The Startup Coach is joined by Matthew Gibson cofounder of Syngrafii. Discussing founding a company with Canadian legend Margaret Atwood and going from an idea of being able to do remote book signings to being the leader in esignature technologies with over 45 granted and pending patent applications.
Check out Syngrafii at https://syngrafii.com/
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Matthew Gibson of Syngrafii on The Startup Talk Podcast
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The Startup Coach: more deals. Welcome back to startup talk. I’m the startup coach, founder of Toronto starts one of the largest startup communities in Canada. And with me today is Matthew Gibson. Co-founder of Syngrafii
. Welcome Matthew
Matthew Gibson: pleasure to be here.
The Startup Coach: Great to have you. It’s been great reminiscing about tech offline before we got this started, but let’s get into it. Tell us about
Matthew Gibson: Syngrafii. Um, Roughly 13, 14 years ago. Uh, and we can best described as a 13 year old startup that is now scaling up, but we’re, we’re a company that is sort of a couple of shifts, but if you want to describe it as a sort of one statement, we’re in an advanced signature company that deals with both the digital channel and e-signatures and pioneering video signing.
Uh, but we also have a hardware component to our businesses is really where we started and learned all of our expertise as it relates to digital solutions.
The Startup Coach: So I noticed you co-founded sinned graphy with the renowned author, Margaret Atwood. How did that come about? And what was the vision for seeing graphy when you started in 2003,
Matthew Gibson: 2003 was actually called, you know, touch it, which was, uh, at that time a vision Margaret had that was spurned off spurred on by actually a FedEx driver showing up at her.
And handing her at that time. If you think back that long ago, a pad where she was expected to sign her initials and her name onto it, to acknowledge digital receipt of a package that was being delivered. And in her forward-looking mind, she thought maybe I could use this technology to sign books somewhere else in the world.
Why was that important to her? She wanted to find a carbon friendly way. To sort of reach out to her readers in markets that some publishing industry wouldn’t otherwise sell. And she saw this as a sort of a leveling of the playing field for all authors to interact with their, their readers and deliver something of value, which was assigned copy of their book.
And that’s where the big picture of where this.
The Startup Coach: That sounds amazing. And you know, we’re going to get into COVID in a little bit, but just thinking about that, now you can do remote book signings and all that kind of stuff. Exactly. With a crowd and not actually have to travel on a plane, I’ve taken a peek at some of your technology.
So we’re going to talk a little bit about it later. Love the concept. And I never even thought about book signing for this, cause I’m thinking legal documents and whatnot, but that’s a great idea. I like to say that opportunity cost is infinite. So which means if you’re working on this, you’re not working on any, uh, other opportunities.
So why this problem versus any other opportunity?
Matthew Gibson: I think that the, the immediate answer is is that there was one of the co-founders had a problem or perceived problem in a market that was relevant to her. That was global in scope. Um, that was, you know, wanting to change the environmental impact of flying authors around the globe.
Uh, so there was enough touch points back then for it to make sense for us to sort of invest in coming up with a viable solution to that. And we completely underestimated the challenge of doing that, but we ultimately succeeded. And I can say that the opportunity costs clock has sort of come and gone. A couple of times on this company we’ve been required to sort of course correct.
Based on market challenges, you know, as technology was introduced. So we take a look at the ebook. For example, ebook was supposed to displace every single hard copy book. Who would want to have a paper book when you could have this digital device in your hands and that’s portable, it’s easy, it’s fast.
And the short answer is, is it’s the user experience. And they totally underestimate the user experience that you have in actually picking up a physical book. So w you know, while we started in publishing, you know, where your head went initially was legal contracts and documents, and that’s really where we’ve landed up today.
You know, we describe our company as the signature company, unlike other e-signature platforms out there, because we were my task at the very beginning was to come up with a bit of hardware. You know, everyone wants to have a hardware company. We actually developed something that gave us know-how intellectual property in a Greenfield sort of opportunity back in 2000 3, 4, 5, that gave us the knowledge and know how to build a different kind of e-signature platform to.
