'While starting up in Singapore is speedy, there are hurdles to be aware of'

3 min read
13 Mar 2019

etting up your business doesn’t always have to involve weeks of bureaucracy, especially if you’re able to delegate the related legal and administrative tasks to those already in the know. Birgitta von Dresky, a Singapore-based partner at Luther LLP, describes the firm’s approach to helping new businesses hit the ground running.

In some countries, getting a business up and running is a tedious and time-consuming process that can take up to six months. In Singapore, it can be done in one day, says Birgitta. For those working in the startup world, where it’s all about executing ideas quickly and efficiently, this is certainly a benefit.

The key here is that it takes one day to set things up, and then any changes – such as the transfer of shares, increase or decrease of capital, and change of directors – can be done quickly and affordably later.

“If you were to tell me that you needed to set up a company by tomorrow, we would be able to do that for you,” says Birgitta, who joined Luther LLP in Singapore in 2008. “The speed at which things happen here is what makes Singapore so special for entrepreneurs from a legal and business perspective, especially if you compare it to other countries in Asia.”

Other advantages about starting up in Singapore: most things can be done online and there are no issues with corruption. Although things are fast and straightforward in Singapore, foreigners can often face hurdles when setting up their businesses here, and this is where Luther LLP, a commercial law firm with 16 offices spread across Europe and Asia, can help.

The speed at which things happen here is what makes Singapore so special for entrepreneurs from a legal and business perspective.

Instead of wasting valuable time by going through a lot of red tape and playing bureaucratic games with the government in order to get a business off the ground, entrepreneurs can focus on building up their startup in Singapore. Luther LLP assists mainly foreign founders from continental Europe to do just that by supporting them in dealing with legal and administrative issues with what Birgitta calls a “one-stop” approach.

Currently, the Singapore office team is made up of 90 people covering legal work as well as accounting, payroll and tax compliance through its corporate services arm. In addition to startup clients, the award-winning law firm works with medium-sized enterprises, large corporations, VCs and organizations from the public sector.

Entrepreneurs often underestimate the importance of being organized with accounting, drawing up a founders’ agreement and having a proper legal structure in the early stages of starting up. However, these are all things that can come back to bite your business if they’re not handled with care.

That’s why Birgitta advises startups to get support from legal experts as soon as possible. “There’s a perception that turning to lawyers is expensive,” she says. “Of course, it has to be viable for the company, but it’s very beneficial for the startups to seek out legal advice early on to avoid expensive surprises later on.”

Outsource important tasks that are outside your core areas of expertise, so you can focus on moving your business forward.

Another thing she highly recommends is to “outsource important tasks that are outside your core areas of expertise, so you can focus on moving your business forward.” Whether it’s tax declarations, accounting or dealing with payroll, it can be incredibly helpful to bring experts on board to help you take care of specific issues. Not only will it save you time, but it’ll give you peace of mind.

Finally, for startups with multiple founders, it’s crucial to discuss and clearly define the roles, responsibilities and compensation for each person involved. “It’s ideal to have it written out in a contract, of course, but it’s more important to actually talk about it and to clarify expectations with each other, because oftentimes founders forget about this part and it can lead to disputes later on.”

Luther Law Firm and Luther Corporate Services together act as a one-stop shop for international startups and companies, offering an array of legal, tax and corporate services in its offices in Asia (located in Singapore, Shanghai, Yangon, Delhi and Kuala Lumpur).

It offers support in a variety of areas, everything from IP and copyright law to accounting and business structuring. “We know how to deal with the nitty-gritty problems that foreign founders and investors face when coming to Singapore,” says Birgitta.

[ See also: 10 Singapore startups you should know about ]

This interview was originally published in our Startup Guide Singapore book.

Main photo of Birgitta von Dresky by Startup Guide