This article was written by Jenni Tellyn, KM Consultant and former Head of Knowledge Management at Stephenson Harwood
Meet the Ukrainian businesses from this year’s Startup Alley
I’m still coming down to earth after the Legal Geek conference! As always, it was a fantastic way of meeting up with the “Who’s Who” of the legal tech world and hearing about how tools are developing in response to customer needs.
One new addition to the Legal Geek conference scene this year (aside from the impromptu PE lesson from Joe Wicks!) was the showcase of Ukrainian businesses who featured in the ever-popular Startup Alley. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Mr Vadym Prystaiko, kicked off this year’s conference with his rousing entreaty to continue to support his people as they fight against the Russian invasion. Having brought along his tablet in order to fit in with the geeks, he referenced the totally digital Ukrainian state machinery which has seen his people able to access all state and court documents and systems on their smart phones. He gently mocked us Brits as he highlighted how Ukrainian refugees who have fled to the UK wondered “Who are these people?” as they have found themselves surprised at how comparatively behind we are in the UK without their digitisation of ID cards, medical documents, governmental institutions, etc. all on their smartphones!
These were my top takeaways from meeting the Ukrainian Startup Alley teams.
Legal Nodes is an “international Startup with Ukrainian roots”. They are a platform that has built an ecosystem that helps tech companies find legal services by using their snazzily dressed “Virtual Legal Officer” to help. The one stop shop seeks to connect tech start-ups with lawyers who can help with things all start-ups need like IP, employment and fundraising advice. Alongside their activities to help defend their country and bolster the war effort, Margarita Sivakova (CEO and Co-founder) and her team got to work launching a new product for web3 start-ups to help them understand where and how to establish their DAO (a.k.a. a “decentralised autonomous organisation” meaning a community organisation owned by like-minded token-holders built on blockchain. Basically, a club for geeks! What’s not to like?!). They remain ambitious and energetic about developing their business, despite the backdrop of the invasion.
LIGA360 has the tagline “Be sure” and this is the thrust of their AI-driven platform which seeks to help businesses and governments to have a “360° perspective” on uncovering the risks which may exist in their contracts, partners and business activities. They do this by using AI to scan contracts and highlight risks by feeding in data harvested from trusted business, regulatory, judicial, and media sources around the world. They seek to unify four different streams of services – risk, contract management, case prediction and media mentions and can bring information together in visualisations for easier digestion. While they appeared in Legal Geek’s Startup Alley, they are far from new market entrants as they have a 30-year history in developing technology products. They partnered with Ukrainian governmental organisations to provide free access to their products in the heat of the invasion to enable Russian assets, companies and individuals to be traced effectively. Again, despite the invasion, they are pushing ahead with their product development and are planning to start selling in the UK in November 2022 so watch this space!
Semantrum provides analysis of media content which companies can use to monitor mentions of them, their products and competitors across a variety of press sources and analyse how positive or negative the coverage is for their brands. Their technology surfaces news in customisable interactive dashboard views allowing it to be more easily analysed and enabling customers to calibrate their reactions to the news in the right way. Their algorithms are trained to try to understand the tone of voice of media coverage and classify it as positive or negative. We had an interesting discussion about how algorithms tackle sarcasm and the British sense of humour! The company had always planned to expand operations outside Ukraine but found those plans being accelerated by the invasion. Their ambitions are not diminished and their service to international customers has not been interrupted by the war.
United for Ukraine
United for Ukraine is an emergency relief platform aimed at Ukrainians seeking help. An NGO was created in the desperate first days of the invasion, with a volunteer coder apparently spinning up the first website within a day! It has since been developed to connect those in need to advice on a whole range of areas from immigration advice to benefits and psychological support. The automation firm BRYTER helped them build a cloud-based no code tool which seeks to guide users through the process of asking questions of volunteer advisers in the UK and other (mainly European) countries. There is functionality allowing an archive of previous advice to be accessed as well as triaging assigning new questions and requests for help to the right firms. It is a deliberately clean interface for ease of access in areas with patchy internet cover. For BRYTER this felt “personal” with several of their team based in Ukraine working from a bunker to get the solution in place. BRYTER’s Jakub Makowski commented that it is “in their DNA” to try to have a genuine impact on their community and this tool has certainly done that. It is still much in demand, increasingly by less wealthy people who did not have the resources to get their families out of the country in the initial days of the invasion.
United for Ukraine has partnered with the Nobel Women’s Initiative on a powerful documentary which seeks to highlight women’s “daily struggle for peace” as they shine a light on “women making their contribution as one of the key pillars in the victory against the Russian invaders”. The film has been launched in New York this summer and will hopefully be shown more widely in due course. The focus on women feels important as so many of the people who have fled Ukraine have been women and children and they are confronting all the immense challenges that that ordeal has thrown up as well as acting at the forefront of the war effort. The United for Ukraine team shared stories of women joining the army, leading efforts to supply their husbands’ units with drones and uniform, stepping in and running their husband’s businesses while the men are away fighting in the army. And all whilst often juggling childcare, their own work, constant power outages and the sheer stress of living in a warzone on a knife-edge. Amazing people.
Ultimately, I came away feeling a renewed sense of horror at what Ukraine is suffering and a bit warm and proud of the legal tech world’s resilience and determination to keep building and developing their products and services despite the turmoil. Though our conversations began in the context of the invasion and its impact, we were soon “geek to geek”, knee deep in tech talk and that transcended the backdrop of the invasion. Thank goodness for legal geeks.
Jenni Tellyn is a recovering debt capital markets lawyer and knowledge management consultant. She works with 3Kites Consulting Ltd and helps professional services firms on a range of knowledge management and legal tech strategy, process and implementation projects. Fiercely supplier independent, she bridges the gap between lawyers and technologists to support adoption of the right tech and KM solutions.