What do Venture Capitalists Want? Getting Under The Skin of Asia’s Most Influential VCs

September 5, 2016

Currently hovering at around a total of 51 deals totaling $255 Million, Southeast Asian investment activity has halved from its peak in the fourth quarter of 2015. This slowdown in deals is reflective of the attitude of investors. Brexit and the U.S. Presidential elections throw serious doubt about what the future economy might look like.  As a result, investors are now more cautious, becoming more selective and focused on the core fundamentals.

Eduardo Saverin

Co-Founder at Facebook. Angel Investor.
Discussion at Tech in Asia, Startup Asia Singapore (Apr, 2016)


So, what is the magic formula?

Is it a formula that checks all the right boxes? Or some sort of ‘Founder’s DNA’ as Sequoia Capital calls it?

Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital

Managing Director at Sequoia Capital
– Interview with Tech In Asia (Apr, 2016)


1) Walk the talk

There is still VC funding out there for your company. But what does it take for you to be funded?

Khailee Ng of 500 Startups

Managing Partner at 500 Startups
– Keynote at Tech In Asia, Startup Asia Singapore (May, 2014)


With the need for high returns, investors need to be reassured that you and your team have got what it takes to walk the talk.


As such, Golden Gate Ventures focuses on the tangibles in the first meeting:

Jeffrey Paine of Golden Gate Ventures

Managing Partner at Golden Gate Ventures. Director at The Founder Institute.
Interview with Tech In Asia (Sep, 2015)


Ideas are cheap; execution is everything,” made famous by Shark Tank investor, Chris Sacca; echoes the sentiment of many Asian investors, more so with the economic uncertainty. Beyond the intricacies within the pitch, more so than ever, VCs are looking for the brains and hands behind the plan. Laura Sachar, Founder and General Partner of StarVest Partners once said at Business Insider’s Startup 2012 conference, “A lot of people have ideas. If you can’t execute, you don’t have a company.”


Releasing your product on beta?

Be sure to pre-warn your fans and customers about possible risks associated with pre-release software, and protect yourself from the consequences of problems with your product.

Use a Pre-release Software Terms of Use document.


2) A focused leader

With the right ideas and team in place, teams need a leader to align them towards a focused direction. Much can be said about unfocused startups in their rush to do everything and be everything.

Leslie Loh of Red Dot Ventures

Managing Partner at Red Dot Ventures. Founder & CEO at Lithan.
– Ebook on Asia’s Entrepreneurs (2013)


Jeffrey Paine of Golden Gate Ventures

Managing Partner at Golden Gate Ventures. Director at The Founder Institute.
Interview with Tech In Asia (Sep, 2015)


So you have established grounds for a Term Sheet, what is stopping your beloved VC from committing? After months of courtship (due diligence, background checks, etc.), popping the question might be more about you and your team dynamics and less about your business.

Jeffrey Paine of Golden Gate Ventures

Managing Partner at Golden Gate Ventures. Director at The Founder Institute.
Interview from High Net Worth with Yong Hui Yow (Nov, 2015)


VCs want to help you maximise your potential with their own experience and network. Closing up to their help and advice is a sure fire way to make any future discussion go the way of the dodo.

Do your past failures contribute to their decision? Perhaps, to a certain extent. Voicing the opinions of several investors, Vinnie believes that any experience of the team working together is a plus point. VCs also like to see track record of experiences showing that the team can work together for the long haul. The cemetery of failed startups is littered with deaths due to frigid team dynamics.

Vinnie Lauria of Golden Gate Ventures

Managing Partner, Golden Gate Ventures.
Podcast from Analyse Asia with Bernard Leong (Jan, 2015)


3) On scaling

Tan Yinglan of Sequoia Capital

Venture Partner at Sequoia Capital. CEO at Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore.
Panel discussion at Tech In Asia, Startup Asia Singapore (Apr, 2016)


Lastly, as most investors covered here have their sights set on Asia. It will be fair to cover their thoughts on local and regional expansion.  Not straying far from points made about focus; Vinnie stressed on the importance of localising.

Vinnie Lauria of Golden Gate Ventures

Managing Partner at Golden Gate Ventures.
Podcast from Analyse Asia with Bernard Leong (Jan, 2015)


Willson Cuaca of East Ventures

Co-Founder & Managing Partner at East Ventures. CEO at Apps Foundry.
Interview with Tech In Asia (Sep, 2015)


 Fundraising? Do you know what legal documents you will need?

