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Is DocuSign on their way to becoming a verb?

Electronic document signing is becoming the standard for many businesses around the world.
Electronic document signing is becoming the standard for many businesses around the world.

Like FedEx, Xerox and Google, companies aspire to the rarefied air where their business crosses a mythical line from being merely successful to becoming a verbal figure of speech. Who hasn’t “fedexed” “googled” or “xeroxed” anything lately? This could be the year when DocuSign joins the party.

Whether we all start “docusigning” depends on a lot of things, starting with the company’s own survival. The electronic signature software company announced this week that they had secured an additional $85 million in funding which has analysts on Wall Street speculating about why they have not just gone public instead. The company, with over 700 employees and 40 million users worldwide, does not reveal sales figures, but their CFO was recently quoted as saying they expect to be cash flow positive in the next two years.

Still, DocuSign’s two-day annual “Momentum” conference at San Francisco’s swank St. Francis Hotel goes a long way towards reassuring skeptics that they are indeed here to stay. At a panel discussion among industry heavyweights yesterday (which ironically included high ranking executives from Xerox and FedEx), the prevailing view was that the pace of digital transformation is going to force companies to change the way they have done business in the past. “You can’t maintain a cost competitive edge if you are going to stay with paper,” said R.G. Conlee, Xerox’s Chief Innovation Officer.

What’s impressive is the depth and breadth of industries that have become loyal DocuSign customers. The company built an early business in the real estate space, but increasingly more of its business now comes from the insurance and financial services sectors.

One of the Momentum conference presenters, Julie Dunham from Wellmark, spoke about the difficulty her company faced when only the CEO or CFO could sign major payments or contracts. When the two executives were both out of town, things got complicated. Shortly after she implemented DocuSign, Wellmark’s CEO signed a $2.5 million contract on an iPad using his finger while traveling out of the country. According to Dunham, their CEO has been an enthusiastic supporter ever since.

In another session yesterday, Angel Gonzales of the Firstmark Credit Union described how it used to take over ten days to fund a consumer loan. Since implementing DocuSign, the average is now down to six days and she estimates that her credit union has realized a savings of $1.4 million in the last three years.

But the real estate industry continues to be an eager player in this technology. DocuSign is the official provider of electronic signature software for the National Association of Realtors. And “niche” real estate firms are beginning to use DocuSign as well. An intriguing new company – Realty Mogul – built its business using a crowdfunding model for commercial real estate. According to their Executive Chairman – Jay Samit – the company has now underwritten over $1.3 billion in private real estate transactions.

Samit told an interesting anecdote about the early days of his business when they were scrambling for investors. Suddenly they received $500,000 and all the electronically signed documents out of the blue from one man who no one had ever spoken with before. When the CEO of Realty Mogul – Jilliene Hellman – called the investor to ask why he had taken an interest in their company, he told her “it was because I don’t like to talk to anybody” and promptly hung up.

DocuSign is clearly riding the double-barreled wave of customer desire for easy-to-use technology that saves time and money. In the process, they appear to be building almost Apple-like brand loyalty. At one of the conference keynote sessions yesterday, highly-respected venture capitalist Mary Meeker (her firm is a DocuSign investor) spoke about this when she noted that “one of the things the company has done really well is create a product that people love.”

That loyalty was on full display the past two days in San Francisco. Now it remains to be seen whether a company at the forefront of electronic signing can become a verb in its own right.

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