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As Growth in Mobile Apps Goes Exponential, DocuSign Emerges as Silicon Valley’s Sensible Shoes

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If necessity is the mother of invention, how then do you explain something like Facebook? Of course, few seasoned business leaders would likely not deem the social media platform today as a business necessity. Still, when you consider some of Silicon Valley’s less celebrated tech offerings — like, say, digital signature technologies — the word “necessity” certainly seems to surface more easily.

“It’s just a matter of time before we touch more people than Facebook. It’s inevitable when you look at the adoption curve of different technologies and how people will be executing documents,” says Mike Dinsdale, CFO of DocuSign, a San Francisco–based firm whose offerings enable customers to secure legally binding signatures over the Internet.

“I just keep coming back to the fact that my dad doesn’t use Facebook, but he sure signs stuff,” explains Dinsdale, who says that the firm is currently adding between 50,000 and 60,000 new users a day, as it nurtures a customer/consumer population that crosses all borders and ranges from small business owners like Realtors to giant enterprises like Hewlett-Packard.

“Every time our paying customers use our product, they expose it to somebody else — it’s the nature of the product — and we then message that person to let them know that they too could benefit from using us in the business that they’re in,” says Dinsdale.

Such exposure has helped DocuSign experience year-over-year growth of 80 percent and allowed Dinsdale to join a class of finance leaders that specialize in firms that have matured beyond the cusp of start-up or small firm years and moved into the ranks of lower-middle-market firms that experience exponential growth.

“I just did an employee onboarding meeting where I did a CFO welcome type of intro to 33 people who have been hired since January,” explains Dinsdale, who says that the firm’s workforce grew to 400 in 2013 and will likely number close to 600 by year-end. Meanwhile, the firm plans to this year fortify its footprint offshore. In addition to the London office that DocuSign opened last year, the firm plans to open offices this year in Toronto, Sydney, and South America.

Since Dinsdale’s arrival at DocuSign in 2010, the firm has had two rounds of investment funding, including $47.5 million in financing garnered last summer in a round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Other DocuSign investors include Scale Venture Partners, Google Ventures, Comcast, SAP, and Salesforce.com. The firm’s expanded financing signaled to the outside world that DocuSign was entering a period of new growth, according to Dinsdale, who says that the firm grew in modest increments until about 2010, when it experienced an inflection point triggered by a rapid escalation in the adoption of mobile computing devices.

“We are now more than doubling the number of transactions that we process every year through mobile devices,” explains Dinsdale, who says that anyone doubting the veracity of the mobile movement needs only to consider that Apple’s iPad tablet achieved a 10 percent penetration of the U.S. population in under 2 years.

It’s no secret that the iPad’s market penetration has in part been driven by companies that are enhancing the mobile capabilities of their workforces.

“We’re now seeing enormous deployments of mobile devices for sales forces, where Comcast is using the iPad in field sales, Fidelity is using it for new account signings, Charles Schwab uses it for new account openings, and they are embedding DocuSign in their mobile applications,” explains Dinsdale, who says that a large percentage of DocuSign transactions will in the future be driven by individual customers.

“We have one customer that is ramping up to complete 100 million transactions a year, and just to give you some context on that, our company has done 220 million in its history,” explains Dinsdale.

Meanwhile, there’s one industry opportunity more than any other that Dinsdale singles out.

“Healthcare dwarfs everything — think of it as managing 10 billion pieces of paper a year going to multiple places,” he explains.

With all of what’s happened to DocuSign since the surge in mobile device adoption, it’s easy to forget that the company has been around since 2003.

Says Dinsdale: “There are a lot of companies that have terrific product ideas, but they are 5 years too early and they die before the market evolves. We were lucky enough to have a founder that just believed in it.”


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