Find out by taking our free Legal Health Check:

In a nutshell…

  • Though VC funding is slowing down, VCs are still investing
  • Believe in yourself, your company and the mission
  • Ideas are one aplenty, but its value will only be realised through execution. Hence, create your minimum viable product before starting talks with VCs
  • There needs to be a distinct leader with a razor-sharp focus to maximise the startup’s scarce resource
  • Scale in accordance with local needs


Read more:

Download free eBook: Early Stage Funding

This article was written by Dragon Law’s Audrey Aug, and was first published on tech publication e27.

5 Ways Outsourcing Can Help to Grow Your Business

August 30, 2016

As the wise advisor would say, “Focus on your core competencies and outsource the rest.” 

Most individuals embark on the path of entrepreneurship in pursuit of the freedom to work autonomously and be their own leader. However, they soon reach a point where business growth stagnates; unless they open the door to bring in external help.

When you engage a business consultancy, they lend skilled, learned, and experienced consultants to you. You stand to benefit from the rich experience and specialist knowledge that these consultants bring to the table.

Outsourcing selected business functions is not at all uncommon in today’s relationship-driven business world. Businesses of all sizes around the world function this way and stand to benefit from outsourcing in the following ways:

1) Consultants give you an independent opinion

It is very likely that that a specialist consultant will have had related experience with companies that are similar to yours. They get to tap into their experience and offer a wider perspective on the problems at hand. Because they are embedded into the industry in which they consult, they are well-informed of the latest developments and will use and apply this knowledge to help your business. Most importantly, external consultants are unconsumed by your organisation’s day-to-day politics, culture, resistance to change, and hierarchies. As a result, outsourced consultants can provide opinions and suggestions to underlying issues in your organisation, without having to worry about potential repercussions.

Tapping on the expertise of local or regional-level consultants make even more sense for young startups that are venturing into a new territory. Often, new businesses neglect to consider the implications of certain regulatory, political, cultural sensitivities; hence it is best that you rely on the advice of an experienced consultant.

For instance, business laws in Dubai can be very different to that of your home country. In this case you should definitely rely on an experienced consultant who can advise you on the applicable governing laws, or recommend you to a reliable lawyer in Dubai.

2) Consultants can lend an extra pair of hands at the eleventh hour

Remember the last time you encountered a problem that required an urgent fix, but did not have the ability to allocate the required manpower at the last-minute? In the event where all hands in your office are tied, having an extra pair of hands from a consultant can be especially handy!

Because a consultant’s work is largely project-based, they are used to jumping in with little notice and can usually adapt very quickly. Most importantly, they can be mobilised just when you need them (not forgetting that you will only pay for what you need!).

3) Consultants have access to a wider network and can connect you to cheaper resources

Consulting companies usually amass a great network of service partners who perform services that are complementary to their own. This means that your consultant can act as a reliable middleman when helping you to procure and manage other subcontractors. Not only will this give you more time to focus on your core business, you might even be entitled to preferential rates as a result of their pre-existing relationships in the ecosystem!


Are you a Consultant? Learn:

Clauses to look out for in a Subcontracting Agreement

4) Consultants can do your ‘dirty’ work

Companies re-strategise and change directions all the time. This inevitably results in restructuring and, unfortunately, the job losses for some. We all know it’s nothing personal, yet no one fancies doing the ‘dirty’ work of breaking the news.

You may want to consider bringing on-board external vendors to help manage and execute a corporate restructure. This keeps decisions fair and unbiased. You will also want your employees, regardless if they were ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’, to appreciate the transparency. Some consultants will additionally offer outplacement and coaching services to ease the job loss transition for your employees.

5) Consultants can help you make the most out of your efforts

How often do you take a step back and take the time to review and report on your business activities?

No, we don’t just mean financial reporting; but rather, the return on investment (ROI) on measurable results v.s. time spent. Take for example if you’re in the role of Marketing and Business Development: You spend most of your time putting together events for your company – securing venue partners, sponsors, speakers, preparing collateral, garnering attendees… but do you know how much return you get from each event that you host?

What if I told you it would’ve been more effective to market your business online instead? But you wouldn’t know that, because you’ve been too buried in the daily grind to find the time to measure the effectiveness of your efforts, as well as test alternative strategies.

This is where an external consultant can come in. You can keep doing what you do to keep the business on track; but allow a consultant to analyse your processes, results, and suggest room for improvement.

