Why London? Interview with Brennan Ong, LawAdvisor
With the recent events of Brexit and the chatter on Berlin being the next big thing for startups, old favourite London may have lost its shine. Despite this though, it’s proving to still be an innovative (and reliable) city to move your startup to.
We recently had the chance to talk an Aussie who made the move to London, Brennan Ong of LawAdvisor, making the move from Melbourne to London six months ago.
Brennan is the founder and CEO of LawAdvisor. He is a qualified lawyer, developer and former PhD scholarship candidate researching the future of legal practice. Brennan was the winner of the Chief Justice’s innovation award for his role in the development of the Supreme Court of Victoria’s cloud-based case management system, was a shortlisted finalist for the LexisNexis Centenary Book Awards for authoring a book on dispute avoidance, and through LawAdvisor, wants to use his understanding of modern day technologies and legal process to allow the profession to better meet its goal of providing access to justice.
Here’s what he had to say:
What made you decide to set up a headquarters in London?
LawAdvisor was launched in Australia in June 2015 and have since seen over 1000 lawyers sign up, over 200 client engagements weekly and over 4000 questions answered. This sparked interest not only from international investors including Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps, but also multinational corporations based in London who were interested in our legal technology. By following leads and listening to the barriers and frustrations that lawyers, law firms and big corporations encounter on a daily basis in relation to their legal needs, we were able to build on top of our primary technology, and develop an entirely new product suite, namely, LawAdvisor Corporate. This product was launched with several UK based corporations in June 2017.
How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?
We have been incredibly lucky to have the support of the Australian startup scene who have helped shape and grow us over the past two years. I greatly appreciate the input and advice I have been given from extremely smart minds who have mentored me along this journey. Their introductions to London based businesses and contacts has certainly helped set us up and develop the credibility in the London market which has made things much easier from the word go.
That said, everyone likes to give you their two cents, and sometimes you need to stick with your gut instinct which doesn’t always take you down the same path a those before you. In those instances, my team at LawAdvisor have learned to trust our gut as we’re confident in the vision and what we can achieve which is beyond anything that has been done before. Sometimes it just takes stepping out and going for it!
Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia?
We have been pleasantly surprised by how open-minded and willing to embrace innovation the London legal scene has been. We have London based stakeholders investing in our LawAdvisor Corporate product and new consumer focused features in the pipeline for our core product.
We have now established a great network in London, and haven’t been able to keep up with the interest from potential investors and corporations wanting to use our product on a large scale.
The London legal sector does seem to be somewhat more forward thinking and open to change than the Australia market, so it’s been easier to engage investors and clients, as we present solutions to the problems associated with the antiquated processes that the legal sector have known for eternity.
What is it like to do business in London?
From my experience, London business is perfect for extraverted personalities (which may explain why so many Aussies move here)! Business often always involves social interactions, whether at the pub, a fine dining establishment, or over a clay pigeon shooting range. People tend to forget that people and human relationships are at the heart of any business transaction. So make sure your clients like you first and foremost, and you’ll realise that when mistakes occur, they are more likely to give you leeway!
Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you?
Although we have spent considerable time in London during the past six months – negotiating deals and preparing for our launch – our core team is still mostly based in Australia, working out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. We have now hired some team members based in London, who will be our foot soldiers supporting our UK launch. Although it comes with it’s challenges (most of all the time difference!), it’s great having such a flexible and diverse team!
What do you love about living in London?
London is an incredibly exciting and vibrant city filled with amazing food and things to do. I work pretty long days and most weekends so there isn’t a lot of time for leisure or European escapades, but I like to take time out occasionally and enjoy the city and culture. One thing I love are the countless opportunities to meeting interesting people in London, whether it be in a lift or on the tube!
My top 3 tips for Aussies looking to move to Europe would be:
- Make sure you do your homework first and understand how your product/service is different from those already in the market
- Put yourself out there – make contacts, follow up with leads, socialise!
- Start preparing your liver: Londoner’s love their booze!
Thank you to Brennan Ong for this interview. You can contact him at LawAdvisor.