HelloFax Lets You Ditch Your Fax Machine and Sign Everything Electronically
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Googleplex. In the end, he didn’t get a job offer, and today he says that was a big stroke of luck. “I’m glad I didn’t have the temptation of an offer from Google, because the HelloFax idea probably would have died,” he says.
After the interview, Walla decided to stay in Silicon Valley to try to recruit a co-founder. Through Hacker News—Y Combinator’s news aggregation site—he connected with Neal O’Mara, a senior developer at San Francisco-based travel software company TripIt. The two started improving on the prototype, and decided to pitch the whole idea to Y Combinator. “What was interesting about the meeting with Y Combinator was that as soon as we walked in, Paul Graham told us, ‘You built something we need,'” says Walla. “They especially feel the pain of signing documents, because they invest in so many companies. It’s a huge hassle. I think they wanted to be able to use this themselves.”
In fact, if you play around on the site long enough, you realize that these online editing tools are the essence of HelloFax’s service. It doesn’t matter whether you transmit your signed document by fax or e-mail; the point is that you’ve signed it. “We are not under any illusions that we created online faxes—eFax has been around since the late 90s and a lot of other companies do what they do,” says Walla. “Our killer feature is ‘Add Signature.’ A fax is usually just a TIFF image or a PDF, and we have to convert the file anyway, so we just allow you to add a layer to it.”
Already users have been calling on HelloFax for their most important communications—Walla says Y Combinator partner Paul Buchheit, the inventor of Gmail, used it to sign the mortgage on his house. If you have an actual fax machine, of course, you probably won’t see much point in the service, but many faxless netizens seem to love the idea. A quick search on Twitter turns up superlatives like “awesome,” “trust me, you’ll want this,” and “so much better than walking over to FedEx/Kinko’s.” Another comment that probably pleased Walla: “I didn’t even use it for faxing, I used it for signing an email’d doc.”
Few people realize it, but the signature itself is a bit of a dinosaur: after Congress relaxed the laws around signatures in the “ESIGN” act of 2000, it became possible to “sign” a legally binding agreement with as little as an X or even an e-mail reply saying “I agree.” But “for whatever reason, people are tied to this idea of signatures,” even preferring them over harder-to-spoof alternatives like public key infrastructure certificates, Walla notes.
As they add more features, such as a cover-page builder and the option to save and re-send documents, Walla and O’Mara hope to make HelloFax into a “one-stop shop” for signing and sending electronic documents. Investors seem to like the idea: In addition to the $150,000 that HelloFax, like most of the other Y Combinator startups in this batch, collected from Yuri Milner’s Start Fund, the company has raised money from some prominent Silicon Valley individual investors that it’s not ready to name.
Walla says HelloFax’s product plan is simply to “keep optimizing this flow…every time somebody has to sign a document, we are going to think about removing clicks, cutting down on wasted effort, and optimizing for authenticity.”
Below: Walla shared one of the humorous e-cards HelloFax has been using to promote its service.
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