Are you too busy to improve?

Image source: LinkedIn


Related reading: Essential legal documents when working with Advisors


Many companies share the common misconception that consulting services are a waste of money, or an unnecessary luxury. The truth is in fact quite the opposite: Minimal investment in consulting services can go a long way in helping your business grow, the trick however is selecting the right provider and ensure that expectations are aligned right from the outset.

To ensure you reap the most benefits out of a consulting service, be sure to set out the terms and conditions right from the beginning using a Consultancy Agreement.

Read more:

Clauses to look out for in a Consultancy Agreement

Photo credits: Shutterstock

About the Author

Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and places. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of enthusiastic audiences. She expertly analyses real estates and restaurants with respect to pricing and people involved, and can express her opinions in an unhesitant, engaging manner for all matters; including legal matters about law firms in Dubai like AlHanaee.

Editing by Dragon Law.

How To Select a Payroll Software That Is Right For You

August 23, 2016

This is a guest contribution by Sebastian Kang, Co-Founder of Talenox, and was originally published in October 2015 on the Talenox blogEdited in August 2016 by Dragon Law.


I’ve had the privilege of taking many business professionals through their payroll process. From entrepreneurs to small business owners, HR Administrators with no prior experience, to Financial Controllers of multinationals, and even third-party Consultants with a portfolio of clients – many of them struggle with the administrative requirements of updating, issuing, and archiving paychecks.

Naturally, as the size of your workforce grows, so do the complexities surrounding headcount, pay components, payment frequencies, and statutory requirements.

Good payroll software help to eliminate these, all while minimising human error.

So, what factors should you be considering when evaluating if a particular payroll software is right for you?

Because payroll calculation is directly impacted by the employment laws that govern a particular country, it is important that your payroll software is programmed with formulae that are localised for your country of business operations.

Hong Kong has the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) and if we dig deeper into Singapore for example, the following are some must-know acronyms for payroll calculation:

  1. CPF – Central Provident Fund
  2. SDL – Skill Development Levy
  3. FWL – Foreign Worker Levy

Types of donation funds:

  1. CDAC – Chinese Development Assistance Council Fund
  2. ECF – Eurasian Community Fund
  3. MBMF – Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund
  4. SINDA – Singapore Indian Development Association Fund

Image credit: Piece Together

The Ministry of Manpower of Singapore (MOM) provides the following formulae for salary calculation:

Source: MOM Singapore

In other words…

Your payroll software must be good at math!

A good payroll software should get all of the following covered so you never have to worry about them:

1. Proration of salary – for incomplete months of work (typically for new hires or departures). Common practice is to use work days in a month for calculation.

2. Salary payment in arrears – if payment is mutually agreed to be carried over to the following month, any CPF contribution due (including SDL and donation funds) should still be calculated for the first month of work.

3. Frequency of payment – weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, monthly. Monthly pay is by far the most common practice in Singapore. Weekly or bi-monthly payment schedules are practised by businesses with a significant number of part-time employees with a preference for more frequent pay disbursement.

Both options are not commonly supported by payroll software due to CPF considerations (contribution amount is determined by a full calendar month’s salary). One solution is to apportion 20% of the payment for CPF to be reconciled with the last payment of the month.

4. Rate of pay – hourly/daily-rated with varying rates based on the day of the week or rest days and public holidays. Again this isn’t a common feature but a good system should allow for any combination of rate of pay.

Does your Employment Contract specify the rate of pay?

With effect from 1 April 2016, all Employment Contracts for Singapore are to include these Key Employment Terms:

Start drafting Employment Contract with Key Employment Terms

5. Additional payments & deductions – e.g. reimbursement, allowance, bonus, commission, overtime, leave encashment, loan, and unpaid leave etc. Apart from capturing these pay items, it is crucial to determine if they contribute to CPF (as ordinary or additional wage) and tax calculations. Most software typically tag common items accordingly, while some utilise an open-ended feature for users to determine the appropriate contribution.

6. Statutory contributions (CPF, SDL, FWL, Donation funds) – Aside from the contribution situations highlighted above, treatment of decimal places needs to be applied correctly. Steps to compute CPF contribution:

  • Compute the total CPF contribution (rounded to the nearest dollar)
  • An amount of 50 cents should be regarded as an additional dollar
  • Compute the employee’s share of CPF contribution (cents should be dropped)
  • Employer’s share = Total contribution – Employee’s share
  • Employers can pay SDL together with their employees’ CPF contributions
  • For SDL, cents should be ignored only when you arrive at the total SDL Payable

Besides being a mathematics genius, look out for the following features in your payroll software:

1. Mass data upload. This feature serves as an absolute time-saver if you have many entries that would otherwise require individual data-entry. The challenge lies in how well the data is sorted within the software. A smart process should require minimal data massaging, with the option for user-defined formatting and naming conventions.

