LawCanvas brings affordable contracts to startups

August 15, 201411:00 am497 views

LawCanvas is a startup that’s intending to bring some major changes to the way that startups and SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) interact with their legal problems. Acting as a repository collating legal documents for Singapore’s startups and SMEs, it was founded in reaction to legal fees posing prohibitive costs or new startups.

It’s also designed as a targeted leads platforms — a secondary aspect of its business model — where leads are funnelled to law firms. However, its founders have plans to add premium features as the product evolves. For now, all the documents and software are free. Currently, LawCanvas is funded by Crystal Horse Investments, through the iJam scheme of Singapores MDA (Media Development Authority).

Its founding team consists of Daniel Leong, a 29-year old former KPMG auditor with a background in accounting, who majored in finance at SMU (Singapore Management University). A graduate of the Founder’s Institute under Jeffrey Paine in 2013, his technical co-founder is Mark Png, the former CTO of the Singapore office of Retriever Denmark, a media monitoring firm specialising in the digitisation of physical media and content curation content for clients.

HR in Asia was able to catch up with them, along with Kristin Orset, an MSBA (Master of Science, Business Administration) candidates from the Norwegian School of Economics, who is assisting LawCanvas as a business development associate.

What inspired LawCanvas?

Daniel: In our previous projects, we’d encountered the challenge of finding legal document. The only way was to either go to a legal professional, or more commonly, to go online and search for legal docs. However most of them are from overseas and takes at least 5 hours to alter and edit for local use. It’s a pain point that takes time away from product and business development.

So why not have legal documents localised for Singapore? We’re working on Singapore but eventually aiming for a larger regional market. For example, people can come in and get an NDA in under a minute suitable for legal conditions locally – which is much faster than downloading and altering from the Internet.

What’s the business model of LawCanvas?

Daniel: Currently, we’re providing leads to law firms that partner us. We’re also looking to introduce premium features for document-building software at a later point, as our business develops.

How did you and your co-founder meet?

Daniel: We actually met through Startup Jobs Asia. We met up, had coffees, found that our professional interests converged and it developed from there.

From an HR perspective, how valuable is LawCanvas to firms?

Daniel: From an employment perspective, many startups companies tend to be a bit skimpy. We aim to provide a more comprehensive experience and simple, intuitive tools for creating and editing employment letters. On our app, we have full-time, part-time and internship employment letters, as well as founder’s agreement.

Basic terms of service and a privacy policy for simple websites are also presentthere will be other variants and templates introduced later on. These will focus more on service and privacy.

See: OpenRecruiters: A Transparent & Open Recruiting Portal

Why should startups use Lawcanvas?

Mark & Daniel:They should use LawCanvas, because the only options are going to a lawyer or cutting and pasting from some document that follows the US format, which you’ll then have to edit anyway. Our main value proposition is in saving startups both the time and hassle, allowing you to focus on your core activities (i.e. building the business for your startups). There are better things to worry about like validating your product and building your business (e.g. customer acquisition).

We explain all the legal terms (i.e. jargon) in plain English that laypeople can understand. Legalese can be very intimidating and we help to simplify the process and make everyone’s life simpler. We’re approaching it from a founder’s perspective, in terms of navigating and negotiating the difficulties that founder’s face.

Kristin: It saves a lot of time and effort, and is easy to use

Why should law firms use your services?

Mark & Daniel: Law firms are not our main market right now, especially in terms of our document-building software. However, we are open to considering building tools useful to them. Our current focus is currently on startups and small businesses but we will eventually look at identifying the needs of lawyers. We have relationships with law firms but no products built to serve them yet.

Law firms should use our service, in terms of developing targeted leads, because we generate business for them. Some of the firms we work for have closed deals through the leads we generated with LawCanvas.

What’s been the greatest commercial challenge in developing LawCanvas?

Mark: Getting the document templates and working with Singapore-qualified lawyers to create documents on database. It’s been a challenge in terms of crafting them in a way that fits our desired UX (user experience). we’ve had to reframe our perspective in how we approach legal documents throughout the product development phase.

What’s been the greatest technical challenge?

Mark: It was deciding what NOT to implement. A lot of people like to throw everything into the soup, so we were listening to customers and choosing to only provide the solutions to specific pain points. Deciding WHAT to build takes more time than actually coding it. In essence, minimalism is the key approach to adopt.

How do you see yourselves going from here?

Mark: We want to help startup ecosystems throughout the region, by enabling startup ventures in various markets to access legal documents easily. It’s all about content. Regardless of the legal system in each country(civil law or common law), it’s all about content and uploading it into our system. What we’re building is a system to allow for the creation of documents in a localised context.

Any thoughts on working in a Singapore startup?

Kristin:It’s very interesting, because you learn a lot everyday. It’s a dynamic experience and you meet a lot of different people. The startup scene is surprisingly broad, so you get to know a lot of different startups around here. I believe I’m getting the ultimate learning experience in entrepreneurship

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