The two brothers Julian and Paul Zehetmayr founded the software company apilayer in 2015, which also includes eversign – a leading platform for the digital signing of documents. In March, they announced the acquisition of the US platform “Docracy”, which offers templates for contracts. We spoke with the two Viennese founders about the intention and background of the deal.
The Vienna-based Julian Zehetmayr sold his mobile advertising startup Mobfox to the Israeli Matomy Media Group in 2014 at just 22 years for 17.6 million euros. Overnight, he became the youngest startup multimillionaire in Austria. For a long time to rest, the bustling founder did not settle: In 2015, he founded together with his younger brother Paul Zehetmayr the startup apilayer, which now offers more than 13 API products. Part of the software company is also eversign, a leading cloud platform for the digital signing of documents. In March of this year, the two brothers have announced their next coup: the acquisition of the US platform Docracy. With 500,000 active users, it is one of the largest online marketplaces for free contract templates. We talked to Julian and Paul Zehetmayr about the intention and background of the takeover.
With your company you offer a variety of services. Which division is your workhorse?
Paul Zehetmayr: Our draft horse in the API division is certainly currencylayer. It is an automated interface for currency data designed for freelancers and small businesses because of its low price and easy integration with websites. Previous solutions on the market, for example from Bloomberg, are aimed primarily at large companies and are therefore correspondingly expensive. So had a classic startup to date spend several thousand US dollars per year for such services and deal in the course of even with technically difficult to integrate systems. You could say that with currencylayer, we were the first to introduce a straightforward and above all affordable currency data solution.
Why can you offer the interface for currency data cheaper than your competitors and what are the specific benefits of startups?
Paul Zehetmayr: This question should rather be reversed: Why can not the competition? I think that enterprise vendors were able to maintain a very high price level primarily because of their unique market position. In addition, large companies as customers have looked at such solutions rather less on the price. However, that changed with the introduction of currencylayer – now we have around 250,000 users at currencylayer, including large companies such as FedEx, Lyft and TeamViewer.
What other APIs do you offer?
Paul Zehetmayr: In addition to currencylayer, we built twelve other APIs in the first two years, including products such as mailboxlayer, an API for verifying email addresses, numverify for phone number validation, and vatlayer for UID number validation in the EU ,
How does monetization work for the API division?
Paul Zehetmayr: Basically, we work with all our products with the clear conviction that we can provide high quality services for individuals and businesses of all sizes affordable or even free. So we offer free subscriptions across the entire product range in order to keep the entry barrier for new customers as low as possible while offering a simple test option. As soon as a customer wants to use our API seriously, on average, a small monthly amount between 10 and 100 US dollars is incurred. With just under two million customers (mind you, most customers use free subscriptions), this business model ensures very stable revenue. In sum, we would not have a problem with our biggest five customers dropping out.
In addition to the APIs, you now operate two SaaS platforms: “eversign” and “invoicely”. What are the core functions of these platforms and how do you stand out from the competition?
Paul Zehetmayr: With our SaaS platforms, we want to show that placing invoices (invoicely) and signing legitimate documents (eversign) via the cloud and completely without pen and paper can be part of everyday business. Especially with companies such as insurance companies or brokerage companies, which sign documents or contracts several times a day, it is clear what potential savings could be avoided by printing and scanning multiple times.
“Eversign and electronic signatures are definitely a highly competitive market”
With eversign, all this can not only be done digitally fast, but the delivery and archiving of documents to customers or business partners can also be completely automated here using the API. First and foremost, we distinguish ourselves in the usability and price categories of leading US providers, such as DocuSign and HelloSign. In addition, as a company based in Austria, it is much easier for us to meet data protection security requirements in the EU and thus win over European customers who care about the location and security of their contracts.
What strategy are you pursuing to gain a foothold in international markets?
Julian Zehetmayr: Basically our business is very international – especially with the APIs. We deliberately do not position ourselves exclusively as an Austrian supplier, not least because all our products are also internationally applicable. For our SaaS platforms, we regularly host sponsored postings on tech portals such as TechCrunch. In addition, we ranked very well on Google – for example, with invoicely we clearly rank first for all market-relevant search terms.
“We deliberately do not position ourselves exclusively as an Austrian provider …”
Where do the customers of the SaaS platforms come from?
Julian Zehetmayr: Around a quarter of our customers come from the USA. Other markets include England, Germany and Australia. Austria is rather further back. Of course, in terms of e-signature, the American market is much larger than the European one, as we are not yet very familiar with the ability to digitally sign documents.
What challenges do you currently have to manage?
Paul Zehetmayr: eversign and electronic signatures are definitely a highly competitive market. In addition, it needs much more sales structure than, for example, the APIs. Most people and businesses are still signing with pen and paper and are not yet fully aware of the legality of electronic signatures. So we have a bit of educational work to do here.
“For 2019 we are pursuing the goal of becoming Europe’s market leader with eversign.”
In March of this year, you announced that you had acquired the US platform Docracy. What is Docracy and what is the role of the acquisition for your platform?
Julian Zehetmayr: Docracy is an online platform for sharing legal documents and templates for contracts. At the moment, Docracy has around 15,000 publicly available documents and more than 500,000 active users. Through the acquisition of Docracy we can now give our customers access to a large archive of contracts directly in the eversign platform. The goal is to connect the platforms on the basis of a two-way integration. Users who find a contract template on Docracy should be able to sign it legally by eversign. Conversely, as already mentioned, registered eversign users will in future have access to all 15,000 Docracy documents.
What are your goals for 2019?
Paul Zehetmayr: For 2019, we aim to become Europe’s market leader with eversign. In addition, we always work on new products. This includes, among other things, an online identity management product that we would like to launch on the market in the fall. Many companies no longer have an overview of all accounts and accounts of employees and especially ex-employees. If a new colleague joins the team, often up to 20 or 30 different entrances have to be set up. Of course, if somebody leaves the company, things will get even trickier. All accounts have to be removed completely and on time. Our product will do that and much more at the touch of a button. Here we also see great growth potential.