How to go from start-up to global phenomenon
DocuSign is the company responsible for letting people sign documents digitally. It takes the pain out of receiving an emailed document, printing it out, and then scanning or faxing it back. Started in 2003 by Tom Gonser, more than 48 million people have used DocuSign in 188 countries.
At a recent panel in San Francisco hosted by DocuSign, Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky spent a few minutes chatting with Tom Gonser about taking DocuSign from idea to global phenomenon.
[Transcript lightly edited for clarity.]
Fortune: What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a founder?
Gonser: Challenges are different at different phases of a company, but they are all around people and money. At the start, the challenge is finding some other crazy people who can get passionate about the idea, quit their jobs and risk everything. Then of course, building traction on a shoestring to create value, with the notion of profitability is secondary.
After things are running, the people challenge shifts to working to be sure we get the right people onboard, and create organizational leverage. The money problem shifts to managing spending, and ensuring traction to profitability.
Fortune: What’s the one thing you wished you knew when you first began this journey?
Gonser: I wish I fully understood the amount of time it would take, and wish we’d paced ourselves better.
Fortune: What’s been your biggest mistake?
Gonser: Mistakes are a part of moving forward. We’ve made many mistakes, but they simply got built into our learning about creating this market. If I had to point out one it would be scaling about two years before we needed to.
Fortune: If you were to start another startup what is the one thing you would not do?
Gonser: Since I typically build software as a service products, I would not build on anything except on a cloud setup like AWS or Azure, and I would not shy away from offshore development during the initial stages. I think speed is hyper important today for a new company, and the old methods are too slow.
Fortune: What’s the one piece of advice you would give up and coming startups?
Gonser: Build in data analytics and the growth discipline at the start, not big system, expensive analytics but baseline information sources to keep track of what works and what does not. This needs to be core DNA for every company going forward. I could toss in going mobile first here also.
Fortune: What’s next for DocuSign? What can we expect to see this year?
Gonser: You will see us investing lots in international expansion –both in geographic expansion and product enhancements around identity for international markets. We’ll have some very exciting announcements coming as we shape our global trust network infrastructure.