It’s a thankless chore that’s never finished; it eats up into family time and is definitely ripe for automation. I thought “wouldn’t it be great if we had a secure cloud-based filing cabinet where all my important documents lived, if it was organised and maintained by the companies that create those documents, and could be used to transact with those companies and advisers”? The first version of MyDocSafe was just that: a user-centric cloud-based document-management platform with public key encryption and secure sharing functionality. Thus, as in so many cases of business start-ups, a consumer problem became the reason that MyDocSafe was born.
The key problem at the outset was: how do we populate MyDocSafe with documents? The only way to do it was to also solve a business problem. Businesses, it appears, have a similar issue with their paperwork and workflows which comes in at a big cost: signing up new customers, working with external stakeholders, complying with workplace regulations: these workflows are still paper based in most companies and take up way too much time and consume too many resources.
So we built a solution for a business problem, almost unintentionally solving a consumer problem at the same time. Businesses use us to automate their workflows (from simple e-signature contract signing through complex deals all the way to comprehensive on-boarding of customers, which involves sharing of personal data, ID checks and payment processing).
The main difficulty in bringing our product to the market was the time required to build a robust and secure prototype. MyDocSafe is not a single product mobile app that could be put together in a few months. Since we use sophisticated cryptography, blockchain technology and a number of third party integrations, we could not use shortcuts. We had to take time and perform proper security testing. And that required capital. Fortunately, I managed to raise a seed round which took us from an early prototype to revenue generation.
Raising capital is difficult in the best of times. It helps if you can fund the creation of a prototype yourself, have a personal network of investors and most importantly, can persuade an influential serial investor to back you and join your board. We pulled off a fully funded Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme round in late 2015 which still took six months to close. We’re now getting ready for a larger round which will require new investors with deeper pockets. The next battle is about to begin…
We now have more than 1,000 users, and our growth is starting to accelerate. We sell to accounting firms, law firms, real estate agents and consultancies. We see significant interest from the educational sector as well (fully automated online admissions anyone?).
We primarily sell in the UK at present, but I hope to expand to continental Europe and especially to Poland in 2017, and we’re keen to work with channel partners who could help us do that.
My main observation from the last three years are as follows. Despite the fact that e-signature and e-ID legislation has been around for a long time, the market has not been too receptive to these ideas – until recently. We can currently see a tipping point where several things are happening at once.
Firstly, the inconvenience of using scanners and emails or old-fashioned faxes and printers to sign and transmit contracts and transact with advisers and professional services firms is too much to bear for a growing number of customers. Companies are finally noticing that their digital strategy has to endorse the cloud because for the simple reasons that their users are demanding it. Who wants to deal with a company that asks you to post a letter?
Secondly, EU legislation makes it much easier to transact electronically in cross-border transactions. This is a great blessing for start-ups like ours. And finally, cyber-security issues have ceased to be a concern that only troubles big companies. The small- and medium-size enterprise market is finally taking notice.