provide tangible, and previously unavailable, insight into (amongst other things) the egg reserves of women who aren’t necessarily trying for a baby but want to know where they stand.

Challenges of specialism, privacy and regulation loom especially large in health, but this leaves some areas particularly ripe for disruption.

“The NHS can be one of the greatest innovation labs in the UK,” says Nathan McNally, Programme Manager, Capital Enterprise. It just needs to figure out the regulatory hurdles, he says.

McNally points to a rise in the adoption of operational – or administrative – technology within the health service, as this provides tangible cost savings and value for a very stretched organisation.

Farmers on an accountability mission

Despite the hype about veganism and alternate meat, research from Mintel shows that the market for unprocessed red meat and poultry grew by 1.2% in the UK between 2017 and 2018, to reach £6.8 bn2. The UN expects global meat consumption to increase 76% by 2050.

Ian Wheal grew up on a farm in Australia and enjoyed a career in the technology sector, before spotting a clear problem that needed addressing. His data platform, Breedr, looks to improve traceability and accountability in red meat supply chain by tracking factors like emissions and antibiotic usage in cattle.

Mad cow disease, the biggest food scandal in UK history, was caused by infected animal feed. “The true costs of our food is hidden,” suggests Andrew Voysey, Head of Business and Government Solutions at Soil Capital, who believes we pay for cheaper food with our health.

Psychology drives education

Thierry de Vulpillières worked in educational publishing for 15 years before launching Evidence B with pioneering research accelerator, EDUCATE.

Evidence B covers the full spectrum of new EdTech. And it includes the creation of courses based on cognitive science, personalisation based on student need, the development of interfaces – such as games and chatbots – alongside content distribution.

Education technology is growing rapidly, with US$8.2bn VC investment in 2018 – almost double the previous year. Based on the need for lifelong learning beyond the classroom, particular areas of development are gamification, personalisation and immersive technologies.

The challenge, as for all other highly professionalised industries, is to bring together the various necessary stakeholders to ensure these companies work. And this is precisely what EDUCATE does with tailored programs aimed squarely at the sector.

How we can help

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