I was super excited to learn that SpringCM was acquired earlier this week by industry heavyweight DocuSign for $220M. I know what an achievement it is on both sides of the table to close a deal of that size and complexity, so congrats to all involved!
One of my team members asked me whether I viewed the news as a threat or an opportunity, and when I practically shouted “OPPORTUNITY!” we got into a fun conversation about the startup lifecycle, so I thought I’d share the gist of it publicly here.
A rising tide lifts all boats
Outlaw is just one player in a larger contract management industry, and beyond that, an entire SaaS ecosystem, in which big deals like this one promote additional investment and innovation for others in the same space down the line.
Especially with so many eyes on DocuSign after their recent IPO, SpringCM’s buyout signals that DocuSign intends to put that capital to good use starting immediately, and will encourage other acquirers and investors alike to look around at startups that have been quietly transforming the way deals get done.
Combine this with LegalZoom’s $500M funding announcement on Tuesday and we’re looking at nearly three quarters of a billion dollars of transactions in ONE WEEK. This makes it abundantly clear, if there was still any doubt, that there’s serious money to be made in legal tech.
eSigning is just the beginning
A $220M acquisition of a platform like SpringCM sends a clear message that there’s SO MUCH more to do if we truly want to modernize contracts. This is the second reason I’m excited about SpringCM’s acquisition: while there are obvious overlaps in the customer benefits we offer, our approach is quite different.
Outlaw starts at the true beginning of the contract lifecycle and helps customers solve an earlier problem than peers like SpringCM do. We tackle the agreement process itself, and this perspective has caused us to build a proprietary structured data format and best-in-class legal editor from scratch.
Competitors treat the contract documents on their platforms as black boxes – edit in Word, upload, approve and sign or reject and go back to step one – so their products focus on moving these static documents around and attaching metadata to them. While we can easily export to standard formats like Word and PDF, Outlaw’s templates and contracts live natively in the cloud, and that gives our tech an unprecedented degree of extensibility to offer highly-sought-after benefits such as real-time closing and clause-specific version control.
While this may all sound somewhat technical, that’s actually the point. Contract management is a big pond and there’s room for many big fish in it, especially one who has created a next-generation technology for the underlying structure and creation of the contract itself.
We’re called Outlaw for a reason
Finally, I’ve just gotta ask: does anyone else think contract lifecycle management is boring as hell? I literally find myself falling asleep while looking at competitors’ research materials and product demos, and this is the other reason I’m excited by the DocuSign/SpringCM deal. In tandem with the ground-up approach Outlaw has taken with our tech, we’ve done the same with our UX and visual design. Specifically, we believe that the experience of reaching agreement is inherently pleasurable and exciting, and so the process of formalizing that agreement in a contract ought to be an equally positive one.
I’m inspired by other disruptors in their respective spaces like Gusto in payroll and Intercom in live support (we’re happy customers of both). They’re both operating in similarly staid industries that are populated with utterly dry, corporate brands and horribly designed products. Gusto and Intercom (and many others) have shown that creating a slick, simple, consumer-grade user experience can have huge upside in a B2B context. Turns out that whether sitting on a couch at home or in an office board meeting, people prefer using products that don’t make their eyes bleed.
So, yeah, from the perspective of the freshest, leanest and hungriest player in the space: a big deal like this is great news for everyone in the vicinity and a big opportunity for Outlaw.