Max Heck: Legal Geek of the Week

Make no mistake, we are MASSIVE fans of London’s LegalTech scene but even we are ready to admit that the story of Appjection would have been unlikely to take place on these shores.

It is just all too, well, smooth. There’s lots of hard work to admire but this story features no major set-backs for the entrepreneurs concerned, plenty of accessible funding, and government administrators behaving like start-up-CEOs.

No, we’d never heard of anything quite like it either.

Appjection is the platform that wants to help you get off scot-free from your unjust driving penalties.

That alone makes them nice guys we think, and co-founder Max Heck is certainly just that in person. The 26-year-old set up Appjection in 2016 with Matthijs Lagas (also 26) and success came knocking almost straight away when they won the De Brauw Legal Innovation Challenge, scooping €25,000 in the process. Since adding their CTO Gerrit Jan van Ahee (37) to the team, things are looking even better.

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So, how does Appjection work? If you live in the Netherlands and incur a driving penalty which you think was wrongly imposed then take a photo on your smartphone of the offending penalty note, upload it to Appjection, answer some follow-up questions and then put the kettle on.

Appjection will get back to you saying whether they will make an objection for you or not. And if they do not make an objection, Appjection will explain why the penalty was correctly placed against you.

“When people get a fine they tend to behave like an ostrich and bury their head in the sand,” explains Heck. “We want to take that feeling away.”

“And so far we have helped hundreds of people in the Netherlands to avoid an unfair fine, and soon we will be able to help thousands when the service becomes fully automated this February.”

At that point, Appjection will be let loose on the 10M driving penalties issued every year in the Netherlands.

It’s romantic to think that life is just nicer on the continent. But Heck claims Appjection has the potential to help improve government efficiencies as well.

“The government contacted us the day after we won the De Brauw Legal Innovation Challenge saying they wanted to meet with us,” explains Heck.

“They really liked the idea because it currently takes them a lot of time to deal with every objection to a driving penalty. Our service can help reduce the time they take. And the data we collect is very interesting for them as well. Working together we really provide a smoother experience for citizens not only in dealing with unjust tickets, but also reducing their number in the first place.”

Although Appjection got off the ground quite smoothly, Heck is vigilant to any abuse of his technology that threatens to deliver an injustice.

One man tried to have his penalty for using his phone whilst driving overturned on the grounds he hadn’t committed the offence. Appjection appealed on his behalf only to be informed that the man in question had already admitted to police on the scene that he had been using his phone.

“There’s not much you can do if people want to lie, but we did change the wording of some our questions after that case,” Heck admits. “It doesn’t happen often.”

The final – and perhaps the most innovative – piece in Appjection’s public profile is its financial model.

“In the Netherlands, we have a law which states that if you provide professional legal aid, and you win a case because the fine was deemed unjust, you are entitled to receive a compensation from the government. So for every successful objection we make, the government pays us, meaning our service to clients can be free.”

The beautiful simplicity of this model you would have thought limits Appjection to the Netherlands but Heck does have plans on moving Appjection abroad – to Germany or the UK initially – but not before the service expands within the Netherlands first, delivering sheer, unbridled joy to anyone with an unfair driving penalty. The lucky Dutch.