Two 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.
Plain 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.