Simon Franc

You can’t give up if you really believe in it.

HOF Entrepreneurs Simon Franc 1920X1080 (1)

Published: 03/11/2022

While entrepreneurs may privately cite the influence of their mothers in their success, for Simon Franc at kulpaCloud (“Kulpa”) , that influence was particularly important. His mother was a scientist, working at a forensics lab, when it was taken over by private equity group and she was made redundant. It gave him the entrepreneurial idea he needed.

When did Simon Franc’s entrepreneurial streak start?

Simon had been showing signs of an entrepreneurial streak since his teens. Whether it was selling ad space for Autotrader while studying for his ‘A’ levels at Farnborough Sixth Form College or early forays into property development, he enjoyed the cut and thrust of business. However, in his early years, he dreamed of a City career, with fast cars and Wall Street-style bonuses.

After ‘A’ levels he became an FX trader. It was 2008, post-financial crash and there was plenty of volatility in financial markets to exploit. It was a good market for a trader, but he set his sights on investment banking, realised he needed a degree and eventually went back to Southampton University to do Management Sciences.

He eventually secured a role in investment banking, but soon discovered that the gap between the movie version of investment banking and the reality was pretty wide.
Simon Franc

He says: “It actually took a lot of time to get the sports car. I could dedicate 10 years of my life to it, but I didn’t want to wait that long.”

At that point, he decided to dedicate himself to a project that had previously been a sideline. He says: “When I was in my first year at university, my mother was made redundant. A private equity firm had taken over the Forensic Science Service Provider where she worked. It was the usual problem. They wanted to strip out costs and realise their profits. They fired everyone above a certain level.

“What they didn’t realise was that forensic science wasn’t a commodity business: It was largely opinion-based. The company lost a lot of experience through this process. My mum was in a bind. She felt she was too young to retire, but too old to get another job so I decided to start our own Forensic Science Service Provider.”

How Kulpa was formed

He was young, but quickly realised that gave him some advantages: he used technology like none of his competitors. He built a diverse and capable workforce. He says: “We took lots of opportunities to innovate. Our system was more streamlined and therefore more effective and efficient. We could give a better customer experience on a number of levels.

One thing about entrepreneurship is that people think they have to come up with something new. The art of business is really about doing something better, knowing a market exists and having a passion to do it well.
Simon Franc

There were also personal characteristics that gave him an advantage: “It took me a long time to realise that the things that other people find difficult were common sense to me.”

He and his mother made a good team. As a scientist, she provided wise counsel on the risks and her caution balanced his natural optimism. He says: “Scientists want evidence for everything and can be very risk averse.” Ultimately, they agreed that her job would be to tell him all the things that could go wrong and he would decide whether these were risks he wanted to take.

Eventually, the forensics business led to a second business - Kulpa. Simon had observed that there were areas of forensic science that worked well and attracted investment in their investigation – murder or arson, for example. However, ‘volume’ crime was a problem. There were 12 million crimes committed each year, with a prosecution rate of less than 5%. Much of it goes unreported, particularly for domestic abuse and sexual offences, and often cases can’t proceed because of evidential difficulties.

It was clear that there were problems with evidence collection and even where it was collected, the quality of that evidence. Simon thought he could create a technology solution. By 2020, he had funding in place and built Kulpa to solve this evidence problem. It is an app that allows individuals to capture evidence of a crime securely. The app ensures this evidence is correctly gathered and stores all the right meta data so that it is legally admissible has evidential weight in court. The app can also be used for civil cases such as work disputes and divorce.

The future for Simon Franc and the app

There have been challenges. Simon says: “I didn’t factor in the public sector angle. The wheels move very slowly and there are real complexities to their IT systems. That said, we’re building engagement from police forces. There should now be no barrier for people to present policing with authenticated evidence in a ready-made bundle.”

The app is in its early stages but building momentum. Ultimately, it should be able to deliver better policing outcomes, using fewer resources. Simon admits that it’s much easier to create a business to do something better than to start from scratch, but that the potential for the app to change lives was too big to ignore. “If you have something that can change lives, improve society, and and reduce crime, then you’ve got to give it a go.”

“Because it’s the first of its kind, I’ve come up against a lot of opposition. There is a general scepticism of new technology. It’s a longer journey than for the forensics business, but you can’t give up if you really believe in it.”
Simon Franc

What has he learned?

From the conversations with his mother, he realised that there can never be zero risk: “A lot of people let risk paralyse them. That way, no-one would ever be helped. Lots of people have given me inspiration and advice over the years and I like to learn as much as possible from other people. Ultimately, I really want to make a difference to people’s lives. Business people have so much potential to do that.”