What is smooth, transparent, and very efficient? Sleek.
"After years of frustration with accountants and company secretaries... I decided to build a digital solution. One online platform where you can register a company and manage all the time-consuming and boring pieces." Adrien Barthel, Sleek Co-Founder
Sleek is an online platform that assists anyone, anywhere, to register a company in Hong Kong and Singapore. By automating and digitising corporate services, Sleek works with a vast network of partner organisations to assist their clients in streamlining their legal, financial and governance setup.
SLEEK CO-FOUNDERS (LEFT TO RIGHT) ADRIEN BARTHEL, JULIEN LABRUYERE. SOURCE: SUPPLIED.
Adrien Barthel, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Sleek, shares Sleek's growth story and his insights into international growth. Having operated in the Southeast Asia e-commerce sector for over ten years, Adrien is no stranger to working with company secretaries and accountants and found that operations continued in a very traditional manner.
"I had a eureka moment the day I read the Companies Act of Singapore. I also read the Electronic Transaction Act, which says we could be using digital signatures for governance operations… I told my company secretary, and he looked at me and told me, 'ok, you're 30 years old, and I've been in the business for 40 years. Just stick to my rules and processes, or the door is just there.' So I took the door knowing that we could be digitising everything." Adrien Barthel, Sleek Co-Founder
Adrien reached out to his network to find out their experience working with corporate service providers. There are over 9,000 corporate services companies in Hong Kong and Singapore. Each person was frustrated with the pace and paper involved. Starting in April 2017, Sleek has modernised corporate services for more than 5,000+ businesses.
THE TEAM BEHIND SLEEK’S DIGITAL FIRST CORPORATE SECRETARY, INCORPORATION AND ACCOUNTING SERVICES. SOURCE: SUPPLIED.
Sleek's approach to modernising the industry can be seen in its transparent pricing structure. Adrien likes to think of this as more of an "all you can eat" style arrangement with an annual flat fee. Other service providers have more of an "a la carte" arrangement, where complex solutions go up in price. As Sleek's packages are simple and straightforward, the decision for the entrepreneur is clear.
Transitioning from traditional to digital: challenging the status quo
The biggest challenge Sleek overcame in 2017 was how entrenched mindsets were. Regulated industries were the most risk-averse and tend to favour traditional, slower, paper-based processes. On the other hand, Sleek redesigned the processes to be more innovative, faster and digital. In the early stages of growth, the difference was so stark that Sleek found their clients questioning whether their processes were legal. Particularly for established organisations, transitioning from paper-based compliance to digital compliance can require significant mindset and systems change. Thankfully, Sleek has a dedicated client base who have been their biggest advocates. Sleek has seen massive growth from word-of-mouth referrals because of the trust that is developed. Compared to the past, today, many clients expect digital first which Sleek had successfully pioneered.
Client feedback is key to success
Adrien reminds founders to stay close to the frontline for any businesses looking to expand internationally and "speak to your clients often!". Adrien is acutely aware that as businesses scale, founders can lose touch and must prioritise client feedback. Sleek runs focus groups every month and quarterly surveys, and their customer success team provides constant feedback to help improve the product and service. "I couldn't be more thankful for the clients' brutal honesty."
Airwallex integral to Sleek's one-stop solution
Airwallex has played a critical role in Sleek's Hong Kong growth story. "If you're not in Hong Kong, it's not possible to open a local bank account. For locally based individuals, it can take two months." To set up an online business account with Airwallex takes a fraction of the time. Sleek's clients use Airwallex to collect, hold and pay between Hong Kong and other countries. In particular, Airwallex is beneficial to businesses that need a multi-currency business account, such as those with customers or suppliers from around the world.
For Sleek, the efficiency and seamlessness of the process is a winner. Some clients prefer to go to more traditional banks, however, several forms and three weeks in, they come back to Sleek for a Plan B, and that's when Sleek directs them to Airwallex to set up a more efficient, online business account.
The digital dream
The primary focus for Sleek is improving its products and services. There is a continuous release of improvements on existing services and the introduction of new services that complement the work they're already doing, like in the company secretary space. The second focus is international expansion. Sleek is considering other Commonwealth markets. The vision is that in five years, an entrepreneur, anywhere in the world, will be able to set up their own company efficiently and transparently. Without paper.
Sleek was founded in 2017 by Julien Labruyere and Adrien Barthel to help make the lives of entrepreneurs and investors easier. Sleek incorporates companies in Hong Kong and Singapore, helping them manage their governance, accounting and tax matters using technology. To learn more, head to www.sleek.com.
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