Located: Palo Alto, California
Market: Electronic Signature and Contract Management
Key Customers: British Telecom, Comcast, Delta Airlines, GE Capital, Qualcomm, and Time Warner Cable
I asked Jason Lemkin, EchoSign’s CEO and co-founder a few questions about his business and his view of the SaaS market in 2010.
Did you start out as a Software-as-a-Service company?
When we started our company in 2006 the market wasn’t that clear on what SaaS really meant. Our vision has always been clear to build a web or Cloud service where companies could execute a contract electronically on the Web.
This is my 4th start-up and the second company that I have co-founded. I was a lawyer at the Venture Law Group here in the Bay Area and it was really obvious to me that this was the right way to get contracts done but lawyers tend to be slow to adopt new technologies.
It always seemed logical to be able to execute contracts electronically, because it saves time and headaches but our vision might have been a bit early. Our early customers were an odd mix of web-centric folks who read TechCrunch, use BaseCamp project management products, and other companies that wanted to automate their business contracting processes. Now we are seeing regular businesses are catching up to our early adopters by leveraging the Web for their contracting processes. We believe this might be one of the last open areas for the automating of business processes using the Internet. Like a lot of other paradigm changes contracts will be going from the analog world to digital, and most contracts in the next 5 years will all be executed electronically.
Why do your customers buy from EchoSign?
We have sold to nearly 20,000 customers of all sizes including Proctor & Gamble to Real Hip Hop Records to Dell and more than 80% of our customers use our products for sales oriented tasks. The real advantage for our customers is going from an older fax-based contract process to EchoSign. We can take a process that currently takes days and compress it down to just a few minutes; in fact we have found that the average time to execute a contract with EchoSign is less than 45 minutes.
Aetna likes EchoSign because healthcare professionals can complete contracts faster and more reliably and can reduce the expenses associated with faxing or mailing these agreements. The company has found that by using EchoSign, they can reduce contract-processing time from three weeks to one day on average. Currently about 70% of all of Aetna’s transactions with healthcare providers are electronic and EchoSign helps with these processes and provides visibility throughout the contract lifecycle.
We built EchoSign to be a very easy to use sales tool, not just a product for lawyers. All types of business people are executing contracts today. Business professionals and sales reps just don’t have time to learn how to use new tools; they just want to focus on closing contracts and getting back to their business.
Like Aetna, many of our larger customers also see the benefits of EchoSign for their legal organizations because we provide visibility into their overall contracting process, which helps with compliance by creating electronic audit trails, delivering a secure signing process, which can also help to avoid fraud.
What do you see as the key trend emerging in the SaaS industry?
When we started the company three years ago, customers were just buying SaaS point solutions like Salesforce.com and WebEx. Today companies are running their entire business using Cloud-based software. So the concept of signing and closing contracts can no longer be viewed as just a point solution, but a component of a larger, integrated business process.
For example, a typical integrated sales process for one of our customers might be capturing a new lead from Google Adwords, then demonstrating their product over the Web using WebEx and managing the sales process using Salesforce.com and then executing the new customer contract using EchoSign. Our customers would ideally like all of their SaaS tools and processes to be integrated because it saves them time and money. Applications should just be loosely connected together using API’s, they want these products to work together in a more integrated way.
Another trend we see is the rise of many different partner ecosystems that companies like ours will need to work with over time. EchoSign is a Salesforce AppExchange partner; in fact in 2009 we were the signal highest rated application on the AppExchange. We also work with Google Apps, Oracle, Salesforce, Box.net and others. We have these partnerships because our customers are looking to integrate all of these web products together to run their businesses and we want EchoSign to be a part of these expanding set of business processes.
Even though Salesforce has over 70,000 customers, the Laws of Attach Rates would tell us that we can only assume that 1-2% of their customers will consume our service. We just announced we have signed our 1,000th Salesforce customer, so we are doing well but we need to work with many of these partners who support large eco-systems of customers. Because we are relatively easy to integrate into, we should have a higher attach rate to these solutions and this partner leverage will enable us to grow our business quickly.
What is your outlook for 2010?
Last year, during the recession, we saw elevated churn rates but now our business is back to pre-recession levels. The churn was related to bankruptcies and other similar types of recession fallout.
Our customer’s buying patterns are pretty consistent. Prior to the recession, we had many lower quality customers, but now we are seeing more stable, higher quality customers who are less likely to churn in the future.
These stronger companies are buying our solutions now, which is fueling the growth of our business and we are not seeing those lower quality customers out in the market. I guess it was easier to build a company when equity and debt were available to start a business. Today, strong companies are succeeding and accelerating out of the recession and EchoSign can help these companies optimize their sales processes.
A good sign for our business is that we are starting to see our customers asking to pre-pay for multi-year deals as a way to lock in future pricing.