Notarize, a platform that enables consumers and businesses to sign and notarize official documents digitally, has raised $35 million in a series C round of funding. The Boston-based startup said that it has experienced a 400% growth in uptake over the past three months as the world has been forced to adopt remote working technologies.
A notary is a person who is qualified and authorized to serve as a witness and verifier in all manner of legal affairs, mainly around ensuring that documents are signed by the correct people. The notary market is big business, with some 1.2 billion transactions reportedly requiring a notary each year in the U.S. alone, according to Notarize.
Traditionally, it was necessary to notarize documents in person, with the signers and the notary present in the same room at the same time. But with esignatures slowly gaining traction across the digital world in recent years — replacing the need to print>sign>send (or scan) documents — the act of notarizing has also been moving to the digital domain, though at a slower pace.
While electronic signatures are widely accepted across the online world, they are not always regarded as “legally sound,” especially in high-stake transactions. Back in 2016, for example, a California court found that bankruptcy paperwork that had been signed using DocuSign should have been signed with ink. The ruling noted:
Although DocuSign affixations and other software-generated electronic signatures may have a place in certain commercial and other transactions, they do not have a place as substitutes for wet signatures on a bankruptcy petition, schedules, statements, and other documents filed with the court, and they do not comply with this court’s local rule.
Digitally notarizing a document won’t necessarily satisfy all local jurisdictions, but it is a security mechanism that provides additional integrity to the esigning and verification process. As such, platforms such as Notarize could go some way toward making making esignatures standard practice across all industries and transaction types.
Founded in 2015, Notarize provides the platform not only for signing documents but also ensuring that a qualified notary is on-hand to verify the participants in a transaction. Working across PC, tablet, and smartphone, Notarize enables the user to upload a PDF or snap a photo of a paper document, verify their identity, then connect with a notary across a two-way video stream who completes the final steps of verifying the customer.
The platform also supports multiple participants, for example where additional witnesses are required by law. The notary then adds their own signature and “seal” digitally, and the user can download the fully notarized document.
Prior to now, Notarize had raised around $47 million, and with the a fresh $35 million in the bank it said that it is now able to “quickly scale to meet unprecedented demand” for its digital notarization platform. The funding round, which actually closed in March, was led by Camber Creek, a venture capital firm focused on real-estate, and Polaris Partners.
Notarize announced its raise on the very same day that esignature giant DocuSign revealed that it was paying $38 million to acquire Liveoak Technologies, a platform that combines video conferencing, screen-sharing, and ID capture to enable agreements to be completed remotely. Alongside this acquisition, DocuSign also announced DocuSign Notary, a new product designed specifically for “high-value agreements” that require notary services.
Notarize said that it has seen “rapid adoption” for its platform throughout the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in the real estate realm where its notary services used to close $7 billion worth of deals. Other areas where it has seen a spike in demand include retirement withdrawals, healthcare proxies, among other commercial agreements.
Elsewhere in the legal sphere, DoNotPay last month raised $12 million to expand its bot-based system that helps consumers appeal parking tickets, cancel memberships, sue robocallers, claim compensation, and fight corporations. The San Francisco-based company also reported a surge in demand due to the global pandemic.