Lessons of a CEO #5

October 24, 2016

Screen Time.

My first in-transit-blog post. I’m writing it at 37,000 ft and I’m about 7 inches from my laptop. It’s Saturday evening and I’m sitting in row 28 of a busy Air Asia flight returning from a KL business trip. The lady in front is getting some economy shut eye. This has the effect of pushing the food tray so close to my stomach that to type I am forced to threaten the occupants of 28F and 28D with my tightly-wound elbows at every stroke of the keyboard. Timely then for a post on how much time is the right amount of time to spend on work? When should we stop? When are we working too much? And when does it all cease to be any more productive?

I know I work too much. My grandfather, 99 this year, a spectacular doctor but workaholic who comes from a generation when hard work wasn’t discussed (it just was). Took less than a minute of listening to my excited tales of startupdom to ask the only question that mattered to him. Was I helping my family enough with the things that matter to them? Absolutely yes was my answer. Probably not, was the truth.

My Week

As wake up calls come in all forms, it reminded me to always listen to people older than myself. They are without exception wiser than I. I wanted to know, how much am I working; and whilst I haven’t kept a work diary to be particularly scientific about this – to give a quick assessment of my working week, I’ve had a look at my calendar for last month, which was by most perspectives relatively ordinary.

My diary had 164 hours of scheduled meetings, which is give or take, about 37 hours a week. So that’s the starting point. I’m normally either in the office or ‘at work’ in some capacity from 8.30-7ish so an extra 13 or so hours that are me doing my job. A relatively healthy for this day and age – 50 hours a week.

But then comes the extras.

Travel – I usually fly a few times a month and I try to do that outside of office hours wherever possible. I’m going to add on 5 hours per week for that. It’s probably much more but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Networking – I don’t network as hard as the very hardcore at Dragon Law (who often go out 4 times a week – good grief, their stamina is incredible – kudos to you Karen and the team) but I usually will do two functions of some sort a week, so that’s another 5 hours per week.

Calls – The “Can we talk” calls. An average of one a night. That’s what I’m here for (isn’t it? – I think so, see my post on loving your team). These calls are usually about “Survive” issues either with my founding team (mainly our CTO who is frequently worried about life, the universe and the state of the US electorate), investors, or board calls will add one hour per evening. So let’s put down another 5 for that.

Weekend work – Work that can only be done at the weekends when it’s all a bit quieter. Writing my blog. Reading up on trends. Learning and improving. Not really work you might say but it’s not leisure so let’s add another 5 hours anyway!

Jees Louise – are we at 70 already? Well best keep going because the next one is the biggie.

Monitoring – what on earth could that be?! This my friends is the impact of screens on our free time. Almost incalculable in its impact on your working week. This is most likely the least productive work you do and is absolutely the most destructive of your leisure and family time. I’m calling it monitoring because it covers a multitude of work-now-routinely-invades-family time sins, made possible by the advent of our always-on world.

For me personally, this ranges from checking sales dashboards, client happiness levels; and projects, through to sending emails and whatsapps out of hours that become conversations at midnight. A culture has developed in our world, that there absolutely is no time now considered too late to send a hangout/whatsapp/line/wechat/imessage/Skype Chat/SMS/any other message that we know will beep on someone’s phone, and if I wake at 4am, well no harm in replying some more right? It is after all daylight somewhere.


How much time does this amazing infiltration of technology add on to our business day at Dragon Law? I don’t want to admit. I recently read a study that the average smartphone user picks up her phone 2,617 times a day. How far is yours from you right now? In your hand? Plugged into your laptop, charging because you’ve nearly run out of battery at 11am? In another room? Shame on you – run and get it now, it has probably beeped. Could be important.

Was it? No. Oh well at least you have it now.

Because we know this and because we monitor our phones and devices continuously, it has blurred our perception of when we can make demands on our colleagues, finish off discussions that should wait for the office, or sell to customers. Today we so often do business in the same mediums and with the same tools that we organise our personal lives and our personal relationships that it is increasingly impossible to separate the one from the other. But we must, because this isn’t going away. Ten years ago Facebook was a place we posted drunk photos of ourselves. Today you are painfully aware it is your future boss’ first stop on a journey of information you have readily provided. Five years ago we worried about the flashing blackberry, but a blackberry could always be lost at the weekend. Today it is our phones and our laptops and our decisions that control when we start and if we stop our working week. Only we can decide if enough is ever enough.

