How this US-based tech startup is using its relationship with Telstra to grow in Australia

Last year Telstra invested millions of dollars for a stake in electronic signatures company DocuSign.

Allowing people to electronically sign documents without having to print or scan them, DocuSign is reportedly valued at $US1.6 billion. Accel Partners, Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins are all on its investor list.

The Telstra investment came a matter of weeks after the telco revealed it had spent $US270 million on video company Ooyala, increasing its stake from 23% to 98%.

DocuSign Australia MD Drew Kelton. Image: Supplied.

“Telstra has for many years under David [Thodey’s] tenure, looked to invest into evolving and game changing technologies,” DocuSign APAC managing director Drew Kelton said in February.

“What they’ve been looking at is investing in emerging technologies that one, could be applied internally, two, can be applied to the customers and three, can help the transformation of their business. If you think about it, they’re a full service operator who touches every part of our lives – whether it’s content through Foxtel, whether it’s broadband, whether it’s fixed line telephone, internet services or mobile.

“Once they’ve captured market share and what ever you define as market share dynamics, there has to be more to offer to grow the business. You either grow geographically or you offer more. So Telstra built a strategy a few years ago around developing new businesses that could help them offer more.”

The telco has spent over $800 million in the past year on tech startups. At the time the telco said DocuSign was a good complementary fit for the business and its customers.

Kelton, a former Telstra exec, joined DocuSign in January and has spent his first few months in the job scoping out the business and readying it to scale both locally and into Asia, flagging Singapore and Hong Kong as two markets he’ll be targeting.

Kelton explained securing the investment from Telstra Ventures meant the company now had some “skin in the game” and had started looking at how it could use the product internally.

He said Telstra has an internal division which looked at how it could cut out complexities within the business. DocuSign will also be used within Telstra Ventures to sign nondisclosure agreements and the telco’s legal and procurement departments are also reportedly using the plugin.

The investment means Telstra could not only be one of the biggest users but also advocated use the DocuSign platform, Kelton said.

Telstra’s not alone, of course. DocuSign has more than 40 million users across about 190 countries.

“We’ve established a beachhead here in Australia, we’ve got some good customers, we’ve got some great strategic relationships with Telstra and the like,” Kelton said. “What we want to do is take that beachhead and essentially anchor tenancy.”

Raising more than $US230 million to date, the Telstra investment is a small but strategic part of the company which is looking to expand its Australian footprint and launch into Asia.

“This is a really easy model for us, the expansion, distribution and scale will come from various partners,” he said. “Then we’ll look at building Docusign as a brand that is built into workflow processes.”

In a recent report, DocuSign found 80% of companies reported revenue impact from poor transaction management with 37% of companies estimating revenue loss to be 11% to 25%.

“There’s a massive legacy of systems and process which is transitioning into this new environment,” Kelton said, adding if the process of handling a transactions could be sped up and the user experience improved, that would be a valuable proposition for big corporates and small businesses alike.

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