2. Job grades. Having well-defined job grades is good for career progression mapping and helps to match employees to pre-defined compensation packages, especially in a sizeable workforce.

3. Reports – can’t live without them! The bare minimum is a summary of all payroll items with sum totals. Building up on this, the variation in style becomes quite extensive. In my opinion, the report view should rely on design (colour, layout, alerts) to facilitate checking without having to switch between reports/views (unless each report serves a unique validation purpose).

4. Payslip. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) intends to mandate the issuance of itemised payslips by 2016, in hard and/or soft copies. Most software should already support individual access to view the payslip online or forwarding of payslips via email.

5. Integration. The must-haves: CPF, IRAS, Bank – online submission compatible. The good-to-haves: Integrated with the rest of your accounting, leave and attendance tracking, and expense management software. Everybody loves an all-in-one software!

Source: Architecture Design

Architecture & Design

1. On the cloud. More users are adopting cloud software over on-premise installation. The advantage is data mobility and little hassle in the event of version updates. This means that you can count on your software provider to keep up-to-date with the latest statutory changes, leaving you more time to focus on your business. With regulated data protection laws, any fuss over data security on cloud database is quickly fading.

2. Speed. I’ve come across software where processing speed is affected by the total headcount captured. In one instance it slowed down by 1 second per record! Modern software using newer technology stacks can process thousands of records within seconds. Not a big deal overall, more FYI in case you assume the software is prone to hanging.

3. Simple. Software with comprehensive computation logic coupled with enough user functions – should be excellent right? Yes, functionally. But how simple is it to master? Simple enough that you can ignore the user manual and skip the training session? It’s really worth considering. Intuitive product design speeds up learning, especially for the inexperienced user.

Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple.

– Edward de Bono

Try simple-to-use, legal software in the cloud.

Start Dragon Law free trial
No minimum commitment, no credit card required.

Talenox (pronounced “Talen – nox”) is a cloud-based HR software for SMEs. It’s the quickest way to manage payroll and leave, and store precious employee details – do it all from one central dashboard. Talenox is fully-integrated with Xero’s accounting software for small businesses, and is always updated with country-specific employment regulations. Say hi to them at hello@talenox.com!

5 Ways to Incentivise Employees Without Burning a Hole In Your Pocket

August 16, 2016

Small and medium-sized businesses are pitted against the likes of large multinationals in the battle for talent on a daily basis. Indeed, from salary budgets to fancy offices, it appears small businesses are on the losing end when it comes to attracting top talent.

That’s not to say small businesses should concede defeat!

According to the World’s Most Attractive Employers report for 2016 by Universum, today’s employees look beyond salary and monetary benefits when it comes to deciding if a particular job is aligned with his/her career goals and work style:

Source: World’s Most Attractive Employers, Universum (2016)

This means that there are opportunities for small businesses to be creative with offering employee benefits, without having to burn a huge hole in the balance sheet. The following are some popular ways:

1) Offer Employees Share Options

Your earliest team members take on a huge risk when they decide to work for you – they might have given up on alternative job opportunities and/or taken a significant pay cut, and joined your company at a stage where there was perhaps no traction, revenue, or in some cases, a validated product. Most of them do so in exchange for a share in your entrepreneurial dream, and it is not uncommon for founders to reward employees with shares by way of Options.

Employees are often offered this “sweat equity” in the form of an Option to Purchase Shares. First, you will need to put an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) in place (also known as a Share Option Plan). The ESOP sets out qualifying criteria for employees to receive the option, which is comparable to a bonus scheme, when they can “exercise” the option, and what happens if they leave their employment.

With the ESOP in place, you can then have a discretion to give your employees to an Option to Purchase Shares in your company at a set price with an expiry date of, say, 1 October 2017. This means that, at any time before 1 October 2017, the employee can pay the company the offered price and require that the company issue him shares. In other words, the employee effectively buys the shares at a discount, making the Option to Purchase Shares akin to a bonus.