At all, what we do today is based on you’d wonder why paper, paper, and original ink signatures on paper. Everyone loves paper because it’s secure. It’s theirs, there’s case law, there’s history, there’s forensics, identity certainty. There’s the user experience, but then paper contracts and documents have a huge disadvantage.
When you compare it to a digital channel, it doesn’t have the speed to convenience. And so we have married the best of paper with the best of digital. And we now have a platform that anticipates any of our customers.
The Startup Coach: Sorry, I’m a curmudgeon. I’ve been around for a long time. And I all, I hear all the talk about AI right now.
And I say, yeah, back in the eighties, it was expert systems and it was going to change the world and everybody’s going to lose their job. But guess what? Here we are. You know, it’s probably going to be another 30, 50 years before we actually get to where everyone’s telling us we’re going to be tomorrow.
And we’re talking about the paperless office. This is where I’m switching gears. It we’ve been talking about it for 35 years. You know what, what’s the holdup, why isn’t it?
Matthew Gibson: think we’re transitioning it. You know, they said with taking a look back at typewriters, then you take a look at computers.
Computers were supposed to allow us to keep things in digital form and not actually hit the print button, you know? So you needed it at some point in the future. You can print it out. Um, but so much of the sort of high value. Transactions that are conducted in business in any market. Vertical comes down to the risk associated with completing a transaction and, you know, historically all of that’s been done in person.
And as we, uh, you know, we’ve all likely, or depending on your age have been required to go and sign physical documents for certain transactions. So that really is the gold standard of transactions. Um, when digital solutions came about, uh, it just really rapidly increased the amount of paper output that was being generated.
Ultimately you might sign something in an e-signature environment and then you will print it out and put it into a file folder. I mean, it’s hard to break traditional processes. And so we’re looking at. Uh, how to allow an original paper document with original wedding signatures and includes biometrics your cadence, your speed, your pressure.
How can we store that in a digital environment, knowing that it’s a piece of paper, but it isn’t until you actually need it. And so I don’t think that paper is going to go away anytime soon we have been in the COVID has been a, an element of, of calling us out. It’s happened sort of lurking in the background, papers been pushed to vote for a very long time.
And while there are a lot of e-signature companies on the planet, people don’t want to talk about the fact that certain things just have to be done on paper. Even today,
The Startup Coach: let’s get into some of the specifics. What does sin graphy do and how do people use your.
Matthew Gibson: The first technology we have, which is the, the sort of anchor tech to the entire platform is the long pen.
And the long pen is a hardware device that was originally designed, as I said earlier, to sign books. And that’s now been transitioned. You know, the first one we built took six people to lift and it was shipped around the world. The coffin, the version we have today is, you know, a USB desktop, easy to move about, um, highly efficient.
And so. As a first product offering is the hook for the rest of what we built in digital form. What we learned there and then transitioned into digital is a complete departure from where any other reason because your company went. I mean, if you take a look at some of the industry leaders with, you know, $50 billion market cap, I mean, they’re, they have a service, they have a product they’re very good at what they do, but our view of what they developed was a signature and process of convenience.
As opposed to a process and signature environment that’s built on compliance. If you look at what they’re providing, that is completely different, where we went in a completely different direction because of the long pattern there are providing what we refer to as proxy signatures. It’s a representation of who you are.
It’s a representation of your name and your original signature, but in that. It raises questions of doubt. Who’s signing it. Who’s sitting at the keyboard. It’s what you know, and what you have that allows you to gain access to any transaction in our world. You’re a signature. Interestingly enough is one of the strongest biometrics out there.
It’s like your cadence, your fingerprints, your Iris scans can all be taken from you without your permission. Your signature is one of the few biometrics that you actually have to do. And unlike your fingerprints, which are identical and unique to you, your, a signature is unique to you, but uniquely different every single time.