Daniel Walker

Read the series:
Lessons of a CEO #4: Sit down next to me
Lessons of a CEO #3: A Brief History of Thyme
Lessons of a CEO #2: Fashion Foreword
Lessons of a CEO #1: Lessons I’ve learned

Is Cyber Security About To Get An AI Takeover?

October 20, 2016

With cyber hacks up 300% since 2012, and costing the economy roughly $27bn a year, it comes as little surprise that the cyber security industry is fast becoming a highly-competitive space.


Cylance is a startup founded in 2012 by Stuart McLure, the former global CTO for McAfee. Their innovative approach to cyber security involves the use of Artificial Intelligence to identify malicious intruders, and prevent them from getting in and joining the party.

Think: Bodyguard on the door of a prestigious club in London!

Other players in the cyber security space, Crowdstrike for example, focus on targeting the intruders once they have already broken in – akin to having a security guard who patrols in the club, constantly scanning the room for trouble.

The name of Cylance’s artificial intelligence defence system in disguise is: “System and method for internet security”. The description for US8578487 is as follows:

“A computer implemented method performed by one or more processors for preventing SQL injection attacks”.

It appears the disguise is a deliberate move by companies to fly under the radar and confuse competitors. The patent is dated November 5, 2013. The graph below illustrates Cylance’s rapid rate of innovation since it was founded:

Cylance filed as many as 18 patents between the years 2012 and 2015, indicating an innovative initiative within the business. Towards the end of 2012, a patent was granted before it was even applied for. As it turned out, Derek Soeder, Cylance’s Head of Research & Development, had applied for the patent in 2010, even before the company was founded.

Becoming an Unicorn

These are two very different (and successful) approaches to cyber security. Both companies have just completed their Series D funding, each totalling over $100 million and are part of the elitist ‘Unicorn Club’ (for startups valued at over $1 billion). Here’s a plot twist: Stuart McClure, and George Kurtz, CEO of Crowdstrike, were former partners and the best of friends.

Their joint venture, Foundstone, was acquired by McAfee in 2004 for $84m. This crowned both Stuart and George as Global CTOs for McAfee. However, in hot pursuit of a larger slice of the bulging $22bn dollar cyber security industry, combined with a differing of opinions, the two friends parted ways in 2012, and so came the birth of Cylance and Crowdstrike.

The difference in their characters filters all the way through their companies with one focusing on prevention rather than detection and visa versa. They do share one cohesion however – IP Strategy. In a world where software has historically been lightly patented, Stuart and George have ensured the fruits of their labour are well protected – a practice probably picked up from their time at the heavily patented McAfee. Protecting their innovation is undeniably a great step up the ladder but now there is the possibility to extract insight from the IP landscape that will enable them to stay ahead of the curve.

The radar map below, an excerpt from PatSnap Insights, shows each company’s technological trajectory. It is clear that their strategies are completely different, with the only shared strategic interest in ‘Market-Driven R&D’.

AI is another highly-competitive industry, and also one that is highly-patented. There is a wealth of data to unlock within this space through Intellectual Property – millions of patents to reverse engineer, thousands of licensing opportunities, hundreds of companies to form partnerships with and one market trend to stay bang on top of. Essentially, you’re given the homework of the smartest kid in class to use, and improve upon with minimal effort on your part. So why aren’t all companies using the information available to them through IP data?

Earlier this month, PatSnap held an online webinar with Donal O’Connell from Chawton Innovation Services as guest speaker. He spoke about risks associated with Intellectual Property and focused specifically on the importance for companies to be proactive rather than reactive.

After all, why would you choose to act after the horse has already bolted, when you had the choice all along to keep that horse stabled?

This a guest contribution submitted by patent analytics platform, PatSnap. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view! Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

Contact claire@patsnap.com to better understand the benefits and insights you can derive from patent landscaping.


The 6 Things You Are Getting Wrong About Legal

Whether you are just starting out or have been running an established business, managing legal is a core part of it. Yet business owners often struggle to understand local legal requirements, the different legal options, and hence fail to implement prudent legal precautions that are necessary for protecting their business.

But worry not – we are just about to debunk the 6 most common misconceptions that business owners have about the law and legal services – read on:

Misconception #1: In order for a contract to be “legally-binding”, it must be drafted by a law firm

The Oxford dictionary defines contract as:

A written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law. 

