UK tech scaleup SeedLegals expands to Asia-Pacific

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SeedLegals is the UK scaleup that aims to be the ‘operating system for startups’, enabling companies to spend more time and money on business, not legals. The pain points SeedLegals solves for are well known to founders and investors alike, making startup legal work simple, using a combination of big data and human experts to make expensive, time-consuming legal work for funding rounds easier, faster and cheaper. 

Starting in London, SeedLegals became an established player in the startup ecosystem (one in six early-stage funding rounds in the UK is now done on the platform) before expanding to Paris, then Ireland. SeedLegals was keen to choose their next overseas expansion wisely; it wanted to find the right mix of access to capital, talent, and a friendly regulatory environment in which to operate. 

SeedLegals will be soft-launching a collection of services in Singapore and Hong Kong in Q4 2021: SeedFAST (SeedLegals’ advanced subscription agreement and equivalent of a SAFE instrument), and SeedNOTE (SeedLegals’ convertible loan note) that let businesses raise investment quickly and efficiently alongside its subscription which provides automated legal documents for startups including founder and team employment agreements, cap table management, share certificates and share allocation. SeedLegals expects to fully launch and continue to expand its services in both regions after the lunar new year in Q1 2022. 

Tech Nation has worked with SeedLegals on their growth for a number of years. Most recently, SeedLegals graduated from the Tech Nation International Growth Programme for Asia-Pacific 1.0. They previously also joined the Tech Nation Rising Stars and Upscale programmes.  

Going East

Singapore and Hong Kong both have thriving startup ecosystems with generous support from the respective governments, business communities and academia, so they were naturally frontrunners for SeedLegals’ next international expansion. It’s also hugely advantageous that both markets also do business in the English language and have strong global ties and business links. 

Setting up in Singapore gives SeedLegals access to the local startup ecosystems, and also to the vast number of small businesses which look to Singapore and Hong Kong as places where it’s straightforward to do business, often incorporating and fundraising in these jurisdictions. 

Singapore can be seen as a true land of opportunity for SeedLegals. Startups in Singapore raised S$11.2bn (USD$8.3bn) in the first nine months of 2021 alone (more than double the amount raised in the whole of 2020) and saw more than a dozen new tech unicorns emerge. The startup ecosystem is underpinned by strong global financial communities and supported by many local, regional and international VC firms – there are close to 180 early-stage VC firms operating in the country today. 

And Hong Kong? Year-on-year the number of startups in Hong Kong has increased by 12%. Founders choose Hong Kong not just for its access to opportunities in Mainland China but also because of the accessibility to regional and international, simple tax system with low tax rates, and access to funding. 

Lessons learned

“We learned from our expansion into France that language and differing legal systems pose additional challenges when we expand into new markets: our offering there needed to be heavily localised and tailored to meet regulatory requirements and local business practices,” says Julien Seligmann, COO and head of international at SeedLegals. “However for Singapore and Hong Kong, we believe that less localisation will be required to establish product-market fit given the similarities with the UK ecosystem and therefore execution is easier, speedier and more cost-efficient.”

Some may question why SeedLegals has decided to forego the US market, but the decision is strategic: the US market, while very large, has different legal and regulatory systems (in addition to federal law), with each US state requiring a different level of localisation. 

“One day, we’ll be ready to look at the US market, but for now, we’re focused on expanding into jurisdictions where we can have the most impact in the shortest amount of time,” he adds.

How Tech Nation helped 

The Tech Nation International Growth Programme helped SeedLegals get ready for their expansion east into Asia-Pacific by offering an in-depth overview of the markets and the region as a whole, and the opportunity to meet potential new clients – including early-stage investors and startup founders from the region. 

The programme highlighted the challenges associated with international operations in these markets, such as the competition for talent. Singapore’s emergence as a regional tech hub in Asia-Pacific is contrasted by the well-known difficulties in hiring talent across all verticals – a situation only further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Technology jobs are in high demand with around 6,500 newly-created openings being offered by financial institutions alone in 2021. By understanding the challenges upfront, SeedLegals was able to make decisions and take calculated risks to ensure the best possible chance of success. 

Tech Nation helped SeedLegals hire their first employee in Singapore, accelerating the process to start operations on the ground and finding the right local partners. Tech Nation also helped SeedLegals to incorporate by recommending trusted local service providers.

Julien said: “Being able to refine and validate the overall market entry strategy with Tech Nation has been invaluable. It’s helped us lower the risks associated with execution and gaining faster market entry and acceptance.” 

As SeedLegals launch and expand their services in Asia-Pacific in the next few months, Tech Nation looks forward to continuing to support SeedLegals in their international growth in the future. 

Tech Nation International is helping UK scaleups de-risk and accelerate international growth – with a current focus on Asia Pacific markets. Through a range of activities, UK scaleups have the opportunity to accelerate access to capital, customers and talent, so that you can land and expand successfully into this region.

This work is part of the UK government’s Digital Trade Network. If you are ready to take your company overseas, register your interest for support here