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Archive for November, 2011

November 12, 2011

The Senior Partner, The Paper Switcheroo, and Avoiding The $130,000,000 “Mistake” with E-Signatures

One of the most important and fundamental topics we talk about with our users and customers is authentication and fraud.  Our users have a basic understanding of how fraud can in theory, and in practice, work in the paper world, and go through an educational process to see that electronic signatures and web contracts are inherently more secure and more tamper resistant than paper ever can be.  Web contracts are locked down.  They are immutable.  They contain an integrated forensic audit trail.  And they cannot be changed once signed.

Let’s contrast that with one of the most basic issues with paper contracts — they can be modified once signed.  Not just the signature itself – but just as importantly, the body of the contract itself and especially the attachments.  Attachments in paper contracts are routinely left off, updated, or attached after the fact.  It’s at best a horribly sloppy practice, but it’s a common one.

With web contracts and e-signatures, swamping out attachments and portions of signed contract is simply impossible by contrast.  Whatever is signed, is locked down and signed forever. Period.

larry_davidWhich makes this $130,000,000 signature story in today’s Wall Street Journal about the ownership of the L.A. Dodgers in the divorce of its owners one that simply never should happen in the electronic age.  In a nutsell, the appendix to the signed contract that stated who owned what portion of the Dodgers was swapped out — after the signature and after the fact itself.

“Last year, while preparing for the McCourts’ divorce trial, questions surrounding the agreement came up. Evidence surfaced that there were discrepancies among the original six signed copies, namely that attachments to three named Mr. McCourt as the sole owner of the Dodgers while attachments to the three others didn’t. Evidence also revealed that the copies with attachments that didn’t name Mr. McCourt as the sole owner had been replaced by attachments that did shortly after all six copies had been signed.

At trial last fall, Mr. Silverstein testified that he didn’t remember switching the attachments, but he conceded that he was likely the one who switched them. He also said he didn’t tell the McCourts about the switch, likely because he felt he had the implied consent from the McCourts to make a simple drafting change he felt squared with their original wishes. Mr. Silverstein, described by several Boston lawyers as a highly regarded attorney, declined to comment for this article.

The end result?   Frank McCourt is suing his attorney for this $130,000,000 “mistake”.

This is simply stunning.  Because in 2011, a senior attorney at a law firm simply shouldn’t be able to swap out one part of a contract for another, after it’s signed.  Imagine someone adding a few zeros to a check, and stating there was as “implied consent” to increase the payment two orders of magnitude.  That’s why we don’t use paper checks anymore.

With EchoSign, by contrast, this lawsuit would never have happened.  It would have been impossible to swap out the attachments, or any part of the signed contract.

Paper contracts.  They’re on the path of paper payments, paper checks, analog photos, faxes, and other relics of an age without full transparency and automatic auditability.  Too much risk, too much downside, really … there’s no point.

2012.  The Year of the Web Contract.

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11:45 PM Permalink
November 9, 2011

E-Signatures: A Feature, A Product, or a Company?

echosign_transacts_1_millionTwo variants of one question we received a lot over the years at EchoSign, especially in the early days, were the classic:

“OK.  EchoSign is pretty cool.  But won’t it just become a feature of XXXX?”  [Replace XXXX with Acrobat, Salesforce, Google, whatever]


“OK.  It’s more than just a feature.  But you can’t really build a $100m business in e-signatures?  It’s really a product, not a company, right?”

Our answer to both, as you might expect, was no.  Which was not to say, however, that the answers are quite so binary.

Flash forward to almost 2012, an eight-figure EchoSign business, joining Adobe — and what have we learned, about bringing online document signing to the web? First, as part of Adobe, we are going to make e-signatures a feature.  Starting in January in Adobe Reader, and then a little later in Mobile Reader, e-signatures will be a free feature.

sneak_peek_1_billionPlain and simple.  The 1,000,000,000 users of Adobe Reader and the soon to be x00,000,000+ users of Mobile Reader (growing at the rate of 2m a week just on iOS alone) will get the basic version of EchoSign for free.  And in fact, they’ll get some benefits they don’t have today (beyond ubiquity), principally off-line support.  The reality is despite some innovations by Google in particular, HTML just doesn’t work great off-line.  But your contracts spend a lot of time off-line.  Reader will become the ‘native app’ for off-line and on-line signing with EchoSign.