Yet, many continue to have the wrong idea that contracts prepared by lawyers are more “official” and hence more “legally-binding” – this is wrong because all it takes is a written or spoken agreement to form a contractual relationship.

Surely we are not advocating that you enter into verbal agreements or draft your own contracts based on templates you find online – often times you don’t know what you don’t know and hence it is important that a professional will ask you the right questions. 

Did you know that Dragon Law’s Document Builder has digitised this Q&A process, so you are prompted all the necessary legal considerations, get to draft your own contracts in a guided fashion, AND save time and money?

Try our Document Builder for free

Related reading: By the time you have to look for a lawyer, it’s probably already too late

Misconception #2: E-signatures are not recognised by law

With the advent of technology and the Internet, most communications and business transactions have moved online. Even if you are a locally-incorporated business with an office in one country, it is not uncommon that you collaborate with business partners around the world. Naturally, most communication and business negotiations take place online. Yet when it comes to signing business contracts, many business owners adopt the traditionalist view that only signatures where pen hits paper are considered valid signatures.

Did you know that e-signatures are recognised in many countries, including Hong Kong and Singapore?    Tweet this

In as early as 1998, Singapore became one of the first countries to allow the signing of documents online. This is now enforced by the Electronic Transactions Act 2010. Hong Kong soon followed and e-signing is now governed by the Electronics Transaction Ordinance (Cap 553). Both legislations bring local laws on electronic transactions in line with the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, adopted in November 2005.

E-sign, or invite others to e-sign with Dragon Law. Sign up for a no-commitment free trial here.

So, the next time you want to book a 12-hour flight to meet your business partner just to get a contract signed, think again. Having your contract signed online can save you both time and money, and allow you to manage legal more efficiently.

Learn how you can enjoy the benefits of electronic signatures:

Download free eBook: E-signatures

Misconception #3: You can only sign contracts that are based in your country

Another question that business owners often ask is: Can I sign a contract that is governed by the laws of another country? If I do so, which country’s laws are applicable to me?

International trade and business has been going on for centuries. It is common for business partners to hail from every corner of the world. Naturally, parties sign contracts under the laws of another country.

The fact that a contract is being signed in another jurisdiction where you might have no presence whatsoever is not a barrier to the validity of the contract. Rather, you should ensure you include a clause indicating which country’s laws govern the execution of the contract.

This is important as regulatory differences cross-country may influence the outcome of disputes. Factors to consider when choosing an applicable governing law include availability the of preferred dispute resolution mechanism.

Misconception #4: You only need to set up your legal agreements once

Some business owners think legal is a one-time  worry – once they get the fundamentals right when starting out, they’ll never have to think about legal again. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

It is true that you must put inn place basic legal documents when incorporating your business, such as a Founders’ Agreement or Shareholders’ Agreement (if your business is incorporated as a company). These set out the key expectations and ensures that everyone – including the founders, partners and investors – are one the same page.

But it doesn’t stop here!

If you have a website, you will need a Website Privacy Policy and a Website Terms of Use. These are minimum legal requirements even if your website doesn’t sell goods or services, as they set out the ways in which your business will manage a user’s personal data and defines the legal relationship between you and your website users respectively. If you are in eCommerce business or running an online marketplace, you will further need well-drafted contracts that help to manage expectations of your service, as well as limit third-party liabilities.

Even if you are not, there is a host of other scenarios under which you will think How can I best draft my legal documents to protect my business? Think: Raising capital, issuing and transferring shares, securing your intellectual property (IP) rights, hiring staff, working with freelancers… you get the drill.

Before you are overwhelmed by the thought of managing legal for your business, pause and think about this: The law exists to protect business entities and manage business relationships between individuals, so use it to your advantage.

Draft payment terms that will help you optimise your cash flow and stay out of debt. Offer your employees share options to incentivise and reward them for the work they have put in.

Dealing with the law makes business owners nervous, but it does not have to be this way. Think of managing legal as an ongoing process that is core to your business. Pay consistent attention to your legal needs and you will be able to secure your business interests and build a sustainable enterprise.

If you’re not sure where to start, take our FREE Legal Health Check to find out how you can better protect your business.

Misconception #5: Lawyers are the only solution to legal issues

Many business owners turn down legal help because they generally assume it will come at a high-cost. The reality is that not every legal issue requires the attention of a lawyer. Just as other industries have been disrupted with new technologies, legal is no exception.

