In this episode, Legislate meets James Chatt-Ramsey, who is currently working on international expansion at Shares, a free trading and social investment app. James shares his favourite moments since joining Shares and some of the unique challenges with international contracts.
Listen to the episode to find out:
Listen to the episode below:
Learn more about Shares
Learn more about Legislate
How to reduce communication bottlenecks with Adoor
And the legal risks every early-stage startup founder should be aware of
Charles: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, James, could you share a bit of background about yourself and Shares?
James: Of course. Thanks for having me, Charles. So, yes, Shares is a social investment and what we mean by that is that it's first and foremost-, what we want it to be is first and foremost a social media app with an element of trading on there. So, currently we're operating only with equities and securities trading, later down the line we will also have an element of crypto and NFT trading, and marketplace, and then going down that route. So, yes, we're a social investment app, similar to, for example, Robinhood in the US or Freetrade and all of the ones that you might know about, but adding more social aspect to it.
Charles: When you say social investing, what do you mean?
James: We have a friends feed feed, where you can see exactly what they are investing in as it happens and you can comment on that and react to it. We're just in the process now of launching a communities feature on the app. For example, maybe a lot of investors are particularly interested in environmental, social cause investments, they can then talk in a similarly-minded group about those investments and obviously go in any direction they want to from there. It's really jumping on the back of the popularity of Reddit, you've got Wall Street bets or a-, Discord, obviously, there's a huge amount of different trading communities on there. All of these third-party apps are-, obviously, we don't have the ability to do the actual trading on there, so we're bridging that divide to enable users to actually trade on the app but also talk with their friends and make it a lot more accessible and social in that way.
Charles: Since joining Shares, what's been your favourite moment so far?
James: Oh, that's a tough one I think. I think for us, it's a very recent event that's happened. We've actually just secured a license to operate in the European territories, so all over the EU, which we'll soon be expanding into. Obviously my role is Expansion Manager, so that's a pretty big deal for us. That enables us to really go big from that one. So, I think when we got that news through, something that we'd been working on since I joined here-, particularly the Authorizations team, shout-out to them. When we got that news through, I think that was probably my highlight so far. We had a big, obviously-, a celebration at that point. And in the coming weeks, months, you'll see us expanding into Europe quite fast now.
Charles: With that international expansion, I imagine you get to travel quite a bit.
James: We try to keep things remote as much as possible but who doesn't want to go over to-, go and have a big trip to Paris or wherever else? So, yes, there will be an element of travel. Our HQ is in Paris by the way, didn't mention that. So, we do go over there quite a lot but going forward, I think there'll be a lot more travel into to Europe and then beyond Europe as well before the year is out. Yes, looking forward to seeing a few new places.
Charles: What do you wish you'd known before joining Shares?
James: Oh, that's a good question. I worked in finance a long time ago, fresh out of university, but finance now is very different to what it was when I was working in it, and particularly the area that I was working in. So, I think knowing more about Web3, crypto, the actual operational side of it and the ins and outs of it. Obviously, I had a high-level view of what's going on but it's been a quite steep learning curve on that front, to really get into the nitty- gritty and understand where it's going and how we're going to implement it into our own app. I think everyone in a Web3 space is that we're learning as we go along.
Charles: You mentioned international expansion, is that the only plan for the next 5 years or are there other plans?
James: For Shares? Yes, currently we're very focused on expanding, there isn't-, product side-, There's obviously future plans in terms of creating a product that is a household name but used in so many more ways than your average investment app as they are now. So, following along from Europe, we're going to be going into a pack in South America and all of the biggest markets, India and everywhere else, that's probably going to be done by the end of the year. So, I think expansion is obviously front and foremost in my mind at the moment but on the product side, there's a whole host of different things going on and my role is very broad at the moment. We're a very young company, so we're all wearing a lot of different hats. So, I'm also doing a lot of partnerships, I'm doing some growth activations and things like that. And that's something that I've found I really enjoy doing and I think I'll probably do a lot more of that as well. So, yes, those are things that you'd probably be more interested in, given that they all entail a lot more contract-signing. We'll probably do a lot more different things other than just expansion but for sure that's our priority at the moment.
Charles: What are the key contracts you interact with? And what are the common patterns that you find?
James: Yes, sure. At Shares, the contracts that I'm dealing with are very different to the ones, for example, in my previous job at Gopuff, which was more physical good and services. Whereas now, for example, the main things that-, in expansion at least, that I'm dealing with, is office space or-, I recently signed an MSA with WeWork globally, so that-, they're much more far-reaching because they're covering all of the countries that we're going into a lot of the time. Other than that, we sign a lot of contracts with, for example, KYC, vendors-, that's Know Your Customer, so anything that needs to be localised per different country, that will require a different contract. Or if it's vendor that we're using across multiple countries, then we can obviously sign a multi-country one. So, yes, each new market sometimes requires new contracts done for that market. Every other overarching contract obviously serves all of the different markets that we're doing. Mainly it's things that relate to customer on-boarding or office space and going into new markets.
Charles: What are some of the areas of friction in the contract-signing process that you've encountered? And how have you overcome them?
James: I would say probably dealing with contracts from multiple different countries. One of the things that jumps out to me is that they're all in different languages for a start. But that in itself isn't a huge problem as long as we have someone to translate it or someone that we can trust to really go into it for us. So, yes, that for sure is one friction point. I think also, a lot of companies, it depends where they are and what exactly they're doing, but they're not always using, for example, a system like Legislate or DocuSign or anything like that. Sometimes they'll literally require you to print off the document, sign it and then scan it back in, which is obviously not how we want to be doing things now. So, yes, that's another point. And the other thing to mention is, for example with the MSAs that we do globally, there's a lot of back and forth that goes on between us and the other party. That often gets done, for example, if they're sending it over on a Google Sheet or something like that just for editing purposes before it gets put into whatever system we're using. That's probably not the best way to do things. So, I think, yes, there's a few different things that could definitely be improved upon, I think, from our end.
Charles: The language element is something that you tend to forget if you only do English contracts but if you're going to India, for example, it would have to be in local languages probably.
James: Yes. India's fine, I think it's mainly the-, the French love to use French language. For example, most of those will be in French. And I think even just receiving, for example, an email in English from whatever system they're using would be a major advantage as well.
Charles: If you're being sent a contract to sign today, what would impress you?
James: Okay, I've got to mention a couple of things. Just as I was saying, don't make me print it off and sign it and put it back in. Also, have the key terms set out at the top. In general, in life, I think contracts with key terms are always buried near the bottom or in the middle of it, that you need to scroll down and find them and pick them up. I think having that information front and centre for you to see and consider is going to be a really good time-saver and make things a lot clearer as well.
Charles: Thank you, James, for being on the show and best of luck conquering the world.