Legal issues are something most businesses face on a regular basis. Whether it is writing co-founder contracts, terms and conditions, to settling claims, it is just a necessary part of a business.

As startups continue to grow, so does their need for legal services. However, anyone that has ever commissioned a lawyer knows that it can cost quite a lot and that can be challenging for early-stage startups. This is why legaltech solutions exist, in order to provide solutions that are feasible for young startups.

This is where Founders Doc comes into play. The startup was born in March 2021 and to date has assisted more than 40 early-stage companies and founders. The company provides legal support and services such as consultation, fundraising and specific in-house solutions for different companies that may need them.

Chia Yei from TalentX answers Five Questions

We spoke to Founders Doc CEO and founder Rachel Wong about her startup and journey as an entrepreneur. Her aim is to provide legal support for early-stage companies in Southeast Asia while keeping in mind the cultural nuances and trends in this region.

Rachel is also the Co Vice-Chairperson of the CPD Committee of The Law Society of Singapore, a member of the Corporate Committee of The Law Society of Singapore and a member of the ASEAN Law Association.

When you can’t find Rachel in the office, she’s working out preferring rhythm cycling to get a good workout in.

Sell us your company/service in 300 words?

Founders Doc provides legal services to fast-growing early-stage companies and ambitious founders in Southeast Asia. We support early-stage companies during their pre-seed stage to Series C stage, by providing fast, specialised and reasonably priced legal services.

Founders Doc’s vision is to reimagine how legal services are delivered by lawyers. We do this in 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: Finding a product-market fit. In this case, we found ourselves sitting well with early stage companies and ambitious founders in Southeast Asia.
  • Phase 2: Redefining how lawyers communicate to the startup community. We do this through interactive infographics, videos and quick guides – and using plain English.
  • Phase 3: Developing legal-tech tools to expedite document review and production. These are works in the pipeline and we will be excited to share some news in the later part of 2022 / 2023, such as our ACRA word plug-in and others.

Founders Doc launched in March / April 2021 and started off as an experimental project because I wanted to work from home and spend more time with my Auntie. We have since serviced approximately 50 startups and founders, and this has grown into a real business! From a startup perspective, we’ve done well as an “MVP”, and are now looking to scale our business further.

What is stopping you from having the largest company in the world?

I take a lot of advice from my parents because I have an immense amount of respect for them, and my parents like to emphasise sustainable growth and doing things sustainably.

For Founders Doc, we aim to be the best in what we do – and not necessarily the largest company in the world. To maintain a semblance of good quality, we want to grow sustainably and ensure that we do not sacrifice quality for growth. There are two channels that we are currently focusing on: geographical growth and vertical growth.

Geographically, I believe that Southeast Asia is a fast-growing emerging market that has unique characteristics. I’d be happy if Founders Doc can focus on serving more early-stage companies and founders within Southeast Asia first, before exploring business expansion opportunities in other parts of the world.

Vertical growth is more expensive and time-consuming, but this investment is important so that we have a chance at staying ahead of the curve. We are looking into the development of various legal-tech products in the background – and we want to ensure that there is a clear use case before developing these further.

Someone wise told that his single most important piece of learning from trekking is that all you need to do is keep one foot ahead of the other – and before long you’ll reach your destination. I believe if we continue to do that – your question will no longer be a question.

If you could change one thing about the tech industry in Southeast Asia, what would it be?

The law firms that I’ve worked in, in my previous life, typically represented investors or big-tech. I felt that small but fast-growing tech companies deserved better legal representation – and I hope that Founders Doc is on its way to providing better support in this space, by providing founders of early-stage tech companies better legal representation.

Sometimes, the job is as simple as explaining to the founders what they are signing up to before they actually sign it – as well as illustrating some potential consequences of what they are signing. Founders are often not in a position to alter the deal terms – but at the very least, they should have a better understanding of what they are signing up to.

In some cases, founders want to achieve better terms – either because they have sought advice from more seasoned founders, or have certain concerns that they wish to address. In these cases, I am their mouthpiece for negotiating for different terms and trying to find a compromise between what the other side can accept, and what they wish to achieve.

As a lawyer advising my client, my job is to reflect the personality of the founder in deal discussions as well as legal documentation. For example, some founders want robust employment terms, whilst other founders want to have an employment agreement that is as short as possible. In other instances, founders want some input from the lawyers, whilst other founders already know what they want – and just want us to execute. Our mentality is this: it’s your company, and we are just here to see how we can turn your vision into a reality, in the form of legal documentation.

Finally, some advisers still view startups through the lenses of SMEs. However, based on my understanding, a startup is very different from an SME. The key factor that differentiates a startup from an SME, is that a startup is experimenting with something new, and solving a problem that was previously unsolved. By reason of that, principles that traditionally apply to SMEs may not apply to a startup. For example, asking a startup to commit to a rigid 5-year business plan may hinder its ability to grow, because part of the beauty of the game is to adapt, and adopt feedback from consumers at the lowest cost and as quickly as possible.

Name one person in the region, who is making a difference in Technology?

I have an immense amount of respect for my good friend, Dr. Vina Tan in Cambodia. She’s a year younger than me, but she has achieved a lot within the medical field in Cambodia and she’s one of the people that I look up to for various reasons.

The first reason is rather cliché, but she’s female and I’m female. Most of my friends are popping babies and raising kids – so it’s great to have individuals like her around that reminds me that it’s okay to be different and absolutely, killing it. The social pressure that I faced to conform – get married, have kids and be a ‘normal’ lawyer was intense in my 20-s. Having folks like her around helps a lot.

The second reason is that she’s around my age. The second dream killer is having multiple people telling you that you’re still young and you have time to figure things out. So having someone around my age that has achieved a lot, is a great way to explain that you don’t need to wait around to get things done.

The third reason is that we are both in professional fields in Southeast Asia – she’s a female doctor in Cambodia and I’m a female lawyer in Singapore. So, we have to learn how to innovate within boundaries and ensure that these boundaries are constantly being respected. We cannot wake up one day and try to revolutionise the industry – change has to be respectful and respected.

What would you want people to remember you for, 100 years from now?

Assuming that we still have a shot at Mother Earth 100 -years from now, I don’t have a desire for people to remember me or Founders Doc.

A business typically has a life span – and, as a business, I would expect Founders Doc to be outdated in 100 -years (or I’ll be sorely disappointed with the new batch of lawyers). As a symbol, I hope that Founders Doc represents respectful innovation, with a hunger for success – both for ourselves and our clients.

For me, I don’t have a burning desire for my name to be written down in history. I’m just trying to solve something that I think is an interesting problem – and experimenting with ways to solve this problem well. If people do remember me even though I do not want to be remembered, I hope they take a picture of me that is in my youthful 20-s, as my forehead wrinkles have been increasing over the years 🙂 – and that they will remember me as the grandmother of modern legal services.

If life permits, it will also be nice to teach younger lawyers certain drafting tips. Law school prepares you for a lot of things in life – other than contract drafting and practical contract negotiations.