Lebanese-Australian model and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty and fellow supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova from Russia have become angel investors and board members in E-gree. Launched by a legal-tech startup in 2020, the app makes it quick and easy to create, sign and send contracts, and access them. It aims to empower individuals to have legal control over situations such as jobs, ideas, and relationships.
Kahawaty is a serial entrepreneur involved in a number of international start-ups, with an outreach of 1 million followers on Instagram. She is known to have an educational background in law and finance and copious amounts of experience in deciphering and signing contracts. Her fellow investor Vodianova is also the chairwoman of the advisory board of E-gree, and has bankrolled as an angel investor in 17 other startups over the past few years.
Kahawaty and Vodianova speak to Vogue Arabia about the benefits the average person can experience using E-gree, and why they chose to invest in the app.
What first sparked your interest in law?
Kahawaty: Ever since I was young, I stood up for those who were marginalized or the underdog in a situation. Studying and specializing in human rights law created a base for me to do that. I loved creating situations of justice and I didn’t like seeing victims not getting their most deserved rights.
Based on your knowledge of the law, why should the average person use E-gree instead of signing a contract traditionally?
Kahawaty: Traditional legal avenues have always been necessary for creating contracts and resolving issues but they are expensive, intimidating, and an inaccessible avenue to the majority of the population. People end up skipping the legal step because of the cost it carries and therefore being in situations, in their business or personal life, that they regret later on because they didn’t have a contract. E-gree is a cost-effective, quick, and accessible way to sign agreements amongst people. It’s the price of a cup of coffee, contracts are standardized with the option to amend them, and you don’t need a lawyer. If a dispute arises, you have your E-gree signed and you can proceed to a lawyer to enforce it. In the eyes of a court, if two or more parties sign a common statement, it’s considered a valid agreement.
What is the most interesting feature that the app offers?
Kahawaty: I love that the app has so many custom contracts to choose from to suit peoples’ individual situations – including prenups, betting, the sharing of ideas (NDAs), secrets, e-dating, uncoupling, testaments, accidents, and more. They’re clear, you can use them daily, share the contracts with other people easily and everything is stored in one place.
How will this app especially benefit the Middle Eastern region?
Kahawaty: The beauty of this app is that it does not have geographical boundaries or limitations. It’s a global app. The Middle East is a hub for new ideas, partnerships, and a buzzing center for business and agreements. Often in the Middle East, we see people relying on “gentlemen’s agreement,” and on people’s words to fulfill their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, that can never be proved if a dispute arises. If hiring a lawyer for contracts may appear too serious or uptight, E-gree is a middle ground that can be casually signed on the app. It’s also proven that if an agreement is signed, people are more likely to fulfill their part of it because they place weight on their signature.
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What first sparked your interest in entrepreneurship and investment?
Vodianova: I have always considered myself to be entrepreneurial and when you find yourself – as I do – surrounded by brilliant founders with so many creative ideas, then you have to be very clear and selective about what you will and won’t invest in. It was a natural next step to want to invest in those ideas that really excited me. I am essentially an impact investor, always looking for projects that are likely to disrupt, change or make a meaningful difference. I believe that companies with a mission and purpose have more of a chance to be successful so that’s what I am particularly watching out for.
What made you choose to invest in E-gree?
Vodianova: All of the above things. No one has yet significantly disrupted the legal sector, yet it is in such great need of innovation and change. I was immediately interested in the possibilities – both short and longer term. What if the legal system could genuinely be made more affordable and more accessible to all? It could put us all back in control and make legal complexity simple and understandable. E-gree founders genuinely care about making this happen.
What is your favorite feature of the app?
Vodianova: I have a few! Obviously, the NDA contract is a very quick and easy way to protect yourself before you give too many of your secrets away in a business conversation. Within 20-25 seconds you are all set up. On a lighter note, as a mother, it is also great to have a bit of fun with my kids by using the betting products as a force for good. Making a bet that ends in one of the kids walking our dog for a week or promising to keep their room tidy is a big win-win!
What is your advice for aspiring tech investors who want to expand their investment portfolio?
Vodianova: Three keywords of advice here: Network, network, network! Make some key decisions about what kind of portfolio you want. What are you passionately interested in? What excites you? What kind of investor do you want to be known as? Go wherever great ideas are being discussed in the areas you have chosen and watch, listen and ask questions. Word will get out and founders will start to approach you with great ideas too.