Clue is a super exciting company to be born out of the Bristol tech scene. The investigation and intelligence platform demonstrates one of the truly meaningful ways in which we can harness the powers of technology for good as their software seeks to protect the people. 

Clue is one of those organisations that is quietly integral to making the world as we know it go around. Its cloud-based investigation case management and intelligence SaaS platform is used by police, governments, and the private, sport, and not-for-profit sectors internationally to help counter serious and organised crime, corruption, safeguarding, environmental, financial, corporate, and global threats.

For this hard work, the team has also been nominated for a SPARKies at this year’s event! We caught up with Clare Elford, CEO at Clue, to find out more.

So, let’s start with an introduction to yourself, and then tell us a bit about Clue as well…

I’m Clare Elford, CEO of Clue.

Clue is an investigation and intelligence platform used to manage and enhance investigations for a diverse range of organisations around the world.

When we think of investigations, our minds naturally think of policing. But investigations are happening everywhere. By identifying wrongdoing and holding it to account, investigations protect us and the world around us from harm and deter criminals from exploiting it.

“When we think of investigations, our minds naturally think of policing. But investigations are happening everywhere.”

Clue’s users are hugely varied. While many do work in policing, others are involved in everything from protecting wildlife from illegal hunting, safeguarding athletes in sport, ensuring the quality and integrity of the food we eat, and protecting public services from fraud.

All these users are implementing Clue in incredibly important ways and leveraging the benefits of bringing all their data sources together into one secure platform, enabling them to detect trends and relationships; identify and act on early warning signs; collaborate with other organisations through interoperability; automate time-consuming processes; and utilise digitally enabled investigations to contribute to a better world.

One of the most important applications of Clue for our customers is that the platform ensures the investigative process is followed properly and, as a result, it protects cases from falling apart.

Can you tell us a bit about Clue’s background?

Clue has been present within the policing technology landscape for more than 30 years. When I joined the team in 2015, we had 17 police customers – which remain very important to us – but we weren’t yet active beyond law enforcement.

We had a decision to make, either continue to support our customers with the existing product or invest in modernising the platform and developing the next generation of Clue.

We made that decision quickly. Speaking to our customers and seeing the work they were doing with our product was inspirational – they clearly loved using Clue. However, we knew there was expanding demand for more sophisticated investigation and intelligence technology and that the opportunity wasn’t limited to the policing sector. We quickly confirmed this when users of Clue from law enforcement began entering other sectors where their investigative skills were in great demand. This included anti-corruption units within sports governing bodies, for example, where investigations play a vital role in safeguarding integrity. What we found is that these ‘original Clue users’ from policing backgrounds needed a secure platform that was simple for multiple users to access globally – they needed a new version of Clue.

We continued to develop Clue as a more versatile investigation and intelligence platform for digital investigations and, in 2016, I was joined by Thomas Drohan, Clue’s COO and co-owner. We have been on this journey together since then. Thomas managed our growth and commercial function, while I looked after our customers and product development.

Today, Clue has close to 80 customers including the likes of DEFRA, Amazon, Animal and Plant Health Agency, and Esports Integrity Commission. We have 45 employees, and our team is growing fast. Last year, we secured a sizeable growth investment, which has given us not just the resources to scale up rapidly but, also, the support of an experienced partner, fast tracking our ability to realise the huge opportunity to digitalise the world of investigations.

What’s the best thing about what you’re doing?

One of the most exciting aspects of Clue is the community we have created. What our customers do is fascinating. We’re realising that a lot of Clue’s users aren’t really buying a SaaS platform, they’re joining a community of digital investigators doing amazing work in diverse sectors across the world.

At our annual Clue User Conference, we might have an investigator from the League Against Cruel Sports sharing relevant learnings with a safeguarding officer at a top-flight sports team. As organisations and industries are held to greater standards of accountability and integrity, digital investigations are playing an important and growing role – all our users can and want to learn from one another; they want to share ideas and see how their peers are using Clue. We are in a fortunate position to be able to facilitate these conversations and help to empower them on the frontline.

