In the past year, Scaleup Flanders guided more than a hundred growth companies through individual coaching, group coaching programs, international missions, tech screenings and networking events. In order to focus on this even more emphatically in the coming years, the organization is adding Osborne Clarke to its network. Among other things, that originally British law firm will help support Scaleup Flanders financially, allowing growth companies to attend sessions at a discount.
Few law firms operating in Belgium have such a rich history as Osborne Clarke. Founded more than two centuries ago in Bristol, England, the international firm has nearly 2,000 lawyers and employees worldwide, about 40 of them in Brussels. "We focus on different sectors, but surely the digital economy is one of our main pillars," says Frank Hoogendijk, Senior Associate at Osborne Clarke.
Osborne Clarke boasts a worldwide network of offices, many of which have their own emphasis. In Belgium, for example, Osborne Clarke not only works within the digital economy, but is also active in life sciences (including digital health) and cleantech. "Our focus on tech companies has received a big boost over the past two decades," Hoogendijk continues. "In the early 2000s, we opened an office in Silicon Valley. So just before the bursting of the dotcom bubble, but in those difficult years after that we did make important connections. Facebook, for example, is still one of our biggest global customers."
"Companies come to us for a wide variety of matters," says Valentin de le Court, Counsel at Osborne Clarke. "For example, we specialize in Venture Capital and Venture Debt, which allows us to help major Silicon Valley players with their financings of the most successful Belgian scaleups and unicorns. We also help draft shareholder agreements, advise on regulated markets and help bring companies to and from the stock market. Osborne Clarke also has a great deal of knowledge about token generating events (also known as Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs). For example, we advise Tioga Capital on the legal aspects of investing in token generating events and we advise many companies with an innovative business model."
De le Court's own team focuses on intellectual property in its broadest sense. "This goes far beyond traditional intellectual property rights. For example, we help companies with the legal side of how they handle (non-)personal data. Who does the data belong to, for example, and how do you need to keep which data to be legally compliant? We expect a lot of regulation around cybersecurity and avoiding bias in data in the coming years, and are helping companies get a head start on that now."
The industry in which Osborne Clarke operates is also itself subject to a great deal of disruption. "We are embarking on legal tech that allows us to greatly reduce administrative and repetitive tasks. For example, we developed an online platform that serves as a single source of truth for our clients. Especially with internationalization, the administration of a scale-up is often more difficult and there is a need for a central place where you can find the right contracts, templates and corporate documents," Hoogendijk said.
The link with Scaleup Flanders was quickly established. "It is an initiative that is a very good match with our firm. Innovation and tech are at the heart of Scaleup Flanders and Osborne Clarke. We want to build strong relationships with growth companies that will be the big winners tomorrow," it sounds.
"We are particularly pleased with the arrival of Osborne Clarke as a partner for Scaleup Flanders, also says Frederik Tibau, who is leading the initiative from the technology federation Agoria. "The reputable law firm has already gained a great deal of experience in our country with several of our strongest digital scale-ups, and has a perfect feel for what the major points of interest are in the tax and legal field, in data protection and venture debt."
"The fact that Osborne Clarke has antennae in all corners of the world and knows the markets our growth companies are targeting particularly well is an added bonus that can add great value to the startups and scale-ups we work with as part of our mentoring program."