Digitally Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Our
By Dana Greenlee,
Monday, June 7, 2004; 12:00pm EST
A conversation with Seattle-based Docusign.com�s executive vice
president and co-founder Tom Gonser...
We have all had to sign a legal agreement at some time or another. The
process is a time consuming and costly process of making multiple
copies of agreements and signing them and then either faxing or
mailing original copies to all parties.
The online world has been slow to come up with a solution to this
business issue. Many companies have launched hopeful remedies and then
failed to capture the market over the years.
I believe a Seattle company has developed a solution that makes the
process all digital and is easy to do. Tom Gonser, executive
vice-president and co-founder of Docusign.com took a few minutes to
fill us in on his digital document signature system.
Q: Explain what Docusign does.
Gonser: The simplest way to think about what we do is a digital
version of an overnight express envelope. Any document that you might
send to somebody for signature typically is printed on your printer
and put in an overnight envelope or fax machine and then sent off to
be signed. We�ve developed an electronic version of the envelope.
Rather than printed on a printer, you print them directly into our
virtual envelope and off they go.
Q: It�s competitively priced to be similar to an express mailing
and it�s easier to do. Where�s the downside?
Gonser: It doesn�t cost as much, and we actually thought that would be
a conversation piece. Here�s a process with a quarter of the cost of
an overnight express envelope and that�s a great benefit, but the
focus that most of our customers have put on this isn�t a cost aspect
as much as the time aspect. Even when it absolutely positively has to
be there overnight, it�s still a day out, and you hope someone gets
it, opens up, signs it and returns it to you within a day. That�s two
days, even if you�re going overnight. If you use Docusign Express, you
could be on the telephone with somebody, they could receive your
Docusign Express envelope and sign instantly. Rather than the speed of
trucks, we travel at the speed of light.
Q: Are you seeing an issue where contracts and legal documents are
in a printed form and people looking to use your service just don�t
have it in a digital form?
Gonser: There are cases where you have a piece of paper on your desk
that you need to sign and send, but not very many. The Post Office has
a statistic that upwards to 92 percent of the paper we use today came
from a computer.
Q: Does it matter if the original document is Word or Excel or PDF?
Gonser: No, that�s one of the tricks we�ve done. Most of the solutions
in the past have required some fancy software that works with a
particular application. Our solution works with any document you can
print. In the past most of the businesses who wanted to take advantage
of the digital signature were not using Microsoft Word to originate
the documents they needed for their business. By allowing any document
that can be printed to be sent for digital signature, we enabled those
lines of business applications to take advantage of our software
without any integration at all - literally a print driver.
Once you install the little three megabyte install, you choose the
Docusign Express envelope and print. It goes right into the envelope
and follows the same process it would with paper. It�s an innovative
way we�ve done it to keep it simple for people. You then instruct the
system on who�s going to be receiving this for signature with an
e-mail address and name. It shows you the document on your computer
screen. To indicate where someone is supposed to sign or initial, you
just drag a little yellow sticky pad onto the document where you want
them to sign their name. To sign it, they just click on it.
One of the real benefits is that, in a lot of transactions, you might
receive something that has little sticky tabs on it. If one fell off
in the envelope, you sign everyplace you think you�re supposed to sign
and send it back. The next thing you hear is they have to send it to
you again because you forgot to sign page seven. With our system, you
can�t forget to sign anything. You try to complete the transaction
without signing on all the places, it will say, �Sorry, you�re missing
one and here it is.�
Q: What is your opinion on why it�s taken so long for digital
signatures to be accepted?
Gonser: There are a number of reasons why this hasn�t taken off. All
the other aspects of business transactions have been accelerated
dramatically: very powerful word processor technology, e-mail use is
just crazy, sending documents back and forth to review � but this last
piece of getting a signature is throwing us back 100 years.
Initially, the reason people weren�t doing this was because there was
no law that supported it. Just because you said you sign something
online, there was no legal framework for that. In 2000, there was
actually a national act passed at the federal level. The government
passed the ESign Act, which stands for Electronic Signatures in Global
and National Commerce. It gives electronic signatures in documents the
same weight or legal effect as paper documents and handwritten
signatures. As of 2000, the law supported it but, of course, people
don�t want to be the first in the water so there had to be some cases
where the actual e-signatures stood up.
Q: There were certainly a lot of dot-com related companies with
great ideas that were a little too early to market. Now there are
enough people out there who understand how to use Web-based
technologies so that now it�s a more viable option for people.
Gonser: Exactly. In the late 1990�s and 2000, there was still a debate
about how many people would actually use credit cards online. Today
the problem is people are willing to give their credit card numbers to
random Websites without even looking to see if it�s an �https�
Q: What are the different uses that Docusign is currently being
Gonser: In the legal space, clearly there is a benefit. We actually
just closed on some funding and we obviously signed all the documents
using our system. If you think about a complex transaction like that,
we have a document that needs eight different signatures and is 200
pages long. I had 41 places to sign or initial on the document. The
ability to put that documented into the Docusign Express Repository
and have all eight people sign the exact same document is fantastic
compared to what the paper process is for document like that.
Other markets that are particularly interested and were early adopters
was the real estate market. We just signed an agreement with the
technology arm of the National Association of Realtors - a company
called RE Forms Net. They developed the software application that
realtors use to create the purchase and sale agreement and others.
They built our Docusign Express technology directly into their Zip
Form product so realtors could easily execute their real estate
transactions, whether it�s a listing agreement or, in the case of
California and Washington where there is a really hot market and
offers and counteroffers are bouncing back and forth so quickly,
because our system is so fast, potentially a Realtor using Docusign
Express and the Zip Form might be able to get their offer in faster.
About Source of Article
Dana Greenlee is producer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio
Show. WebTalkGuys, a Seattle-based talk show featuring
technology news and interviews. It is broadcast on WebTalkGuys Radio,
Sonic Box, via Pocket PC at Mazingo Networks and the telephone via the
Mobile Broadcast Network. It's on the radio in Seattle at KLAY
1180 AM. Past show and interviews are also webcast via the
http://www.webtalkguys.com/. Greenlee is also a member of the The
International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.