According to a BCG report, there are three broad categories of technology solutions that have been developing in the legal industry: 1) Enablers, 2) Support-process solutions, and 3) Substantive law solutions.

Source: How Legal Technology Will Change the Business of Law (BCG)

Enabler technologies such as cloud storage tools and cyber security solutions focus on facilitating digitisation of processes.

Support-process solutions allow processes ranging from customer relationship management to accounting to be managed more efficiently.

The third category of substantive law solutions involves the automation of simple or repetitive legal tasks, such as contract drafting and contract analysis, as well as document screening.

Evidently, you don’t always need to turn to a lawyer for every kind of legal task. Existing technological tools can help make your job of managing legal easier.

Misconception #6: Online legal services & legal tech tools cannot be trusted

Surely something as important as the legal needs of your business can’t be managed online?! We hear you, and we know that your concerns are valid. The reality is that many stakeholders are turning to technological tools and online services to manage their business needs.

In fact, the world’s most established law firms are turning to technology to supplement the legal services that they provide to clients. At least 22 of the major law firms in the world have publicly acknowledged adopting artificial intelligence (AI)-driven systems, suggesting that we are moving beyond the early adoption stage into a phase of broader adoption. The fact that law firm Baker & Hostetler employed IBM’s AI Ross made headlines.

The bottom-line is this: Online legal services are not set to fully-replace the intelligent work of a lawyer; but rather complement it so that the same outcome can be achieved in a fraction of the time, cost, and complexity.

Still not convinced?

Dragon Law’s Managed Accounts let you enjoy the perks of technology, together with an expert who manages your Dragon Law account for you.

Lessons of a CEO #4

October 18, 2016

Sit down next to me

I’m very much like many (in fact most) startup CEOs in one key way. I’ve never been a CEO before and I haven’t been to CEO school [I refuse to google this as I’m sure such a place has now been invented and is mass-producing startup CEOs in suit jackets and jeans].

I did study management, though, as an undergraduate but that was back in 1995 before dot-coms had even bust the first time around and Adam Smith had not considered a world of millennials and their disruption. Back then, “HR” was a new word and even the concept that humans could be a resource of a business worth cultivating was viewed by most of us as faddish.

Fast forward twenty years and a quick search for the term “HR is dead” brings back a few hundred thousand results, with most contributors pointing to the shift to ever more people-centric titles “Chief Talent Officer” (my CTO is worried about the abbreviation..) and “Chief People Officer”.

Why do companies go to such lengths to constantly reinvent a business function that at one time we just knew as Personnel?  Well apart from the obvious, that it brings to mind working for a city council or being summoned to see a 1970’s school headmaster, it’s fundamentally because almost any successful business, and certainly all boostrapped small fast-growing businesses, has figured out that the team is kinda the most important asset you have.

And while you’re off patenting your IP, trademarking your logo and polishing your investor deck, turning a group of smart people into a team of awesome business builders is not quite so easy to map out.

So that’s gotta be the number one job of the CEO I figured – right?

Well yes (go on admit it you thought I would say no and then move to some sales-related, growth at all cost diatribe). Helping your team mates to be awesome, is of course your new number one job, since it directly translates into the success of the company. Making the team great is in the ‘best interests of the company’ for those of you interested enough to be reminded of your legal obligations as a director of a business. So you kind of have to do this…

But hang on, didn’t you post somewhere saying that I should spend all my day looking for sales tools to make my startup grow at hyperspeed? Yes, yes you should. And here comes lesson number 1 of being a CEO:

You have to do quite a few things at the same time, because EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT.    Tweet this

So what did I do when I realised my job was kinda hard and everything was a priority?

I asked for help, of course.

I asked it from my business nearest and dearest (whom I see more often than my actual nearest – see my post on the importance of family in all of this). We came up with a way of solving a number of problems at once on a regular basis, that I think is a very usable framework for any of you setting up your team and business goals.


At Dragon Law we call it S.I.T. The entire founding team of Dragon Law (nine of us!) have a S.I.T. meeting once a week (so you’ll never be able to get hold of any of us before 11am on a Monday). We have our phones turned off for anywhere between 90 minutes to 2 hours. Yes, two hours! That’s 120 minutes and we are never late (because being late to meetings is massively disrespectful to our team mates – I will for sure post on this at some future time!).

What could we possibly want to spend up to two hours a week talking about? Well the clue I’m sure you’ve worked out, is in the title.