And so we’ve built a platform that has really called on all the best elements of, of, of a traditional process that was highly regarded is still considered best in class. And we’ve built it all into a digital channel and gotten rid of all of the inefficiencies associated with.
The Startup Coach: Because I’ve noticed you’ve been busy with an impressive lineup of over 45 patents, granted and pending for things like long pen, ink sign, video, signing room.
Um, you kind of described the long pen here and I’m going to ask him what the other things in a minute, but I, in the long pen, cause I don’t think our listeners maybe understand too. I liken it to remote. The doctors in another seared and, uh, uh, city and he’s using a knife to cut into somebody, you know, in Chicago or whatever.
That’s exactly what you’re doing is somebody in a room signing and you’ve got a robot on the other end that does duplicates it. Can you explain that a little bit better than I
Matthew Gibson: can actually that’s a perfect example. And back at the very beginning, I suddenly blew a lot of stuff up and we did, we built probably three or four prototypes since.
Left the room smoking. And that’s because if Margaret had come to me and said, Matthew, I want to develop a remote surgery technology. It would have been a lot easier, honestly speaking. And the reason it would have been a lot easier is that remote surgery is a very deliberate, very slow, very exacting process.
But one of the things that we underestimated was your signature, which is a muscle. I mean, you’ll know it’s a muscle memory because if you sign your name five or six times, it’s your signature, you sign it 20 times and it starts getting weird. And so you start thinking about your cigarettes. So I was challenged with coming up with a device that could replicate the elegant speed, um, processing power of the human.
And that means 40 linear inches per second. That means six to eight GS, as you whip around the C in your name and it’s using roughly, when you’re thinking about it, 40% of your brain from. And so that was the bar that needed to be met. And we managed to do that as a hardware device, as you described, which is you place a document that needs to be assigned in physical form onto the long term and an imaging camera shows somebody at the far end, uh, using any kind of, of capacitive touch.
It could be an iPad. It could be a Samsung, it could be, or. Shows some the document, they sign it, we capture pressure, speed, cadence, and we apply it. And forensically speaking, there’s an eight months forensic analysis done. It’s your signature, everything about it. And so we then took that and said, if we’re going to scale this company, we have to get away from being exclusively, our hardware.
And how can we take what we’ve learned? And package it in a way that is uniquely different. And much of this goes back to our patent portfolio. I mean, how can we develop something that’s not obvious to those skilled in New York, which is a sort of state. And we said, we’re going to replicate the security, elegance, uh, and non-repudiation elements of paper, signatures, and original one-time use signatures and give that to our clients so that they can continue what they’ve always been doing, but much more of it.
The Startup Coach: And what is a video signing
Matthew Gibson: room? When we first built the long pen for authors, there were two components that were required. One was you needed some way of transporting a forensically, accurate signature to a physical. Book somewhere else in the world. And then there was, how do you have the author actually interact with the reader and that’s video?
And so back in 2003, I mean, you think about technological changes, you know, Cisco and Tanberg were hardware devices that, you know, gave high quality video. Um, I think Skype came on the market and probably 2003. Uh, so we were starting to see software elements. It wasn’t really very good. So we naturally put video and signing together as a solution for the publishing industry, which made us think and file intellectual property on this of how to complete a transaction in conjunction with video conference.
Where the video is recorded for non-repudiation and I know that’s the most full, but what it basically says is all of the things that you would do by going to your bankers and sitting in their office and the paper that you sign and the conversation that you have, um, is all done remotely now to a higher degree of certainty.
And defensibility then if you’d actually gone into your bag there’s office and signed physical documents. And so we filed a P on that and we were granted the patent for that. And as we’ve seen with COVID and remote and sort of distributed workforce, uh, expectations of what the world is today, video is a very big part of that.
And how do you complete transactions? And so we married that into video signing room, which is unique, uh, from an intellectual property perspective to our particular company.
