Law for startups in Malaysia — building on the best foundations

The Malaysian startup scene has noticeably increased in vibrancy in the past couple of years. Many of us have friends or relatives who are somehow involved in the startup scene — either as founders or investors.

An increasing number of people — young and not-so-young, and some lawyers too — are moving away from traditional career paths and joining the startup ecosystem.

Other than my involvement with startups and investors via my corporate law practice, I’ve recently been working together with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (“MaGIC”).

My
My “Law For Startups” workshop at MA2015.

MaGIC is funded by the Malaysian government, and you can read their mandate here. They are an exciting and ambitious group of people, and they aim to make Malaysia the startup capital of Asia.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of a couple of MaGIC initiatives so far this year:

  1. In July, MaGIC kicked off the MaGIC Accelerator Program (“MAP”), which is the biggest accelerator programme in the region. Having received over a thousand applications, 77 startups were selected to be part of MAP’s “Cohort 1”. I was asked to be one of the program mentors for these ASEAN startups during the four months that they are based in MaGIC. As part of my involvement, I’ve conducted a quick workshop on legal basics which startups need to know, and have personally advised many of the MAP startups though on-site “office hours” as well as quick consultation sessions via email and telephone.
  2. In September, MaGIC hosted their second MaGIC Academy Symposium, known as MA2015. MA2015 was a really exciting four-day programme, comprising of world-class workshops with experts from all over the world. I was one of the speakers — the only legal expert — and conducted a one-hour Law for Startups workshop on Day 3.
Close to 200 people attended my workshop at MA2015.
Close to 200 people attended my workshop at MA2015.

It’s been exciting working with MaGIC, and the energy and enthusiasm shown by the startups and the team at MaGIC can be quite infectious. It hasn’t just been a one-way interaction where I reel off basic legal knowledge; I’ve also learnt a lot from these founders.

There’s an obvious thirst (and a very welcome thirst) for legal knowledge among the startup community. I’ve received many queries on a wide range of legal issues. Close to 200 people attended my MA2015 session, and we had to cut short the Q&A to allow the next session to proceed, and I had to take even more questions outside the room.

MaGIC's Instagram post on my MA2015 session.
MaGIC’s Instagram post on my MA2015 session.

Some of the queries were quite basic, but there has also been lots of questions related to terms and conditions of Seed and Series A funding. Unfortunately, over the years there have been many instances of business founders having to suffer losses (or even losing control of their own businesses) as a result of entering into contracts which contained unfavourable provisions.

Hopefully as the ecosystem continues to grow, startups will be built on the best legal foundations.

I’ll be sharing more about legal issues involving startups in the coming weeks. A few of the upcoming posts will be breaking down the content of my Law for Startups workshop at MA2015:

  1. The legal landscape in Malaysia when it comes to startups.
  2. Choosing the right business vehicle for your startup.
  3. Why startups should always get a good lawyer.
  4. Don’t leave unknowns under the surface when it comes to contracts.
  5. The dangers of using “standard contracts”.
  6. Strive for clarity in contracts.
  7. Common contractual land-mines.

Besides what I shared at the workshop, I’ll also be sharing some other important legal pointers for startups and small businesses.

In the meantime, you can access my slides for the Law for Startups workshop at MA2015.

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