Kim Chan: “If you can’t beat them, join them”

My advice is “if you can’t beat them, join them”. If you are being beaten by online competitions, go online yourself. If it is cheaper to source from China, go and try and find manufacturers in China to get your products manufactured. As we can see with examples such as Blockbuster and Barnes and Noble, […]

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My advice is “if you can’t beat them, join them”. If you are being beaten by online competitions, go online yourself. If it is cheaper to source from China, go and try and find manufacturers in China to get your products manufactured. As we can see with examples such as Blockbuster and Barnes and Noble, the worst thing one could do is not to believe in technology advancement and only changed grudgingly and half heartedly when forced. You will need to embrace reform and technology whole-heartedly.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Chan, Founder and CEO of DocPro, one of the fastest growing next generation legal tech platforms. Kim is qualified in 5 common law jurisdictions and has worked with major international banks and law firms. He has over 20 years of legal experience in corporate, finance, securities, commodities and capital market transactions.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I graduated in the late 90s, when the internet was just taking off, and I have always believed in bringing law online. At that time, I have been offered a job at a top international law firm and it would be an enormous opportunity cost to give up a highly paid job as a lawyer to pursue something uncertain. At the end, I opted for the safer route — I worked for top law firms and major international banks, thinking that I will make enough money to start a LegalTech business in 10 years time. Then I got married and have kids, and my business plan has again been delayed. It took me 20 years to gain sufficient financial security to start DocPro.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not easy to find good document templates online. Let’s say you are searching for a lease, you need to go through hundreds of ads and search results before you can find a suitable word template. What’s more, most of the documents online are under US law which may not be applicable in your jurisdiction. To make matter worse, you have downloaded a landlord friendly version which may put you at a disadvantage as a tenant.

LegalTech has been around for 20 years but there doesn’t seem to be any well-known player that has revolutionized the legal industry. Unlike other sectors, there is no household name like Amazon, Airbnb or Uber that people will instinctively recognize when talking about LegalTech. Lawyers are pretty much doing the same thing as when they were 20 years ago, charging thousands of dollars per hour and billing people in 6 minutes blocks. Their efficiency has not improved much since the advent of emails and legal database.

DocPro hopes to make a difference by making documents more accessible and affordable for users. We are providing variations of document favouring different parties instead of a one size fits all approach. Rather than confining our business to one country, we try to cater for all common law jurisdictions by having our documents drafted generally and a proprietary engine to select the right governing law and jurisdiction for the document.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

There was a movie in my generation called “The Field of Dreams” and the motto was “Build it and they will come”. DocPro was initially built on this premises with the creation of more than 1,000+ commonly used document templates, but there was no traffic initially. The motto certainly does not work for the internet with billions of webpages competing for visitors.

As I am confident that with thousands of good, useful legal documents reviewed by lawyers that are available for download, people will come. I believe that we just need to do a little more marketing. However, we can spend a lot of money on Google and Facebook ads, but this would not be economical for DocPro as a startup since the costs would almost certainly outweigh the benefits. As such, we have mainly been working on. We have been trying to produce the best document templates possible focusing on less competitive keywords. So far our suite of documents are doing extremely well with less competitive keywords as we beat the competition on the quality of documents.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Our traffic has grown exponentially in the past 6 months and we are on track to becoming successful and cash flow positive in our first year of launch. We do not need to rely on fund raising to survive the COVID crisis.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Initially I was going to use the domain “BlueSites”, until a friend of mine asked me why I am quitting my job to set up a porn site. I thought of the colour blue as conveying trust and reliability and was unaware of the connotation of “blue” also being referred to erotic explicit content in “blue movies”. So I had to quickly switch to another name.

I was struggling between, which was taken and costed thousands of dollars to buy, and a lesser name that costed just a few dollars to register. Then I remembered Jack Ma paid USD 10,000 for the Alibaba domain name (an astronomical sum at the time and more than half of his net worth back in the 90s), I figured that the marketing effect from an easy to remember domain name is well worth the money.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As there has been so far no LegalTech player that has successfully revamped the legal industry, DocPro is different from the competition with the following features:

  1. Access to 1500+ Documents. We have one of the most comprehensive database for businesses and individuals online.
  2. Low Price. We are priced 90% lower than our competition without compromising on quality.
  3. Different Forms. We provide variations of document favouring different parties instead of a one size fits all approach.
  4. Jurisdiction Engine. We try to cater for all common law jurisdictions. Proprietary engine to select the right governing law and jurisdiction.
  5. Sharing Community. We are setting up a sharing community where members can share documents to be reviewed by our experienced lawyers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Be very frugal when you start. For example, you can try to save money through the following tips:

1. Remote Working to Save on Office Costs — We have a flexible 3 persons office space at Wework (additional staff are hired through hot desk arrangement). Since COVID, we have been working from home whenever we can and only go back to the office once or twice a week. By being flexible on office arrangement, you can save a lot on office costs.

