So over the weekend I read an article via Inc. Magazine
on a new startup idea in a very, very boring, archaic, traditional space: notarization of documents. The company is called Notarize.com, and it just got $2.2M in seed funding via Polaris Partners
(not surprising, given the founder, Pat Kinsel, is a venture partner at Polaris) and a few other angels.
Bottom line: I absolutely love this. Honestly, I can't think of a more archaic process for getting documents signed. I say this not only as a notary, but as someone who has gone through the terrible ordeal of getting documents notarized (for some odd reason, you can't in fact notarize your own documents - shocker).
According to the story, Kinsel got frustrated with the process, and started researching notary laws in each state to find a loophole to solve the problem...and he found one in Virginia - in 2011, they passed a law allowing the virtual notarization of documents. Gotta respect the hustle by Kinsel. I flirted with figuring out how to bring notarization services to Staples stores across the chain in our Copy & Print division, and laws were so different within each state that the head of my department told me to stop wasting my time and killed the project on me (I'll withhold comment on Staples's product innovation, or lack of, considering I had to use a competitor (UPS Store) to get a document notarized.
When I had to become a notary back in 2009 or so (during my "other life" in corporate law), the process was so archaic and arbitrary that I had to laugh. I had to go to the MA Secretary of Commonwealth with a recommendation in hand that claimed that I wasn't a distrustful person, promise I was myself and would still not be distrustful by laying my hand on some bible-like document, pay a small fee, and put my John Hancock on a massive book that could barely fit through a doorway. And that's it - I get a stamp (which I still have in my arsenal), and got to notarize documents to my heart's content.
A few other quick thoughts:
-The $25 price seems like a rather high price point given that the current going rate for most notaries is either absolutely nothing or a pack of gum, but as I understand, this is the price that notaries need to charge in VA to perform a virtual notarization of documents....which 1st makes me think - if the notary needs to charge $25, and Notarize is paying $25....where exactly is the revenue stream?
-I hope there isn't a demand issue in terms of notaries in Virginia, but as always, having too much demand and not enough supply for something is never a bad problem to have, at the end of the day. Growth is good.
-I wonder how much legs this has in terms of customer adoption rate, especially if Notarize is going after the B2C space. Looks like they have a Partner
program, though. I really like this as a white label solution for banks, real estate companies, institutional financial providers, etc.
Regardless, happy to see another startup coming out of Boston, and wish all the best to Notarize! Classic case of bringing disruption to an incredibly traditional industry in a dire need for change.