Ground-breaking conveyancing law firm Muve has completed a £1.1m equity funding round, despite the property market grinding to a halt during the Covid-19 crisis.
The firm – which offers a guaranteed time to exchange for a higher fee and encourages instructions from both sides of a transaction – is planning “aggressive expansion”.
Muve handles more than 250 transactions a month, and looks to differentiate itself through process automation and a low-cost offshore facility in Sri Lanka, where it has 52 staff. It employs 30 people in its office in Richmond, South-West London.
The three core investors in the round are Origin Capital, which led the transaction and invests in early stage companies, particularly those developing or exploiting new technologies; the Angel Co-Fund, an active co-investment fund with £100m under management; and MI Investment Holding Ltd.
Tim de Vere Green, CEO of Origin Capital, and MI director William Berry will join the Muve board as non-executive directors.
Chief executive David Jabbari said Origin was so “forensic” in its due diligence and had done such “intensive modelling” that the deal completed despite the onset of the coronavirus pandemic: “They felt confident that the fundamentals were still strong.”
He explained that the money would in part be used to create “one of the largest estate agency field sales teams in the UK legal market”.
Most of Muve’s revenue to date comes through direct sales, price comparison websites and its own lead generation activity – the “missing piece” was partnership income through estate agents. Not many law firms were doing this, Mr Jabbari observed.
The money would also go to invest further in automation, including its muveAI document review platform.
Muve, which is regulate by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, already uses automated workflows and customer self-service, and Mr Jabbari said it was working on artificial intelligence that could, for example, read 100 leases and categorise them to check for anomalies.
He stressed that it was not at a point where the work could be done without a lawyer, but the system would help the lawyer identify the key issues “much more quickly”.
A third, subsidiary, use of the money would be to develop additional data services related to property transactions that could be monetised.
Mr Jabbari said the plan was for more and more legal work to be done in Sri Lanka as the firm grew, but “there will always need to be a significant UK presence, for the top end of the legal and account manager roles”.
The funding and scalability of the model meant the one-time City solicitor said he was “very ambitious” for the future and aiming to reach the top 10 conveyancing businesses over the next three to four years.
Mr de Vere Green said: “We believe Muve has developed an extremely sophisticated, efficient and effective conveyancing process and has great opportunities to significantly grow its UK market share over the coming years.”
Paul Fauset of the Angel Co-Fund added: “The Muve team has already made impressive inroads into the conveyancing market using their proprietary process automation technology.
“It is especially encouraging at this time to see Muve, an innovation-led company, raise the funds that can allow them to further develop the technology and business model so they are able to thrive when markets normalise.”
Customers can sign up to the standard conveyancing service – starting at a price of £699 – or pay an extra £500 for the ‘muveFast’ service, which targets exchange within 25 days for straightforward, chain-free transactions.
The guaranteed period could be longer, depending on the nature of the transaction, but is confirmed ahead of instruction.
If the guarantee is not delivered, the fee is reduced for every working week the deadline is missed, down to the base £699.
Mr Jabbari said that it had delivered on the promise in more than 90% of transactions.