2. Hiring part time workers to help — there are a lot of bright university students who are sitting at home doing nothing. They are willing to work hard for little money to gain the summer work experience for their graduate career. They are the best value for money and the traffic to my site exploded after hiring a number of interns to help.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

With very little traffic at the beginning, I consulted my next door neighbour at the co-working space, Raymond, who was running a successful online digital marketing agency, and he guided me through the process. Since then, we have been trying to produce the best document templates possible focusing on less competitive keywords, and it is working like magic! Since the launch of our revamped site in April 2020, traffic has been doubling every month, and our COVID related documents have been doing spectacularly well. Raymond has since sold his digital marketing agency and is now my partner in DocPro.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

My advice is “if you can’t beat them, join them”. If you are being beaten by online competitions, go online yourself. If it is cheaper to source from China, go and try and find manufacturers in China to get your products manufactured. As we can see with examples such as Blockbuster and Barnes and Noble, the worst thing one could do is not to believe in technology advancement and only changed grudgingly and half heartedly when forced. You will need to embrace reform and technology whole-heartedly.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Most founders have lots of ideas and they tend to make the mistake of trying to do too many things at once. You need to build your eCommerce business one step at a time. You will just be overwhelmed and / or undelivered if you just to do everything at once.

In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

The time being spent on promotion, marketing, social media and is often being underestimated. For example, you can easily spent a few hours responding to questions on HARO which may or may not have any effect on your traffic. You will need to allocate time better to ensure that you are also spending time to improve your product, instead of spending all day trying to get links.

Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?

Trello is a good way to assign tasks to people and set specific targets when you are remote working as a team.

Airtable is a good way to keep track of things to do and follow up with people and matters.

Ahrefs is a useful tool to find keywords and optimise your site to attract traffic.

DocPro if you need legal documents and you do not have the resources to go to a law firm.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?

You really need to track the users as soon as they come onto your site to see what they look at and when they drop out. If possible, do a user survey to see if the reason why people bounced from your page and improve the UX. For example, if the main reason why users leave is because they cannot find what they are looking for, you may need to rearrange your site to make it more user friendly.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Build trust in the DocPro brand is obviously very important for a legal documents site. Google is also emphasizing on EAT — expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of websites in its search ranking. So creating a trusted and beloved brand will not only improve the conversion rate, but also the traffic to your website.

We have been focusing on building up the brand and EAT of DocPro through the following ways:

  • Expertise — all our documents have been reviewed by lawyers qualified in major common law jurisdictions.
  • Authority — we have been doing many legal articles as well as responding to interviews of credible media on HARO to improve the authority of our websites.
  • Trustworthiness — we are partnering with other trustworthy institutions (e.g. universities) to build the trustworthiness of our site. We are very prompt in responding to the needs of our customers, which also increase our trustworthiness.

One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?

You should acknowledge the bad reviews and not swept them under the carpet. If the reviews are fair, then you should have a timeline and improve the issues as soon as possible. If the reviews are not fair, you should clarify your position without sounding defensive.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Product — the most important element is to create a product that people would want. You should do users study first before actually creating the product. I made the mistake of doing a product what I think people want instead of what user actually want in the first version of DocPro. I have to spend months revamping the site and the business model to turn it into something users want (base on UX study).
  • Scalability — the most important element of running a successful e-commerce business is scalability. After all, that is what e-commerce is all about. In the legal tech space, some of our competitors are offering tailored made legal documents and charge their customers on a per hour basis. This is essentially going back to the old law firm model instead of disrupting the current model.
  • Marketing — the phrase “build it and they will come” certainly does not apply on the internet. You can spend a lot of money on Google and Facebook ads, but this would not be economical for DocPro as we are offering our documents at minimal price and the costs would almost certainly outweigh the benefits. So if you are starting with a tight budget, marketing is probably your best bet.
  • Cross Marketing — it will greatly help your online business enormously if you find an already established platform that is willing to do some cross marketing with you. In our case, we are partnering with AppSumo to provide bulk discount to AppSumo users. The increase our revenue from this partnership is substantial and raise our profile amongst small and medium enterprises.
  • Brand Building — as per my response above, it is very important to build your brand and the associated EAT — expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. DocPro relies on a high EAT to get (i) users to convert and use our products; and (ii) higher ranking on Google.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

DocPro is planning to offer free download of the following documents. These are some of the essential documents that all elderly (and people with disability) should have but the majority of them do not have:

  1. Will — instructions on distribution of properties after one die, allows executor to take control of the estate immediately and minimise potential dispute between family members.
  2. Advance Directives — (i) spell out care preferences in the event a person becomes incapacitated and unable to communicate his / her wishes, (ii) facilitate self-determination by advance refusal of life sustaining treatment to minimize distress or dignity and (iii) avoid having family members to make difficult life and death decisions when the patient faces a serious irreversible illness.
  3. Enduring Power of Attorney (or Continuing Power of Attorney after passing of Ordinance) — allow someone to take over the patient’s financial affairs (and personal care after passing of Ordinance) and pay for medical expense in case of incapacitation or lack the mental capacity to make decisions.

With the aging population around the world, DocPro is keen to promote the use of these documents. Having these documents will avoid many disputes, issues and difficult decisions for their friends and relatives going forward. The main reasons for elderly not having these documents are: (i) lack of education and awareness; (ii) costs and hassles of going to a law firm to get them drafted; and (iii) difficulty in getting a professional (e.g. a lawyer and a doctor) to witness the documents.

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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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