The Startup Coach: And you have another technology called ink signed. What is the difference between the others in
Matthew Gibson: this? Again, I’ve mentioned the proximity signature, you type it, you click it, you scan your signature in, and it’s an image that you drag and drop.
I mean, all of those. From our perspective are very low, convenient ways of executing agreements. We look at it where we don’t try and tell our customers what their compliance needs are. We expect them to know what the compliance needs are. So we built a platform. That has collective sign type to sign. We do it a bit differently because we build some biometrics into our type design.
Um, but at the very high end of the spectrum is the ink to sign. And the ink to sign is really your unique one-time use signature. We don’t allow the signature to be saved. We don’t allow, if you have to sign a document 13 times, you have to sign up 13 times just like on a P. And that means each one of those signatures will be unique to you, but uniquely different.
And we know where that uniquely different second chair is expected to be. And so we’re, we’re wrapping security tradition, non-repudiation and compliance into a platform that we allow our customers to determine how they utilize it. It’s the freedom to choose.
The Startup Coach: Your technology’s impressive. Working in with e-signatures in highly regulated transactions, like legal documents, mortgages, and all that kind of stuff that happened.
What were the challenges getting them approved are get, uh, by many different regulatory agencies in the U S and Canada is, do we have a bunch of different agencies with different qualifications and regulatory requirements?
Matthew Gibson: And Dana and those are shifting constantly. And I think that you take a look at external, um, impacts to slowing that down or speeding that up. And then you can take a look at the COVID pandemic as being a catalytic moment where companies, as you said, you know, we expect paper to go away 30 years. But the fact is that that company is our low to make change.
And there are certain industries that are really low to make any changes and I can call it the legal community. What if it works, why change it? And if we’re a safe and secure for compliance and legal defense, why change it? And the pandemic really forced everyone to rethink how they can continue functioning.
Um, when the world got shut down. And so. Getting back to regulatory, you know, when the COVID. Even a regulators are slow to change because they have something that works. You can take a look at it. Insolvency insolvency is a consumer facing high-risk vulnerable kind of service being offered across Canada.
Um, and there are regulators that want to be able to audit and ensure that the industry is treating the clients in a particular way and to regulatory expectations and. When that happened, we looked at our video signing room and said, this is a perfect medium for the regulators to be able to take a look at a video of something that may be drawn into question from an audit perspective, we can replay the entire session regulator.
When the COVID head literally threw all caution to the wind from our perspective, it’s like, listen, if you have a a hundred mile, an hour duct tape and you want to use it, you do that. You just do whatever you have to do to try and keep your business model. And you know, that was perhaps necessary. But now that things are starting to, to calm a bit and we’re returning to a modicum of normal, I don’t think that we’ll ever go back to the kind of.
At work environment that we’ve seen in the past, but you can still now start going out to lunch, et cetera. I think that there, there is now a, let’s take a look at what we actually enabled over the last two years. And is it best practice? Are there technological solutions that should be adopted for these highly regulated industries?
And if there are, then let’s start writing something around that to at least raise the bar because. What has happened in the past, even from an e-discovery perspective. I mean, if you take a look at using disparate bits of technology, you’ve got video. I mean, zoom grew exponentially with the pandemic, but you have disparate bits of solutions being taped together, uh, for high value transactions where people are at risk and transactions are at risk and capitals.
And the question is. Two years from now, will you be able to find all of the bits and pieces that you need to actually defend something when it goes pear shaped? So from our perspective, um, again, we don’t try and change regulatory. We try and provide tools that will allow our customers to meet or exceed regulatory expectations as they change.
And they will continue.
The Startup Coach: And we talked about the changes over, uh COVID and things got accelerated, and a lot of rules jumped like 30 years into the future from a things have been holding back. One of the things I like to say is COVID killed the fax machine. Is this something that you can confirm or tell me I’m wrong?
