Zing Yang along with “Venture Capital in the Legal Tech Space” panellists at TechLaw.Fest 2019
Asia Law Network’s Content Manager sits down with Zing Yang, Asia Law Network’s Chief Financial Officer and moderator for TechLaw.Fest 2019’s Venture Capital in the Legal Tech Space talk that took place on 5 September 2019 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands.
If you are a Legal Tech start-up looking for investments, look no further as Zing, who has over a decade of investment management experience spanning from private equity, public equities, venture capital and angel investments, is here to share with us her wealth of knowledge on raising venture capital for your Legal Tech start-up and the recent trends in Legal Tech!
1. Hi Zing, could you share with our readers what sparked your interest in technology?
I have an investment background and enjoy looking for new interesting opportunities with strong tailwinds and long-term trends that are just starting to play out. As we enter Industry 4.0 and the digital age, there are tremendous opportunities with advancements in various areas to come together to create exciting progress (e.g. Moore’s law with cheaper hardware driving mobile-first economy, data that can be collected and analyzed etc.) and I think that technology that can scale quickly will impact lives in a way that is faster and cheaper.
2. Why Legal Tech?
Legal Tech is an interesting space with plenty of opportunities to help legal firms digitise and use machine learning and NLP to analyse and operate better. People think that Legal Tech is a small and nascent space but if you look at Stanford CodeX list, there are more than a thousand companies targeting many problem areas and there’s even a newly minted unicorn! This helps spur and support entrepreneurship indirectly amongst startups and SMEs and improves access to legal justice for consumers, which is one of the SDG goals.
3. Who are the major stakeholders within the Legal Tech ecosystem?
The Legal Tech ecosystem consists of law firms, their clients, technology solution providers, industry associations and sometimes even governments. In Singapore, our government has been very progressive with grants and various initiatives to drive technology adoption amongst the legal community and stimulate awareness and conversations around it.
4. Which segments of the Legal Tech market has been most active?
The Legal Tech market started out only with a few segments but has recently blossomed into many categories, such as those in Stanford CodeX. In countries where Legal Tech is nascent, marketplaces tend to be the first ones to develop. In more developed ones, eDiscovery, legal research and contract due diligence is seeing a lot of startup activity. New emerging areas are in legal analytics and workflow automation.
5. What are some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the Legal Tech space?
Cloud-based solutions are where the industry is heading. Opportunities abound in AI technologies that can augment the future of lawyering to help legal firms be more productive, with analytics that can better inform their decisions. Many law firms are still slow to change given the structure of their partnership, while small practices may not be exposed to new technological tools and best practices. As we enter the digital age, the repetitive part of lawyering can be automated and it is important that lawyers focus on the critical work and quality human interactions.
6. Could you give us a brief overview of potential investment opportunities in Legal Tech?
In North America, there have been substantial investment activities and acquisitions by companies such as LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters etc. In Asia Pacific where markets are fragmented, potential investment opportunities are in more developed markets like Australia, Singapore, etc, where Enterprise Software adoption is high. We are starting to see some positive signs with VCs putting money into Legal Tech companies in Singapore. The market has grown more sophisticated and moved past marketplaces to look at specific niches, for example, LegalComet, an AI-driven Legal Tech startup with a focus on e-discovery, forensic technology and data governance was recently acquired by Rajah and Tann Technologies.
7. What is the Legal Tech VC scene like in Asia at the moment?
The Legal Tech VC scene in Asia is still very nascent compared to the US$1.7b reported by Forbes for Legal Tech globally. Most investors in Asia are still focused on business models that target consumers (B2C). Some of the investors focusing on B2B / Enterprise technology will see Legal Tech as just a small subsegment of the Enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) space. It would be interesting to see whether Legal Tech solutions can scale to serve other professional services segment and even SMEs, which are plentiful in Asia.
8. Lastly, what are three fun facts that you can share about yourself?
I sometimes introduce myself as Zing from Zingapore at overseas events and conferences! It is a fun way to break the ice and get foreign friends and business acquaintances to remember me amidst a sea of new faces.
I see life as a series of experiments and I love to learn new skills, meet new people and travel to explore new sights and cultures. The second fun fact is that I have a personal KPI of visiting at least 3 new countries each year and to date, I have been to over 100 of them!
“Every year, thousands of sea turtles migrate from the shores of the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea to lay their eggs on Oman’s beaches. Here is a photo of Zing where she travelled to see the green turtles’ nest and return to the sea at Ras Al Jinz, Turtle Reserve, Oman.”
I spend a lot of time thinking about self-improvement and the third fun fact is that I try to learn a new skill every year. In 2019, I am learning the West Coast Swing! It is a popular partner dance with roots in the Lindy Hop and it is also the Official State Dance of California, where I spent several years living in!
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