Read more:
Key clauses to watch out for in your ESOP

2) Be better than minimum requirements under the Employment Act

Most employment laws mandate that employers must provide the following types of leave to eligible employees:

  • Adoption leave
  • Annual leave
  • Childcare leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Shared parental leave
  • Sick leave
  • Unpaid infant care leave

As employers, you have the option of offering employment terms and conditions that are more favourable (but not less) towards employees. This means that on top of the minimum for the mandatory leave options listed above, you can additionally offer employees extended breaks, or even birthday leave, marriage leave, and compassionate leave.

All of these should be clearly set out in an Employment Contract or Employee Handbook.

Related reading: Amendments to Employment Act effective 1 April 2016 requires KETs to be set out in Employment Contracts

3) Allow flexible work schedules

Do you require that employees report to work at 9:00am every morning? Do you then just have a team of clock watchers who leave the office at 6:00pm sharp everyday?

Remember this:

Productivity = Output
Output ≠ Time spent

At Dragon Law, we are made up of a diverse team of students, millennials, moms, dads, and travellers… we understand that sometimes you just need to take an afternoon or two off to attend a night class, pick up the kids, go to the bank… and we trust them to do so because we measure productivity by level of output and not by the amount of time spent in the office.

Trust your employee to work from home and he/she may even be able to do more without all the unnecessary distractions from those who pretend to be busy in the office!

If you are sold to the idea of flexible work hours, but are put off by the additional administrative hassle, consider using cloud tools such as Deputy or Zeus that can help you schedule and track employee time and attendance, and improve workplace communication.

Plan your workforce budgets, create employee schedules and notify staff in just one single click with Deputy.

There are even organisations such as the Remote Year that organise year-long remote working programmes and encourage both startups and Fortune 500 companies to get on board with the remote-working philosophy.

Michael Katz said in a memo to his former employees at Interclick before it was acquired by Yahoo, “Treat adults like adults and they will behave like adults. Rules are for children.” Do you trust your employees to have flexible work hours?

4) Beyond work, remember to have fun as a team!

Small businesses have the advantage of being, as the name suggests… small. This is actually the best time to organise team building activities – consider that it will not be long before it becomes too expensive or too much of a logistical nightmare to go on a company trip!

If setting aside a budget for overseas travel is still going to be a problem, consider local providers such as the Mega Adventure. It is not all fun and games; their team building programmes are led by experienced facilitators and promise tangible results:

  • Improved team cohesiveness
  • Heightened leadership skills
  • Developed problem solving ability
  • Enhanced creative thinking
  • Encourage intelligent risk taking

Source: Mega Adventure (see programmes)

5) Consider flexible benefit schemes

Traditional employee benefit schemes provide the usual mix of health insurance packages, like coverage for medical and dental expenses for example. The problem with a “blanket” coverage is that it could be great for some but not for others. Budget spent on unutilised coverage is as good as money gone down the drain. For instance, some employees may already have their own insurance coverage, or are covered under a spouse’s plan, and rather have gym membership as a benefit instead. Companies know this, but find flexible benefit plans too difficult to implement, and hence concede that they can’t please everyone.

Companies like ConneXionsAsia (CXA) have identified this problem and offer a solution that “allows employees to shift their unused insurance dollars to prevention, while helping employers to cap their premium inflation”. With CXA, employees can convert unutilised insurance dollars into “benefit dollars” that can be used to redeem other discounted health, insurance, and wellness services from CXA’s online marketplace, or other company-approved flexible benefits. Additionally, CXA partners with an ecosystem of insurers and a number of high-quality wellness vendors including fitness studios, medical practitioners, health screening organisations and disease prevention associations.

Talent today have plenty of options – similar to how you are learning to adopt a customer-first approach in your sales and marketing efforts; the same employee-first mindset should be adopted when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent for your company.


Start drafting:
Legal documents for rewarding staff


What other perks do you offer in your company that your employees absolutely love?

Tell us in the comments below!

Essential Legal Considerations for Online Marketplaces

August 9, 2016

Are you an “online marketplace”? Online marketplaces are all the rage lately, with every startup aiming to be the next unicorn.

Online marketplaces serve as a platform for the buying and selling of a third-party vendor’s goods. In other words, online marketplaces merely facilitate transactions and, most of the time, do not own any goods or services themselves. This means that legal considerations for online marketplaces can differ from that of a regular business.

There are a few fundamental issues you must consider for your online marketplace: (more…)