Small Business Spotlight of the Week: SignNow.com Amanda | April 18th, 2011
I like doing anything and everything I can over the internet. Some might say this is because I am a college-aged millennial whose social skills have been stunted by technology, but I think it has more to do with the ease, convenience and immediacy the internet provides. Need pad thai at midnight? The internet will prevail. Need to order panda shaped salt and pepper shakers because you forgot to buy your room mate a birthday gift until two days beforehand? Internet’s got your back.
And now the internet can offer one more convenient service: SignNow.com. SignNow offers 100% free electronic signings with no registration required. Instead of focusing on businesses, like many e-signature sites do, the creators of SignNow wanted to make their services accessible to the individual. People who need a fast signature only need to upload the document and then sign and send it.
Andrew Ellis, one of the co-founders of SignNow.com, was so enthusiastic about his company, I’m going to let him do most the talking on this one:
How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?
Funny, I actually had brunch with my grandmother and girlfriend this morning and had fun explaining how I signed a housing lease on my iPhone! We build technologies that allow people to sign documents (SignNow.com) and notarize documents (notarynow.com) online over a computer. You can sign your documents with your mouse or your finger if you have a smartphone. If you have a webcam, you can connect to a notary over video chat without leaving your desk! We try to give people a lot for free so they will keep coming back, tell their friends, and eventually upgrade.
What are some industry specific challenges you faced?
One of the greatest industry challenges is educating the public about the security behind digital technology. There is tremendous legal support behind our products, but people need to FEEL comfortable as well. It’s a lot easier to tell customers “Try our FREE signing website, you can sign documents with a mouse or on your iphone!” than it is to explain how the 1999 UETA and 2000 ESIGN Acts and our https framework help keep us secure. I wanted to run a marketing campaign saying “Our business is so easy and secure it makes signing documents feel like a Corona commercial” but our legal team said no.
Tell us a crazy story from starting your own business.
Our first week of launching NotaryNow, we received multiple threats via message boards, forums, and I even got a call from a notary threatening to “Wring my F*ing neck” and to “Stay the F*ck out of New Jersey” if we did business in there. The notary community (yes it can be a feisty, union-like group) generally dislikes us because they believe online notarizations will put them out of business. Yet with nearly 90% of the working population trusting their money to online banking but under 5% of people signing documents online (and even less notarizing online), it’s not hard to see where business technology will move with time.
What was your biggest learning curve/experience?
The biggest learning curve was how aggressively some people resist change. Politics are exceptionally slow to change, and new technological innovations are not always received well by an industry when it feels threatened. But if video killed the radio star, then it also gave us Thriller and backyard sensations OK Go and I think that is a fair trade.
What made you use crowdSPRING?
Coming from the financial world to the software world taught us a lot about bootstrapping and finding valuable outsourcing tools. This is how we found crowdSPRING to do some logo and website design work for us. There is so much to manage for an enterprising small business that it makes sense to lean on experts like the one’s crowdSPRING provides for the things like graphic work. Startups have to stay fast, flexible, and need valuable partners like crowdSPRING to allow us to focus on our core business.
If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?
At this point I wouldn’t change anything about the past. We’ve made some missteps but they all taught us valuable lessons. One example is outsourcing our original software development and it eventually had to be redone. Outsourcing is a fantastic idea when it’s NOT your core business. Since none of us are very artistic, outsourcing graphic work, logo’s, etc. was a GREAT idea (and we can thank crowdSPRING for helping us appear artistic).
How do you see your company growing in the future?
We have a different business strategy than our competitors – We give you the pepperoni pizza for free and charge only if you add olives, while our competitors charge you per slice. We think word of our free pizza will spread fast (already some great numbers!) As volume increases, we will be able to focus on adding more “topping” features such as biometric identity verification, notarizing documents from an iPad, and integrations.
Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.
The best advertisement is happy customers.