So in one sense, as of Q1 next year, e-signatures will be for the first time be a classic feature of a Big Company’s larger offering.  The basic version of EchoSign in Q1 will officially become a core feature of the almost $1,000,000,000 Adobe PDF universe, with a full roadmap ahead of it during 2012.  For basic use cases, there will simply be no charge at all.

What then become of e-signatures as a product?  Well in fact, that journey, by contrast, has just begun.  Because it’s not really about e-signatures.

When we launched EchoSign as the first 100% web-based signature product on January 1, 2006 on TechCrunch (how much has changed since then!), we carefully chose our name and tagline.  The idea was not just to get docu ments signed, but that the Echo in our name attempted to speak to the idea of automating the whole contracting process.  From creation, to collaboration, to execution, to archive, to management.  We feel we’re about 10% of the way there after almost 6 years.  But the web is now ready for and already deep down the path of the next phase — Web Contracts.  Of which e-signatures are the central piece.



So yes in early 2012 e-signatures will finally become a feature.  Yes, 100 smarty-pants VCs were right.  In a sense.  But that’s just one step in a journey to a 100% web contracting process.  Thank you for joining us for the first phase.  Next year, it starts to get really good.  EchoSign, e-signatures, and web contracts are officially one of Adobe’s top 2012 priorities.  Our team has doubled.  Expect much more.  We’ve already tripled our growth rate in four months under Adobe.  We’ll deliver for you.


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11:41 PM Permalink
November 3, 2011

Sneak Peak: EchoSign Comes to 1,000,000,000 Users of Adobe Reader in Full Force in January

uploading_documentSince EchoSign became part of Adobe in July, many of you have asked “Great.  What’s in it for me?” Fair enough.

Certain benefits were almost immediate.  We now have a $2,000,000,000+ balance sheet backing us, meaning vendor risk has been completely eliminated in the e-signature space for the first time.  We’ve added some quick first-step integrations, including the use of Adobe IDs for Single Sign On, as well as a basic link to EchoSign in Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat.  And, as you’ll see in the coming months, Adobe has deployed many more resources to support EchoSign.  Our team will soon have doubled in size, especially engineering and product, so we’ll get more features and functionality out to you even faster.

But back to those integrations.  We’ve just gotten started.  Adobe invented the PDF, and over 1 billion copies of Reader have been installed on PCs and mobile devices worldwide.  You’ll begin to see Reader evolve in Q1 into a device that furthers our vision of web contracts.  Why does Reader matter?  Because contracts live as PDFs — it’s how we safely collaborate and share them.  And PDFs are opened in Reader.  So the reality is, Reader is the natural place to start the contracting process for the vast majority of contracts — it’s the native app you open them in in the first place.

The Reader integration will roll forward in several stages.  In Q1, you’ll see two important pieces of EchoSign inside of Adobe Reader — all in one simple click, with a new button in Reader – “Sign”.

First, you’ll be able to fill in and sign any document you open in Reader, period.  For free.  Second, you’ll then be able to take any document in Reader, whether you’ve signed it yourself or not, and send it out for e-signature via EchoSign, in one click.

uploading_full_screenPDF is the language of contracts and contract collaboration.  Reader + EchoSign = web contracts for everyone, everywhere, every-how.

And after this huge update for Reader, we’ve got a lot more planned.  Imagine much of the entire EchoSign experience inside of Reader, running at turbocharged native speed.  Imagine EchoSign fully integrated inside of Mobile Reader too – already one of the Top 5 most popular mobile apps.  Imagine just for a little while longer.  We’re building it all for you.

It’s going to be great.


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11:15 PM Permalink


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