Women tech entrepreneurs changing the world
“I had an idea, a solid background in law and was curious about what technology can do to transform the way we practise law. With that, I decided to become a legal tech entrepreneur.”
GITSG grabs a coffee with Flora Suen-Krujatz
Flora has co-founded a company in Singapore, Narus, which develops smart knowledge management solutions for legal teams to build, maintain and capitalise on their know-how. Narus has a small but growing team of specialists, including a computer scientist focusing on machine learning and a research scientist with a physics background specialising in computer simulations, probabilistic models and convolutional neural networks. Flora herself has spent nearly a decade practising corporate law in Europe and Asia before founding Narus. What drove her to start her own company? And how did she prepare for and overcome some of the challenges she encountered? Here are some of her learnings.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur at your own startup?
Becoming an entrepreneur did not feel like abruptly ending my legal career. Instead, it felt like a natural progression. During my years in private practice, I experienced first-hand the manual and inefficient processes of building, maintaining and retrieving institutional knowledge. I later turned into a knowledge lawyer. In some ways, I was the human solution to the problem that Narus aims to solve with technology.
Very soon, I realised that I could do a lot more for this role if I stepped outside and built something from scratch. I am still working on the same problem, but with a very different set of tools and with an entirely new perspective. I did not have a technology background, but I thought I had what was needed to get started: An idea, a solid background in law and enough curiosity about what technology can do to transform the way we practise law. And with that, I decided to join Entrepreneur First – a talent investor that supports entrepreneurs in building start-ups.
“Everyone will come to a point in their career where they need to decide to continue on their current path or take a step aside to get a new perspective.”
How did you come up with the idea of a knowledge management solution?
A lawyer’s core asset is his know-how. But there are almost no dedicated tools that help manage it. That was pretty evident to me right from the start of my career.
However, as a young professional, you hardly have time to pause and seriously think about how to improve the processes you are involved in. Only after joining Entrepreneur First, I had the opportunity to further refine my idea. I spoke to many colleagues and other entrepreneurs active in this and related fields. These discussions helped shape the product and define the industry vertical: initially I thought our product would mainly be for legal departments in large companies; our customer base now grew to include government agencies and law firms.
“While the product evolved over time, as it should, my framework is still the same as when I started off”
Flora about the difference between being a corporate lawyer & tech entrepreneur…
“As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly think outside the box for new solutions. Repeating well-established processes is usually not enough. This can be exhausting at times, but also hugely rewarding when you succeed!”
I use my legal skills daily as all the data we work with is law related. Having worked in professional services, I am also accustomed to working in a structured and professional manner. This is quite important when you want to attract corporates and other highly professional organisations as potential customers.
As to the differences, as an entrepreneur you need to constantly think outside the box for new solutions. Repeating well-established processes is usually not enough. This can be exhausting at times, but also hugely rewarding when you succeed!
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
At the beginning, dealing with rejections was a challenge for me. I reached out to numerous potential customers and naturally received a lot of rejections. As a young corporate lawyer, there is always enough work for you and your sweat and suffering is usually appreciated. As an entrepreneur, you first need to generate that work. As time passed, I began putting rejections into perspective: companies simply have other priorities, different challenges or the timing might just be off.
Another challenge was dealing with uncertainty. As an entrepreneur, there are so many things beyond your control. I started focusing on things that I can control. For instance, I cannot control whether a client ultimately signs up for our services, but I can control that we deliver the best possible service to our existing customers and that the pipeline of new potential targets is always full.
“Dealing with rejection and uncertainty are some of my greatest challenges. While I have found ways of dealing with this, I still find it difficult”
What would you recommend to other aspiring (women) entrepreneurs?
- Build relationships and trust. Being an entrepreneur is constantly working with new and existing customers, your team and your investors. You need to be able and willing to build strong relationships and mutual trust. It’s about finding people that share the same goals and you can work together with. I went to a lot of conferences or otherwise simply put myself out there. I love my customers! We get along very well and are working towards the same goals.
- Find your support group. Having a support group is important. For example, I am part of a small lean-in circle for Women in Law. It is such a safe environment to exchange experiences and ideas. Support from family and friends is also essential. Credit goes to my husband here!
- Be humble and patient. Getting customers on board is challenging. In particular in the B-2-B space, where you often have lengthy tender and screening processes. Being new to the market, we had to show what we could do better than others before signing a contract. So we have run complimentary pilots to showcase our solutions. This has proven to be a really good way to get our foot in the door and convince our prospective customers.
“Being an entrepreneur is mostly about building relationships and trust with clients, investors and your team.”
Are you looking for advice on anything? Reach out!
Do you have any questions for Flora or the Girls in Tech team about (tech) entrepreneurship or otherwise? Feel free to post your question in the comment below or send them to [email protected].