My colleague Dan Primack is on the Unicorn death watch these days, writing how Fidelity Investments has marked down its holdings in some privately-held, billion-dollar-plus startups like Snapchat, Zenefits, Dropbox and MongoDB, You can read his latest story here.
Some tempering of sky-high unicorn valuations was to be expected, especially since the last round of investors added special covenants to protect themselves, making the reported valuations a fiction. But it’s hard to compare what’s happening today with the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, when small investors pored money into tech IPOs of companies with no revenues and only the hint of a business model.
I sat down yesterday with DocuSign CEO Keith Krach at EY’s Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs. His digital document signing company, valued at $3 billion, offers a triple play to its partners in real estate, finance and other industries. By partnering with DocuSign, those companies can sharply reduce the cost and time it takes to get papers signed; they automatically capture the signing digitally for compliance, control and other data applications; and they create a better experience for customers.
I asked Krach who his competition is, and he answered: “there are two of them – pen and paper.” As for other competitors, he said barriers to entry at this point are almost prohibitive. I asked if he worried about newer authentication technologies displacing DocuSign and he told me about a proof-of-concept the company designed with Visa that would allow someone to complete documents for a car lease on the screen of the car’s dashboard, using block chain technology.
“This is a huge market, it is absolutely inevitable that it will go digital, and the value proposition is clear,” says Krach. You can quibble with the $3 billion valuation, but there’s a real business here. That’s why investor Marc Andreessen told the Fortune Global Forum last week that while some unicorns may disappear, as a group they are still undervalued.
And take time today to read Roger Parloff’s extraordinary story about the monstrous legal battle over the U.S. government’s nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
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