Is the fax machines still going
Matthew Gibson: strong or? Well, the fax machine, if you take a look at its history was actually a Scottish. Gentlemen in 1843 and it’s had a pretty good run. I mean, it became sort of popular and successful as a business tool, likely with the Xerox introduction. I believe that as a 1964 or so, but it really became ubiquitous in the late seventies, eighties and nineties.
And even today, if you take a look at co culture, I would agree with you that the fax machine was on the way out. But if you take a look at Japan, it’s still entrenched very heavily in their culture. I mean, it’s in every corner store. So I do believe that the COVID DEMEC was a further shorter nail in the coffin of a technology that had been.
Challenged with technological advancements around it to make it all. And that would be email. That would be, um, video calls. That would be any number of things. And indeed platforms such as ours that allow you to share documents in real time. Uh, talk about the documents, sign the documents, and record that transaction.
So I agree that the fax machine, uh, w is going to go the way of the typewriter ultimately, and yes, the pandemic is pretty much. Uh, pretty close financial mail. And so we’re getting
The Startup Coach: close, but not quite there, not
Matthew Gibson: there. Technology has a technology has a tendency of hanging on and that could be in generational.
I mean, maybe it takes all the people who love fax machines to actually get out of business and pass on and die and die before those kinds of technologies actually just go. I mean, if you ask a millennial today, but a fax machine they’d laugh. Absolutely.
The Startup Coach: What does your business model look like? Is it software license plate based your own platforms only?
Are you licensed technologies and other ones?
Matthew Gibson: At the moment, we’re a software as a service, but we are unique in the sense that we understand with sort of our larger clients. And we really did focus on transactions, secure transactions at the high end of the market, where there’s very serious material implications of things going wrong.
If you take a look at what models there are out there right now from competing services, we’re all familiar with the seed license. The seed license, you need to commit to how many people in your organization are actually going to have the ability to sign documentation. Um, and we all know that industry is try and find ways to save money.
And so what they do is they get two seat licenses for. And they share the seat licenses. You also have to buy a seat licenses. Generally, if you want any kind of cost savings on sort of termed one year sort of expenses. And it’s interesting that our business has always looked to how was it done before?
But how can we improve on it? And so well, every one of our e-signature companies out there still sort of maintain the seat license. We look at it as why wouldn’t you be able to lay it up your enterprise level 3000, you know, staff, or why wouldn’t you be able to light up your eight or less for some very reasonable number?
And that’s an administrator account. If you have, if you have a company with eight or less employees for $3 a month, You can light every one of them up with our service. Now, how do we make money? Well, historically, yeah. And that’s $3 for the administrator account. The eight people don’t pay anything until what worked in the past.
When you wanted to get a document signed, you would put them in the mail or you put it in the courier package and you would have a cost associated to that. And that costs associated that would generally be attached to her on ROI of some sort. I’m sending this out because. And so we came up with one of the first offerings of a consumption-based model.
Whereas if you have an employees, you know, maybe one of them was find something once a year. Maybe one of them signs 300. So we have treated our packages and our video signing room environment, as a consumption. If you use it, you pay for it. It’s like a stamp or it’s like a courier church and you control how you expect.
And you don’t have heavy overheads that you have to worry about by doing that. You have associated, uh, responsibility and liability and responsibility for individuals in your organization. Sending things that have to be signed, you know, who did it, you can hold them accountable for it. And there’s transparency in the transit.
So we’re consumption-based as a model, which is quite unique, everyone in your organization, the $3, if you’re an enterprise with 3000, it’s $20 a month.
The Startup Coach: Yeah. That sounds amazing. Pricing wise. It sounds like a great model for most.
Matthew Gibson: It allows them to control seasonal variations. For example, there are companies that have, you know, 35 seat licenses that rather than tens of thousand dollars a year and they use it half the year for us.
