San Francisco-based startup HelloFax has been providing a way to send faxes online since its launch in 2010, and today the company is taking the next step towards its goal of creating a paperless office with the launch of digital signature tool HelloSign. Aimed primarily at consumers and SMBs, HelloSign offers a free way for people to sign contracts and documents. As part of the launch, the company has partnered with cloud storage company Box to offer 25GB in free storage, and is also integrated with Dropbox, with Google Drive integration coming soon.
Founder Joseph Walla originally created HelloFax as a way to solve his personal pain point of sending faxes, and after posting the idea on Y Combinator’s news community Hacker News, he got enough feedback that he decided to turn it into a company. HelloFax’s existing service launched in February 2011, and lets people send and receive faxes online.
It was after realizing the same problem existed with signing documents that they added electronic signatures and document signing capabilities to the product. Up until today, HelloFax allowed users to create a digital signature, sign documents online, and request a digital signature, and the service is also integrated with Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox, so users could save their signed documents and faxes to their cloud storage accounts.
Today’s HelloSign launch is a way to turn the existing product into two standalone offerings, with different pricing models and functionality. “We accidentially stumbled into the online signature space,” Walla said in an interview. “We finally hit this point a couple months ago where we realized that we were selling two products, we were selling HelloFax, the faxing tool, and HelloSign, and we just decided it was time to separate them.”
HelloFax’s digital signature features will now be a part of HelloSign. HelloFax will retain its existing online faxing functionality, along with its tiered subscription plans, ranging from a free account that gives users five fax pages per month, up to a $69.95 per month account with 2,000 fax pages per month. HelloSign accounts are free, and users can also create teams, and turn documents into templates so they can reuse them. The company also released a HelloSign iOS app.
There are already a number of players in the digital signature space, most notably large players like EchoSign, which launched in 2006 and was acquired by Adobe in July 2011, and DocuSign, which raised $47.5 million in funding in earlier this month, and has over 20 million global users. There are also several startups tackling online document creation and digital signatures, including Contractually. Walla said the larger players are enterprise-level solutions, and that HelloSign is focused on small businesses and consumers. And unlike Contractually’s tiered accounts, HelloSign is free, though Walla said they will be adding in paid premium features. “We have this strong belief that your signature should be free, which [competitors] don’t share,” Walla said.
The company was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2011 class, and has raised some external funding, though Walla declined to share details. Ultimately Walla says HelloFax will become a multi-product company devoted to making the paperless office a reality, and HelloFax and HelloSign are just the first two products. “The paperless office is this huge failure that has been promised to us for the last four years, so when we think about what we’re doing as a company, we don’t think about just HelloFax and HelloSign, we’re thinking a lot about how do we solve this paper problem.”
The move to digital signatures could be an indication that the demand for faxes is waning, but Walla said that there is still “massive demand for online faxing.” Walla said faxing certainly isn’t the future of communications, and will eventually die out, but right now there’s still lots of demand for it. Whether the demand is there or not, diversifying the company’s offerings to offer other digital services is a smart strategy, and one that will help them attract new audiences even as old technologies fade in popularity.
Update: the article originally stated that the company hasn’t raised any external funding, and has been edited to reflect that it has. The article was also updated to reflect the fact that Apple approved HelloSign’s iPhone app, and it’s now available for download.