DocuSign exec troubles

Isn’t signing a document just a feature, not a company?

I have to confess that I’ve been surprised by the valuation for DocuSign, which was valued at $3 billion in a funding round last year. I’ve had niddling doubts about the growth possibilities for a company that is basically built around the document signature use case, especially since the idea of ‘electronic signatures’ feels like a skeuomorph crying out for disruption by other approaches to identity verification, most notably fingerprint recognition on smartphones.

Perhaps those questions are being raised by others as well. According to Bloomberg, Rick Osterloh, a former Motorola Mobility exec, had been picked to lead the company forward to an IPO, but just before the announcement he balked and took a job as head of hardware at Alphabet. DocuSign is left with Keith Krach as CEO, who said last fall he wanted to step down.

Basically, verification of identity is now in the hands of the Internet giants, like Google and Apple, and DocuSign is a dinosaur just waiting for the shower of meteorites to come raining down.

So, here’s a small prediction, based on the senior executives that have been bailing out of the company — four out of nine top execs left this year: one of the majors — Google or Microsoft? — will buy DocuSign, and for less than the $3 billion valuation. The company is unwilling to share its financials, and has invested heavily to meet the requirements for eIDAS regulations in the EU, going into effect on July 1.

7 Responses to “Isn’t signing a document just a feature, not a company?”

  1. The answer to the question is in the last sentence of the article.

    Specifically, “has invested heavily to meet the requirements for eIDAS regulations in the EU, going into effect on July 1.”

    Anything that requires “heavy investment” by definition is not “just a feature”.

    It sounds to me like the signature itself is just the visible part with a huge iceberg. The technology and compliance mechanisms built to support that “just a signature” is the invisible and valuable part of what DocuSign offers.

    From my perspective, a signature is more than just a signature. It is the bit that makes a contract binding. There is also the question of which contract is the signature attached to?

  2. e-signatures are just a feature, but an important one. e-signatures are not about identity, but tie identity with a document at a time the person signifies agreement and creates the reliable record(s). Most e-sign vendors no longer focus on just the e-signature. Besides, users have long used it for much more than e-signatures, as it gathers data, ensures a reliable workflow (often needed for regulatory compliance), can push/accept data during the flow for integration with other systems, becomes a repository for reporting, etc. eIDAS may be the brand new dinosaur from the EU standards bodies, another iteration of PKI-me-harder.

  3. Raymond Noodle

    You are correct Stowe, Signing electronically is just a feature…when talking about unregulated industries in the US only.

    When you open your eyes enough to realize there’s an entire world outside the US, you’ll realize that you literally can’t just sign with a mouse or fingerprint in most countries (this doesn’t meet the legal requirements). This is why Google, Apple, and Microsoft have absolutely no play in this space or chance of taking over.

    Electronic Signatures are a feature for unregulated US industries. The DocuSign platform includes this feature, as well as Identity management, Data residency/storage, Workflow, Form completion, Document Storage, Electronic Notarization, Digital Certificate Issuance and Management (DocuSign is also a certified Certificate Authority like VeriSign), and hundreds and hundreds of other features which facilitate business in many locales across the globe.

  4. Stowe,

    I think you have it all wrong, I think Docusign is transforming the way business is done, and the difference is the widespread adoption of the Docusign platform, and its integration with Salesforce. Formerly I worked at LexisNexis, and know how long it takes for attorneys to adopt new ways of doing business, Keith has led Docusign to become that standard for signing/executing contracts digitally. It is a tremendous accomplishment.

    I’ve met Keith, and he has both vision and the passion to drive this forward.

  5. Richard Spelman

    Depends on the document, providing the ability in the digital economy to move manual processes into the digital world, in a safe, secure, trusted environment, while allowing anyone, anywhere, on any device to be included in the digital world.
    Is a bit more than “just a feature”, and I agree it is “not a company”. It is a complete industry, “ecommerce”.

    Then again there are still people that believe the US Consitution is just a document!

    Here’s to wishing everyone a ‘Happy and Safe Independence Day “, just another feature of signing a document.