Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ideas we'd like to invest in

Inspired by Paul Graham’s “Startup Ideas We’d Like to Fund” post of a few years ago I’d like to start a series of posts about ideas that I find exciting and that we at Point Nine would be very interested in investing in. Here's the first one.

Electronic signing

I’m a huge, huge fan of electronic signing. Whenever I have to sign a document and I’m getting a “Please eSign...” email I rejoice because it saves me the hassle of printing, completing, signing, scanning and emailing the signature pages (don’t get me started on snail-mailing paper copies with original signatures!). This is of course especially true if you’re traveling and don’t have access to printers constantly. Apps like SignEasy and SignNow, which target the “signer” and let you e-sign PDF documents from your iPhone, are a pretty good solution and can be a live-safer if you’re sitting in a cab and have to sign an important document. Products like EchoSign, DocuSign, RightSignature and HelloSign, which are geared towards the signature-collecting parties, are even better in that they take care of the entire e-signing process from creating documents to collecting signatures and archiving signed contracts.

There are a couple of reasons why I think e-signing is not just a great product but also a great business:

  • The product is inherently viral. Very rare for SaaS solutions. That means low customer acquisition costs which, combined with a good revenue model, are a killer.
  • The product is valuable for individual users but becomes even more valuable if it’s used by an entire department or an entire company, which means you can use a Yammer-like land-and-expand strategy to get into bigger accounts. 
  • It seems easy to find a good pricing structure which lets you combine an affordable entry-level plan for small customers (or even a free plan) with expensive plans for large customers, since the value delivered to customers (and hence willingness to pay) should correlate strongly with the number of contracts and number of users.

Now – there are a couple of well-funded players already, and EchoSign, following its acquisition by Adobe, has been integrated into Acrobat Reader, giving the product massive distribution as well as an entry product that is geared to the “signer side”. So the big question is if there’s still room for a new entrant.

I don’t have a clear answer, but given that the vast majority of signatures are still done on paper and that the US players seem to have very low penetration in Europe I’m wondering if there could still be an opportunity – maybe for a European champion, maybe with a vertical approach, maybe with a mobile-first strategy or another special twist?


Jason Seed said...

Christoph, glad to hear, I would like to discuss with you our approach. Checkout

edocr said...

Hey Jason, sounds like a great idea. As a parent, we are always conscious about the number of paper slips my daughters brings for signatures. It always make you feel good if you could save few trees (ok - you might be burning more to pay for the electricity)..


Matthieu Vaxelaire said...

Hi Christoph, very interesting post. Don't you think that a player such as HelloSign (completely free with a great product and impressive features/integrations) makes this space less attractive? Even for a European player?

chrija said...

Matthieu, thanks for the comment. Yes, that's the big question. But considering that e-signing adoption is probably in the low single digit percentage (my guess) and that it will eventually go to > 80% in 10-20 years (my opinion) I'm wondering if the window of opportunity is still open.

jkaljundi said...

Check out Estonian SignWise:


Hi Christoph,
in Italy, as in Europe, the market for digital signature is still growing and ( in my opinion) there are many things still to do, like: simplify the process of signature.

I am dealing about this in Italy and I experienced an innovative solution that links the identity of physical signature in the exchange of digital documents between two persons and I am looking for investors and I have a PCT both in Europe and in the USA. I am at your beck and call for further information. I will continue to follow you.

Jon Zimmerman said...

Hi Christoph, as always a very thought-provoking post. I agree that eSignatures are both a great product and a great business. At FrontDesk ( we've partnered with Docusign to offer an integrated e-signature experience to service-based SMBs and are seeing attach rates of almost 80%.

Based on our experience bringing Docusign into hundreds of SMBs, the biggest barrier is integrating digital signing into the existing business workflow. In a yoga studio, for example, digitally signing waivers is superior to a clipboard and paper only if it is implemented in such a way that it doesn't create bottlenecks at the front desk.

Once more vertical-specific SaaS solutions integrate with digital signatures providers I think we will see adoption increase rapidly.

Brent Buntin said...

I LOVE hellosign