“We’re realising that a lot of Clue’s users aren’t really buying a SaaS platform, they’re joining a community of investigators”

What’s also exciting is the team we are building, and the diverse backgrounds that Clue attracts by necessity. On the one hand, we have people with scaleup and tech experience, such as our Customer Success Director Rachel Evans who joined us recently from Shutterstock. But these tech backgrounds intersect with people whose experience lies in the world of investigations and intelligence, such as Clue’s Head of Sport, Phil Suddick, who has worked at the Metropolitan Police and, most recently, as Senior Intelligence Manager at the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA). These backgrounds combine to create a unique and experienced team who really understand the challenges Clue’s users are facing and can determine the best ways to solve them.

Clue has an impressive repertoire of work and has been notably growing. What’s been a standout moment or milestone in Clue’s journey?

Undoubtedly, a landmark moment for Clue was receiving growth investment from Frog Capital in the final quarter of 2021. Until last year, Clue had never raised investment choosing to grow organically.

At the point we decided to raise money in early 2021, we were at a stage where we had excellent product market fit and had grown revenue consistently, but we were ready to scale and further capture the growing demand for investigation and intelligence software. We needed support to embark on a journey as a scaleup but had to limit disruption of day-to-day operations. We also wanted to navigate the process carefully and be confident in landing a partnership with an experienced investor that could align with our vision.  

We worked closely with the Scaleup Group, who connected us with Frog Capital, a scaleup investor that understood and believed in Clue and our vision and was ready to support us in achieving the potential of digitalising investigations for a safer world.

Frog Capital’s investment has really marked ‘the end of the beginning’ for Clue. The group has provided the funding and, more importantly, the experience, knowledge and support we need to realise Clue’s potential.

How did you spot a gap in the market for the solutions Clue is building?

Clue has been present in policing technology for many years, but we recognised early the wider applicability of this technology – particularly its auditing, interoperability, security, and compliance capabilities – beyond the policing sector.

Around four years ago, when one of our largest public sector clients went to tender, they had a mixed response. While existing police systems offered some of the required functionality they were seeking, Clue was the only platform that was designed with other sectors in mind. The simplicity, flexibility and interoperability of the software is what caught their attention; we had developed an investigations and intelligence tool that could adapt to different environments.

You’ve recently released the Counter Fraud Report, what were the key takeaways from this research? Was there anything particularly surprising to come out of it?

The Counter Fraud in 2022: Navigating the Path to Prevention report was based on an exclusive survey of counter fraud experts in government and counter fraud. It marks a concerted shift within Clue to generate valuable research and resources relating to the sectors our users operate in that can help them in many aspects of their work.

Fraud spiked dramatically during the pandemic, as criminals sought to exploit the disruption to public services and overnight reliance on digital. Fraud costs the public sector tens of millions of pounds per year – this is money that would otherwise go towards benefiting society.

A sudden rise in cyber-enabled fraud has, unsurprisingly, placed a huge burden on counter fraud teams within the public sector, and this pressure was apparent within the responses of our survey. However, while recruitment remains a challenge, data sources and volumes are rapidly growing, and tech budgets are not always easy to unlock. Clue’s research revealed that there are pockets of best practice emerging that are enabling fraud teams to move towards preventative counter fraud strategies. We explore these considering five key challenges in the report.

In short, the threat of fraud has never been so great, but the means to stop it in its tracks have never been more effective.

What’s it like being a part of the cyber and tech community here in the South West?

Until about 18 months ago, we hadn’t been focusing on building connections or promoting Clue within the South West business and technology community. While Clue has always been based in Bristol – before the city really started expanding as a national tech hub – our customers are based all over the UK and around the world.

“This year, we have embarked on a new stage of growth, we are very much focused on deepening our engagement into the local tech community.”

This year, we have embarked on a new stage of growth. We are very much focused on deepening our engagement into the local tech community. We want to share our story and develop our local presence among what’s fast become an incredibly exciting national technology hub for so many progressive, innovative, and diverse companies and initiatives. We have quickly realised the value of engaging with the local tech community, especially in peer-to-peer learning and attracting market-leading talent. In fact, I will be joining a panel at CyNam 22.2 in Cheltenham in June.

We’re very much looking forward to what’s to come and further supporting TechSPARK and the Bristol tech community.

Editorial Month
Sponsored By

Cyber Month

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.