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How DocuSign has held up so well in the coronavirus pandemic

March 24, 2020, 12:34 PM UTC

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No company is unaffected by this crisis, but some are better off than others. I spoke Monday to Dan Springer, CEO of e-signature company DocuSign, to find out how business is and how he’s dealing with the emergency.

DocuSign charges businesses for electronic transactions, like purchase orders or contracts. Customers buy “capacity” in bulk. Springer says that because his company already was serving the “digital transformation” trend now being accelerated by the temporary end of face-to-face business, it has held its own so far. Of course, he’s concerned there will be customers who put all spending on hold. “We’ve seen a little, little bit of that,” he says. At the same time, customers like banks and government agencies, not traditional work-from-home environments, have stepped up purchases.

Even an all-digital business must cope. Weeks ago, the company converted its internal sales kickoff meeting and then its external customer conference to virtual events. Shortly after that it suspended all travel that didn’t involve customers. (Emily Heath, the company’s chief security and trust officer, had only recently arrived from United Airlines and impressed upon her colleagues the potential dangers from a pandemic.) Before long, the entire company was working from home.

Springer, a repeat CEO, portrays DocuSign as fortunate to be helpful to customers and employees. It has created a 90-day free program for small businesses and is helping real estate agents, a core and imperiled customer set, to downgrade to no- or low-cost packages. It has given $1,000 grants to all employees to spend on short-term needs, like arranging for day care. And it is retaining all hourly workers. He’s also asking employees to be flexible. Sunday night a group worked late into the night to help a big bank implement DocuSign’s product. He says if no one needs you at 10:00 a.m., then “go play with your kids.”

The CEO cops to having “no clue” how long this will last. But for business-planning purposes, he told a virtual all-hands meeting 10 days ago to expect to work from home for eight weeks. He’s also doing his best not to look at the company’s stock price, which has held up remarkably well.

Springer also is doing his best to keep things light, including by encouraging virtual happy hours. An East Coast sales manager asked him to join one last Friday, and though it was only 2:00 p.m. in California, he raised a glass to the webcam. He calls this the equivalent of the “walking around stuff” managers need to do all the time—and especially when times get tough. Even if the walking around is by Zoom.

Adam Lashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Cross-over trial. In virus-fighting news, Tesla CEO Elon Musk donated 1,225 ventilators that he acquired in China to hospitals in Los Angeles. Facebook said over the weekend that it would donate 720,000 masks that it had stockpiled during the California wild fires. The Federal Communications Commission gave AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon permission to use additional airwave spectrum temporarily during the pandemic. And T-Mobile debuted a phone plan costing just $15 per month for people needing to cut back on expenses.

Background therapy. In other virus-related news, numerous startups have been cutting back, as former Fortune writer Erin Griffith, now at the New York Times, cataloged on her Twitter feed. Companies reducing staff included Convene, Yonder, Leafly, Compass, and Inspirato.

Serious adverse event. As we stick in the department of not-so-great news, Microsoft says hackers found a security flaw in the current version of Windows that exploits a weakness in the font manager to run malicious code. No patch is yet available.

Dosing discontinuation. Meanwhile, in the department of almost-too-good-to-be-true news, flying car startup Lilium raised $240 million of venture capital from investors including Tencent, Atomico, and Freigeist.

Placebo. People stuck inside are signing up for streaming services at a rapid clip. Signups to Disney+ tripled last week from the week before, HBO Now signups increased 90%, and Netflix subscriptions rose 47%, market research firm Antenna said. Also booming in the time of coronavirus? Digital payments handled by PayPal and others.


As noted above, major tech companies are making efforts to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. But SparkToro CEO Rand Fishkin thinks big tech should do more. In an essay on GeekWire, Fishkin has some very specific requests. Google Maps, for example, could help small businesses more, he says.

Google Maps’ long-term revenue relies on small businesses, local businesses, and the advertising they do. Now is the time to pull out all the stops to help these folks, and directing traffic to the Maps listings, IMO, isn’t the best move. Instead, I’d propose highlighting the local business websites, enabling gift card purchases via Google Pay on Google Maps, creating more visibility for the email lists of restaurants and local businesses, directing Maps visitors to e-commerce opportunities or takeout menus or whatever the business owner tells Google brings them the most revenue and relief right now.

In some cases, that might actually be sending their visitors to a competitor! I talked to Charlie (the co-owner of Moshi Moshi today), and they’ll be shuttered for the next few weeks, possibly longer. Charlie would love to redirect their Google Maps listings to someplace productive, where folks can find takeout or delivery, but without Google’s help, can’t do it.


Will they be coming out with a line of toy cars? Uber appointed former Mattel CEO Robert Eckert to its board...Salesforce hired Arundhati Bhattacharya as CEO of its India operations. Bhattacharya headed the State Bank of India until retiring in 2017...Amanda Langowski will lead Microsoft's Windows Insider testing program. She had been the head of the company's Flight Platform team.


‘Essential’ stores like CVS and Dollar General go on hiring sprees while the rest of retail reels By Phil Wahba

Some Amazon Prime shipments won’t arrive for a month due to coronavirus By Chris Morris

Updated: Here’s what medical experts say about Everlywell’s home coronavirus testing kits By Terry Collins

Women are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis By Emma Hinchliffe

Book tours are key to promoting new releases, but authors have been left stranded amid coronavirus pandemic By Lindsey Tramuta

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Astronomers recently found a new comet, dubbed C/2019 Y4, but known more commonly as Comet ATLAS after the alert system that discovered it. Atlas is getting brighter as it approaches Earth and will likely become shiny enough to be seen at night with the naked eye soon. Some theorize, based on the rate of increase, it may even become visible in daylight. I'll keep you posted.

Aaron Pressman