DocuSign, an American company headquartered in San Francisco that helps organizations connect and automate agreements, has invested in the smart contract provider Clause to make contracts on their DocuSign Agreement Cloud “self-executing” and “self-aware”.
Founded in 2003, DocuSign has gone on to establish a user base of more than 500,000 users, and it is now laying the groundwork to help spread the use of smart contracts this gigantic audience and beyond. Despite not being known as one of the major enterprise users of blockchain, DocuSign is one of the pioneers in the field as it has been experimenting with the technology since 2015.
The first project contributed to was the construction of a proof-of-concept app that simplifies the process of leasing or buying a car by automating all steps to a seamless, completely secure electronic environment – The project was built on the Bitcoin blockchain in collaboration with VISA.
Later, in June 2018, after the launch of their initial public offering (IPO) and joining the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), DocuSign created a pilot project where clients could store a hash, or a cryptographic fingerprint, of a completed agreement on the public Ethereum blockchain as an independent system of record for interested parties.
However, these projects never really caught on. The first was done primarily to understand the potential of the technology and Bitcoin at that time was the only reliable solution even though it was not ideal for the use case. The second project on Ethereum instead, despite being more functional, was not effective because the users were already satisfied with DocuSign serving as a store of record.
This highlights one of the main problems for the adoption of blockchain technology, people do not yet see the usefulness of this type of services.
The results of these early experiments have not affected DocuSign’s vision towards the potential of blockchain technology. Indeed they served as a lesson. It became clear that for blockchain technology to have a real impact and deliver client value, the company would need to find a value proposition that is achievable only through blockchain.
For this reason, in 2019, DocuSign sought ways to improve its services through strategic partnerships and investments. One of these is the Accord Project, an open-source software initiative that was established to develop a technology stack for smart agreements. Most recently instead DocuSign participated in a $5.5 million Series A round for smart contract provider Clause, with the goal of making contracts on their DocuSign Agreement Cloud “self-executing” and “self-aware”.
This partnership represents a step forward towards the automation of contracts on DocuSign. Through the so-called “smart clauses” the whole process will be more efficient by eliminating middlemen, speeding up the procedure from the initial stages up to the final payments.
Details of this collaboration have yet to be revealed, namely which platforms it will run on, the first use cases, and the initial set of customers. In addition, developers still need to find solutions for problems linked with scalability, security, and accessibility, as well as building, an easy to use user interface to satisfy customer needs.
The last problem is related with oracles. For the uninitiated oracles are external agents that find and verifies real-world occurrences and submits this information to a blockchain to be used by smart contracts. So far it has been very difficult to prove that data being fed into the system are reliable thus creating a trust problem with oracles.
Finding solutions to these problems is certainly not an easy task, however, if DocuSign succeeds, their solution could be applied in different industries bringing considerable advantages.