In Week In Digital’s ‘Start-Up Spotlight’ series, WID Editor Brad Agnew interviews the founders of some of the digital sector’s most interesting and exciting start-up companies, to explore their potential and how they aim to disrupt the market. To suggest another start-up, please email [email protected].
This week, Bradley speaks with Lauren Riley, 2014 Apprentice star, Manchester solicitor and founder and CEO of The Link App, a new digital platform which aims to disrupt the legal sector by offering firms an innovative and secure way to communicate with clients. The business has already raised £160,000 of its £300,000 target and the solicitor turned entrepreneur has ambitious plans for the business.
Bradley Agnew: So, Lauren, you can probably guess what’s coming first. Please tell us more about your time on The Apprentice, and what you learned from the process.
Lauren Riley: Gosh, that seems like a lifetime ago. I learned the most about myself. Specifically, the personal values that I wanted to bring forward into the foundation of my business. I believe this exploration (and media exposure) was a great place to start from.
I also learned that I was onto something. Immediately following the show I was inundated with interest in my secure professional to client communication idea and The Link App grew from there.
Bradley: Since then you’ve continued to work as a family solicitor, whilst working on a new app for the legal sector, called The Link App. When did the idea for the app come to you, and what progress have you made so far?
Lauren: I balanced both my career and start-up for 18 months; it was tough but worth it. Whilst I gave up my work as a solicitor about 2 years ago, I continue to feel part of the profession due to our product being used across the sector.
The idea came to me organically in 2013 while working as a lawyer. I could see the need for a much better way of communicating and the answer was obviously app technology. The more I thought about it, the more benefits came to mind; security, client satisfaction, firm differentiation and efficiency.
The app is used across the UK and South Africa. We have already completed two successful funding rounds. The Link App was also named in a recent Law Society published-book as a “secure alternative to email”. We’ve also been head-hunted by a “prestigious Silicone Valley accelerator” and will be joining the programme in Spring 2018.
Bradley: You’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for The Link App, and have already raised £160,000 of a £300,000 target, offering investors 15% equity in the business. Please explain why you chose crowdfunding as a source of finance, and why you believe this is a good investment.
Lauren: We have been supported along the way by so many people from advisers to lawyers using the product. We wanted to give those who supported us the opportunity to be part of our business. An incredible amount of work has gone into our journey to date and we have made a great start. Now is the right time for us to take advantage of that and scale.
Bradley: You’ve secured backing from Sir Nigel Knowles, former global-chairman of law firm DLA Piper. Please tell us more about your relationship and his involvement in the project.
Lauren: Nigel was introduced to us in the early days and with his significant industry knowledge, he has been a valuable source of advice ever since. After we went through some proof points, he invested in our first round. As we have grown and received institutional backing he has stepped up to be Chairman. He has also invested in our latest funding round, alongside the crowd.
Bradley: What are your objectives for the business for 2018, and where do you see the business in 5 years’ time?
Lauren: In five years our aim is to hit a turnover of £20m, and to be generating £10m profit, with several thousand corporates using our services – reaching out beyond our initial UK legal market and moving into other sectors and countries. We will also be starting to engage with corporate finance executives to prepare for our exit.
Bradley: What can investors expect in terms of performance?
Lauren: Our investors will be securing at least 15% equity in this funding round and, assuming a fairly standard P/E ratio of around 10, they would hopefully have a significant stake in the company, potentially valued at around £100m or more.
Bradley: Finally, are there any other projects or causes that you are focused on, and what can we expect from Lauren Riley in the future?
Lauren: Well, The Link App is my sole entrepreneurial focus, but I am fortunate enough to be asked to speak all over the UK as well. I try and give back where I can and share my journey through my blog and the media.
I am passionate about diversity in business and in the future, I’d like to found a charity to achieve more in this area. I am inundated with requests to mentor the younger generation, so I intend for part of my foundation to include a mentoring element.