Case Study – OnCorps: Enabling the future of work

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SETsquared Bristol

To help our aspiring entrepreneurs and future SETsquared Bristol members, we are showcasing a number of case studies demonstrating the breadth of tech and depth of success in SETsquared Bristol and what it takes to achieve.

We had a chat with OnCorps Co-Founder and CISO, Laura Lafave…


What does OnCorps do?

We like to say we enable the future of work.

Using our platform, enterprises can quickly and easily create personalised digital guidance systems for their employees or customers. Using the guidance, employees can improve their individual performance and this drives competitive advantage for the company overall.

We derive the guidance via machine learning using the enterprise’s existing data assets with the personalised information we capture from the user. Pioneering companies are gaining a competitive advantage from their existing data using this approach (the book Human + Machine has many case studies of this). Not to mention, they are also getting better value from all of their stored data assets. However, we all know that data alone rarely changes behaviour. Therefore, OnCorps delivers the guidance using behavioural science techniques to help overcome established decision making patterns or biases.

For example, a few years ago, we spoke to a COO from a huge global firm. He said “I have win/loss data on every potential prospect and client out there, and it’s a huge file sitting on my desk. How do I get this information to the front-line in a way which will change how they perform?” Challenges like these are what we are designed to help with.

A key differentiator of OnCorps is how quickly we deploy solutions and the overall flexibility of what we can deliver. We want to enable large enterprises to be able to experiment with ideas and approaches more easily than they typically can today.  Our platform is flexible to work in any area of the business, but today we focus on decisions mainly in sales, pricing, operations and risk management.


How did you enter SETsquared?

We applied in 2015 when we were establishing the UK company. OnCorps as it is today was founded in the US by Bob Suh, Peter Hallett and myself – we knew each other from our time working for Accenture in the States. During the early stages of the company, we planned to establish our technical and European headquarters here in Bristol. Peter Hallett and I both received our PhDs from the University of Bristol and were aware of the great talent in this city.  We asked SETsquared Bristol (SSBr) to take us under their wing, having heard about the incubator through the University alumni network. We wanted to be part of an outstanding tech community from the start.


How has SETsquared helped you?

Access to both Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, Greville and Rick, has been invaluable. Quite a few of us have been involved with start-ups before, but it can be different when it is your own. Sometimes you are too close to the coalface, and they can provide a great perspective for you.

SSBr has also helped with access to their overall networks – we’ve taken advantage of HR specialists and legal specialists. Lastly, SSBr’s connection to other opportunities is fantastic – for example, SSBr introduced us to the PwC Scale SouthWest programme, which was very helpful for networking and scaling advice.


What business have you won so far?

To date, we have focused on the financial services, high tech, and professional services (consulting) industries. For example, to date, we have worked with some of the largest professional services and high tech companies in the world, including EY and Dell.

In financial services, we are transforming fund operations for some of the largest asset management companies in the world.


Who is in your team?

We are a global team. We have a US team in Boston of around 15 people, a 12 strong team in Bristol, and a team in India, which numbers around 20. To be honest, it’s hard to work with global companies without having a global presence yourself.

One of the things we pride ourselves on is finding the best people and bringing them into our organisation. We also have a wealth of experience working with enterprises. For example, our CEO, Bob Suh, was formerly the Chief Technology Strategist of Accenture (the multinational IT professional services company). Many of our global team have worked at Accenture, McKinsey, KPMG and financial services companies prior to OnCorps and have direct experience of working with the largest companies in the world. We also have quite a few PhDs in the team! The high quality of our team gives us immense pride.


Do you have any awards/accreditations?

Last year, we were delighted to win annual CFO award for excellence from one of our clients, a $25B technology firm. This year, OnCorps won the 2019 Best Banking Infrastructure Software Award from the Fintech Breakthroughs organization. Past Fintech Breakthrough winners have included: Acorns, Dell, Cisco, PayPal, Chase, Pitchbook.

We have also had two articles by our CEO published in the Harvard Business Review this year based on our work. The topic of the first article was how to improve sales forecasting and the second is more generally about our experience using AI to help people improve decision making.

Early on in the creation of our company, we also attained our ISO 27001 certification, the international standard for information security management. I thoroughly recommend getting it as early as possible. Any SSBr member can talk to me about it; I will share our experience and benefits from having it.


What’s been your biggest challenge to date?

Many people say that success in business is largely down to timing. We have been a little ahead of the market. However, we have been growing at pace with the demand and are in a great place to respond now to the rapidly increasing demand for these solutions.


What are your next steps?

We are continuing to rapidly scale the company. We have a lot of really exciting opportunities in fund operations and pricing solutions and we are thrilled about our new projects and new clients. We are also expanding into a new office in Queen Square.


What’s the ethos underpinning your business?

We all felt strongly about the principle around how we empower the front line decision makers: if you are given a decision to make, there is probably data to help you elsewhere in the business, but how can you easily access this? We built OnCorps to help give people the information they need to individually perform at their best. That is core to our ethos.


What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Greville (EiR, SSBr) introduced me to this quote: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Agility is so important in business. Everyone in a company has to have the ability to read and respond with minimal delay – that’s real empowerment.


Discover more of the companies SETsquared incubate here and sign up to the monthly SETsquared newsletter to keep up with news, events, opportunities and more.

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