Each of us looks at our area of focus – whether it’s tech, operations, sales, marketing, you name it – we divide our worlds up into the help we need from our team to Survive, Improve and Transform what we do.

This gives us the forcing mechanism we each need to set our problems and goals according to three horizons – the hyper short-term, and medium- and longer-term goals.

We need this forcing device, for two reasons:

  1. Startups run at a breakneck speed internally, and
  2. We challenge ourselves to achieve things in weeks that the old world of business did in years.

This accelerated learning and development cycle may cause short-sightedness in people – we don’t take the time out to reflect on our longer-term ambitions (and to review how things have performed over the medium-term), try and do everything at once, and are constantly in fire-fighting mode. That is not good for your team. It is a catastrophe in the making for your startup.

What do you have on your CEO Survive list? Let me know below – I look forward to the conversation.

Daniel Walker

4 Important Things to Note When Scaling Your Online Marketplace

October 17, 2016

Starting any business is hard and comes with many challenges, but growing is even harder. In building a marketplace, one of the most difficult tasks is to maintain the balance in supply and demand. You want to make sure you have enough buyers and sellers to keep the business running. Problems in scaling a marketplace are unavoidable, and they can take many forms. It could be an angry customer that received a wrong order, or a clash with the local government and traditional industries in operational regulations.

So, what are 4 key thoughts you need to consider when you need to scale your marketplace?

Related reading: Essential Legal Considerations for Online Marketplaces

1) Don’t expand or pivot too quickly

You want your marketplace to see signs of traction as soon as possible. That’s understandable, but you need to be patient and accept the fact that it takes time. It’s not the end of the world if you haven’t seen any significant growth after 9 to 12 months from launching. Remember that you need to create both buyer and seller communities, and that’s no small task.

Reassess and changing your market’s direction too soon or expanding too early could be harmful in the long run; the foundation needs to be solid before you can move on to the next step – otherwise it’ll crash later. It took 10 years for Etsy to aim for IPO and 7 years for Airbnb to be valued at $13 billion. The bottom line is, stick to your plan as long as you can and be patient.

2) Narrow your market focus strategically

It’s most likely that marketplaces have limited resources when starting out. With that in mind, it’s wise to not overspend your budget on targeting multiple markets. Instead, focus on building a single or few markets. You need to make sure that your business effort in smaller and vertical markets will work before you expand.

Location plays a big role too, for example; if your marketplace connects farmers with buyers and you’re reaching out to coastal cities – it won’t work well. When you’re narrowing your focus, you’ll have more time and hands to offer personalisation in your service. It can be beneficial because creating a unique experience for customers can ultimately boost trust in your branding.

3) Build trust with users

The marketplace industry relies heavily on trust and it requires a lot of effort to build it. Your marketplace needs to be trustworthy and reliable in order for people to use it. If buyers don’t trust the sellers on your marketplace platform, your business is stuck. Having efficient background checks, adequate insurance, legitimate customer rating system, testimonials – are just some things people look for when using a marketplace. Being transparent in the way you operate your marketplace is one of the easiest way to gain credibility.

Manage expectations of buyers and sellers of your online marketplace.

Use a Terms and Conditions for Online Marketplace.

It’s also crucial to deliver what you promise. If you claim to be “the cheapest and fastest delivery service” or “homestay experience better than Airbnb,” you need to prove it. Failing to do so will cause customers to think twice about trusting your brand and using your service.

4) Do something extraordinary

You’ve followed the book step-by-step in scaling, yet you’re unsatisfied with the result. Try to do something extraordinary! Deliver something unexpected and amazing to your customer. From sending coffee mugs to new customers and having groceries delivered in reusable shopping bags, to free movie tickets on birthdays, these surprises will leave a pleasant impression for customers. It varies depending on the type of marketplace, but offering special gestures in scaling your marketplace will set you apart from other competitors. Unique experience matters and this is a good reason for people to come back and to choose your marketplace.

To check all the boxes on the list of things to do in scaling a marketplace is tricky. But you can prioritise them and add more as you go. In the early stages of your marketplace development, it’s important to know that you’re constantly adapting to the needs of the people and the trend in the market. Consider different routes and don’t hesitate to look for inspiration from others, as doing so will just make it much easier for you to grow your marketplace.

In a nutshell…

This a guest contribution submitted by Kenneth Low, Co-Founder of Arcadier. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view! Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

Arcadier is a SaaS company that powers next generation marketplace ideas. Follow Arcadier on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn for news and updates.