11 May 2018 Courier Weekly

Birth, marriage and death go digital

PLUS: Smart suitcase shutdown – Peloton – Australian challenger banks – London food markets

Digital divorce comes to the UK.

As part of a £1bn modernisation programme, the UK’s Ministry of Justice has this month rolled out digital divorce across England and Wales.

Unhappily married couples can now scrap their nuptials via an online form. The scheme has been described by pilot users as ‘marvellous’ and ‘pain-free’.

Kate Daly, founder of divorce app Amicable, says it’s good news. The digital scheme is built using an open API, meaning she can let users access the forms through her app’s interface. ‘I think [adoption] will take an age in reality but any digitisation can’t come soon enough,’ she adds. ‘A simpler system will promote access to justice.’

Alongside marriage and divorce, a number of young businesses are hoping to streamline the paperwork behind some of life’s major milestones:

  • Birth: Gentlebirth, founded in 2006, helps women to prepare for labour using cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness. It has a mobile app as well as running in-person workshops.
  • Divorce: Alongside Amicable, app 2houses has been helping parents split childcare between households.
  • Death: Farewill provides cheap, easy-to-create online wills, while Aboutthefuneral has created a price comparison website for arranging funerals.

Airline safety rules shut down Bluesmart.

Less than four months after US airlines announced a ban on lithium-ion powered ‘smart’ luggage, suitcase brand Bluesmart has gone out of business.

It directly blamed the regulatory change in a blog post. As part of the liquidation process, the business is selling its intellectual property to established US luggage brand Travelpro, while all production and sales have ceased. Warranties and returns have been voided, although the company will continue to run its app for ‘several months’.

Bluesmart, founded in 2014, was one of a number of smart luggage brands to launch in recent years with features such as GPS tracking, phone charging and internal weighing scales (most of which need a lithium-ion battery in order to work).

Bluesmart’s competitors – Raden, Horizn and Away – have been able to ride the change as their batteries can easily be removed. Bluesmart, by comparison, required travellers to take a screwdriver to the bags in order to prise the batteries out.

Peloton’s international push.

This week, US fitness brand Peloton announced it will be expanding to the UK and Canada.

Peloton’s core product is a fitness bike, through which users can stream exercise classes at home. While boutique fitness brands such as Soul Cycle (US) and 1Rebel (UK) have been popping up with greater regularity in the past few years, at-home fitness has not been as thoroughly exploited.

Globally, the UK is the second largest fitness market after the US. Alongside retail, Peloton plans to open a London fitness studio in 2019, and will also record classes with British instructors to stream.

Previously, Peloton has avoided shipping its products beyond the US. The exact reasons why are unclear, but some have speculated it could be to do with preserving the brand’s customer service-driven reputation. Since launching in New York in 2012, it has gained a cult-like following of fitness fanatics.

Australia’s fintech firms come of age.

On Monday, Volt became the first challenger bank in Australia to receive its banking licence.

Digital-only bank Volt, which launched in 2017, can now accept up to £1.1m-worth of deposits, and is currently testing its tech among staff. Its aim is to obtain a full banking licence by the end of the year, and offer its services to the public.

According to KPMG, Australia’s fintech scene has been on a tear in the past four years. From just 100 companies in 2014, there are now more than 579 offering digital finance services. Investment has also significantly increased: from £34m in 2014 to £500m in 2016.

However, compared to the UK (considered to be one of the fintech capitals of the world), Australia still has a way to go. In 2017, £3bn was invested in UK fintech firms.

An exclusive look at Fulham’s Market Hall.

Last Friday, we went along to the soft opening of London’s newest food hall. Fulham’s Market Hall, located in the former ticket hall at Grade-II listed Fulham Broadway station, currently hosts 10 food traders, including Calcutta Canteen, Yard Sale Pizza and fried chicken vendor Butchies.

We’ll be running an in-depth look into London’s restaurant landscape in the next issue (out in June). In the meantime, those curious to see what London’s latest food hall looks like on the inside can see our exclusive photos here.