Southeast Asia has been the focal point of the investment community over the last few years and though we are witnessing a global slowdown, there is still a lot of opportunity in the region. This also creates an entire ecosystem of opportunity, because with investment comes a lot of complementary and essential services that need to be provided.
If we look at just Singapore, the city-state has attracted more venture capital investment per capita in 2022 as compared to all other countries, receiving over US$1 billion. According to PitchBook’s data, the city-state has pulled in US$4.1 billion, at a time when the fundraising environment for startups across the globe has been constrained.
However, with the increase in deals and the complexity of the agreements, the need for legal support and solutions is pretty obvious. This is why we wanted to speak to Hsiang Low, Head of Asia-Pacific at SeedLegals.
We introduce Rachel Wong from Founders Doc to the
As the Head of Asia-Pacific at SeedLegals, Hsiang oversees SeedLegals’ operations and strategy across Hong Kong and Singapore. Previously, Hsiang was a founding member and Co-Head of Asia at Nakhoda, an in-house legal tech startup at Linklaters.
Seedlegals is a legal tech startup, that provides the legal solutions for creating, funding, and running startups. The company has helped over 35,000 startups in the UK alone and has their eyes set on disrupting Asia.
They provide the world’s first platform for founders and investors to easily create, negotiate and sign all the legal agreements required for a funding round. This aims to save time, by shortening the months of negotiation which usually accompanies a funding round closing.
Could you explain how Seedlegals works and how startups might use it?
Founded in 2016 in the UK by serial entrepreneur Anthony Rose and serial investor Laurent Laffy, SeedLegals was launched as the world’s first platform that lets founders and investors easily create, negotiate and sign all the legal agreements they need to do a funding round. Eventually expanding its reach across Europe, SeedLegals expanded to Asia-Pacific in late 2021 with the launch of its offering in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Everything on SeedLegals is centred around helping startups start, raise and grow and empowering founders in the process; whether that’s getting those essential legal docs that all startups need sorting, raising investment or incentivising employees with a share option scheme.
Legals can be a headache and expensive if you engage lawyers to help you draft them – we’ve automated the legals that startups need so you can create local law-compliant, commercially-sensible legal docs in just a few clicks in just a few minutes (yes, I know that sounds too good to be true). The SeedLegals back-end is powered by intelligent automation and is continually improved by the data-driven insights we collect on-platform. We’ve already helped more than 35,000 startups and investors raise more than USD1.2 billion on-platform, so we’ve got a lot of data.
On SeedLegals, you can create team contracts, manage your cap table, raise everything from your first investment through to your Series A and everything in-between, set up your employee share option schemes and more. Everything on-platform is written in plain English (we’re very anti-legalese) and as you move through the workflows, hint text and resources are there to support you, but if you have any questions or want to speak to a real human, our team are on-hand to provide unlimited support.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that startups in Southeast Asia are making when it comes to legal issues?
From our perspective, we see a lot of startups stumbling over their legals. Whether they’re overpaying law firms to draft early-stage legal docs or downloading free templates online that they don’t fully understand, we see a lot of startups making decisions around their legals that aren’t setting them up for success in the future.
Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world for startups. We have also seen that growth as venture funding reached new heights in the region with deal activity hitting a record US$11.5 billion in the first half of 2021. The current legal landscape in Southeast Asia however is slow, costly and confusing for startups, and ripe for disruption. We believe there’s a better way for startups and small businesses to access legal solutions, in a way that accelerates growth.
In Southeast Asia, how well-versed do you think entrepreneurs are when it comes to legal issues and when/how to use proper legal support?
The landscape and attitude towards legals in the region are really interesting – first-time founders are definitely disadvantaged because they don’t know what they don’t know, and unless they have a legal background, can be in a position to not fully grasp not only how important it is to have proper legals but also what their legal docs even say. We’re really anti-legalese at SeedLegals, we believe that every founder should understand exactly what their legals say, so everything on SeedLegals is in plain English. We don’t want any ambiguity out there so founders can make decisions backed by a full understanding of the terms and their implications.
Serial founders tend to have had experiences with good legals and bad legals, and understand that bad legals can jeopardise your business especially as you scale and try to bring on bigger investors.
What has been interesting is the amount of interest and support we’ve seen for our offering by investors – we’re consistently hearing investors say they wish all the startups that approached them used SeedLegals so they could be sure that the startup has its house in order before looking for investment.
The range of legal services that exist is very broad and just like visiting a doctor, one would usually consider whether to seek a generalist or a specialist, a GP or a dentist, depending on what services are required. We pride ourselves on being startup-focused, which means that our offering is tailored specifically for fast-growing, early-stage companies. Supported by the SeedLegals platform, our team can help startup founders with different ways to fundraise, strategies to incentivise early employees (especially when the company isn’t cash-rich and can’t pay hefty salaries), tips on getting investment ready, and so on.
How do you plan to scale up your presence in the region?
Right now our focus is really building the offering in Hong Kong and Singapore to make sure we’re offering startups in the region what they really want and need – we’ve got some really exciting collaborations and releases coming in the next few months.
We’ve built a stellar cross-functional team across Hong Kong and Singapore, and in the future will look to continue to grow to support our customers in the region. Further down the horizon, we would love to expand into more jurisdictions across Asia-Pacific.
What’s next for Seedlegals?
We just launched our Share Option Scheme solution in Singapore and Hong Kong and have some exciting releases and collaborations to announce in the coming months (watch this space!).
Founders tell us that legal documentation can be one of the toughest parts of fundraising. As part of our mission to empower startups, we’re proud to have contributed to VIMA 2.0, a project to create market-standard fundraising documents which would be a powerful step to bring startups and investors together to do better deals, faster.
In addition, to promote and support startups founded by women in the Asia Pacific region, we have partnered with Harriet, which supports women founders as they raise capital. Through this partnership, we, together, are able to offer dedicated support to women-led startups with their legal, and investment opportunities and in providing education and empowerment to support their growth.