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We are excited to welcome Rachel Wong as a speaker at this quarterly’s Innovation 2022: China & SEA’s Startup Ecosystems — Decrypted!

Innovation (Powered by Sinofy) is an immersive series of talks exploring technology and business in the APAC region. Powered by Sinofy Group, Innovation is assembling some of the greatest minds of freelancers, startup founders, and multinational company executives. Speakers from all over the globe will dive into conversations on the current technology and business trends, VCs, legal landscapes, and more. Discussions will help shape your understanding of Asian technology and business environments, as well as help foresee the opportunities within the region.

We are very proud to introduce a speaker with outstanding legal knowledge, Rachel Wong. Rachel is Counsel at Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, CEO of Founders Doc who specialises in legal advice for startups, legal services, consultancy services, and legal templates. With such expertise, we are delighted to welcome Rachel to Innovation 2021.

Rachel began her journey as a graduate from King’s College, London (LL.B.) in 2013 with First Class Hons. Since then, she has worked as a corporate M&A lawyer in leading international law firms such as White & Case LLP, Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee and Allen & Gledhill LLP in Singapore and London. She is also a committee member of The Law Society of Singapore (Corporate Committee and the CPD Committee).

Whilst assisting a founder in his series of fundraising processes in Singapore, she was impressed by how ‘founder-friendly’ certain venture capital funds and law firms in Silicon Valley were. She wanted to see how she could provide legal support for early-stage companies, whilst noting the cultural nuances and trends in this region. With this in mind, Founders Doc was born in March 2021.

Founders Doc collaborates with Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, where she spearheads the Corporate Practice, to ensure that founders in Southeast Asia get the full support that they need. To date, they have assisted more than 35 early-stage companies (and the number grows every week!).

To give us an insight into her legal knowledge, at this installment of Innovation 2022, Rachel will share the differences in legal landscape in South-East Asia vs Europe and the United States.

But we managed to chat to her before to gain some 1-to-1 previews on the legal landscape she will explore in her talk…

Compared to the US and Europe, what would you say is the most distinctive element of Southeast Asia’s legal landscape?

Compared to the US and Europe, the significance of family owned businesses is the most distinctive element in the South-east Asian legal landscape. Looking at South-east Asian businesses through the traditional standards applied when evaluating businesses based in the US and Europe may not work — and you may be missing out on many good opportunities.

For example, in the US and Europe, many businesses are backed by robust legal contracts, master contracts, and robust terms and conditions. However, it is common for many family-owned businesses to operate through the use of invoices only. This has been flagged as a ‘high risk’ item in some of the legal due diligence reports that I’ve seen since this translates to uncertainty in the long-term revenue stream in the eyes of the drafters. However, this doesn’t make sense to me since this is an accepted custom in certain manufacturing spaces.

In your opinion, what contributes to the vibrant startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia?

Within Southeast Asia, we see a young and growing population that has the desire to succeed. There are many opportunities and in some instances, the cost to enter the market is low. We, therefore, see many entrepreneurs starting interesting businesses to solve local problems.

Outside of Southeast Asia, Southeast Asians who have grown up or studied overseas, are returning to Asia and applying what they’ve seen in the Southeast Asian context.

For example, I came across the Gojek app in 2017 whilst visiting some friends in Jakarta. I was highly impressed by the app as it was a multi-dimensional app (covering delivery, transportation, massage, e-wallet, movie ticketing, repairs, cleaning services, mart delivery services, etc.), in an era where the other apps were still single-dimensional (i.e. focusing on transportation only). The people that I met were also young and driven. I was intrigued.

Is there anything companies tend to neglect or overlook in the legal checklist when expanding to the SEA?

On the contrary, the legal checklist that applies in the US and Europe, may not apply in Southeast Asia and you may miss out on good opportunities if you don’t tweak this legal checklist.

Other than taking some items off the legal checklist, I would suggest adding the following to the checklist as well:

Having a good understanding of the local cultural fabric of the country that you intend to expand into and if possible, to find a like-minded local partner. For example, the idea of ‘giving face’ is important and the value of integrity and trust is important.

The working circle is a small one — and once you develop a negative reputation, it may be difficult for other businessmen and women to trust you.

Finally, focus on what is not written, together with what is written. In the US, for example, legal activism is more robust and parties will litigate in the written word. However, in Southeast Asia, you also need to focus on what is not written in order to succeed in the business. For example, enforcing a legal provision when you haven’t managed to coax your partner into the situation, may result in a very ugly legal battle.

Rachel’s outstanding knowledge of legal matters will make for an enlightening and comprehensive insight into today’s legal landscapes. Her passion and commitment to the Asian market and legal landscape is a true testament to the insights she will provide. We hope you can join us for China & SEA’s Startup Ecosystems — Decrypted on January 17th at 11 AM GMT.

**Attendance is free**

Register here: https://forms.gle/XG1s6yzAYzGejbdW7

Stay tuned for the updates on our LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/innovation-powered-by-sinofy

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Laura Pipitone

Laura Pipitone

Events Coordinator at Sinofy Group | China-EU Relations

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