If you use it, you should pay for it. Just like. Being
The Startup Coach: an ex CTO having to manage all these seat licenses and staffing changes from quarter to quarter for 6,000 people. And someone’s one department grows 3000 or grows 1500 in a quarter. And like, you got to explain to Microsoft or Oracle or whatever, all this yeah.
And budget for everything. Yeah. It’s crazy.
I’ve been wondering about the environmental impact of all the documents we print to be signed multiple copies, curried across town and sent back across country, wherever. Um, it seems to me we should be moving faster to remove these things, even if it’s not the paper, which is somewhat of a renewal. Uh, resource potentially, uh, it’s the transportation, the carbon for shipping stuff back and forth and whatnot.
And then the storage of these things. Cause they have to be in an environment anyway, what kind of environment impact can we have by switching to paperless?
Matthew Gibson: That’s huge. Last time I checked and this was probably a couple of years ago. It was, I took a look at the courier industry, the top three courier companies at any given time, we have roughly 3 million.
Document on envelopes, flying over our heads globally every day. Airplanes. And the reason that’s there is because a transaction needs to take place on paper and that’s why the is being moved. And so our platform addresses the issue of original documents. And if you really need to have it on paper and not our one-time use ink on digital paper, then you have a long pen.
We have clients in the U S who are running eight long pens and are about to increase it by another. Long patents to just to push paper, but where you lose sort of the cost associated environmental impact is that you’re not actually flying people around or moving people around to get to the paper, parking their cars, going upstairs.
And so we see that getting rid of the movement of people to pay by having long pens or our digital platform provide that service from the comfort of your home is going to cut out an enormous amount of CO2. For all of these, we have one client because of governmental applications. They couldn’t use commercial couriers.
So when something needed to be signed in fender bay, they would get one of their staff to get in the cab, go the airport, get in the car. You know, on a plane flight thunder bay, get the signatures on paper and fly back for one document. And so we saw all of that with our platform.
The Startup Coach: Now we deal with a lot of KYC.
We know your client in the startup world, working with FinTech companies, investor, cryptocurrency companies, and more. How are the regulations changing around this? Is it getting easier or harder for
Matthew Gibson: companies? That’s a really good question. And again, it’s one of those fluid answers that I’m going to have to give you.
I mean, there, there is an undulating approach depending on the. Um, depending on the level of regulatory expectation, there’s the KYC, then, you know, how do you do that? Is that, is that ID based, is that scanning their driver’s license? Is it, you know, knowledge-based questioning and each industry has their own different expectation or need, um, that is generally driven by compliance and legal to.
To make sure that they’re on side with regulatory expectations. So I think that there’s an awful lot of KYC IDV, um, solutions heading the market today and there’s going to be a shakeup and my view that it’s going to trickle down into. I mean, there are some terrific global platforms right now that you can look.
That will continue to build out their service offerings that are in a cost effective way. And we as a company, or are we going to develop something that’s KYC? No, we’re going to go to some industry expert. That’s already figured this out and we’re going to bolt it onto the front end of our service. Uh, as a modular component, again, allowing our customers to say, well, you know, truly you is great, but we want to use IDV company KYC.
X, and they can plug that into the front end and our audit trail master file will allow that to be a seamless unbroken transaction. How big are you today? Tightly held private corporations. So I think the best way of answering that question is rabbinic. That we’re starting well, we’re big enough that we’re displacing industry leaders in our customer base, uh, based on the advanced signature and the flexibility of the signature offerings we have.
And we’re doing it again with our pay as you sign model, and we’re becoming quite disruptive. And we’re starting to be noticed. So head count, we’re probably 25. We’re now at that, at that sort of ramp up period, which, you know, we’ve all been looking for and dreading at the same time. Um, so the scale up and we’ve been doing the best preparation we can in expectation of that is going to see this company grow quite rapidly over the course of the next one or two.
The Startup Coach: It’s amazing to see you scaling up like you are. And I’m going to be watching this over the next couple of years. Many startups struggle with getting enterprise clients. You have, so you have so many enterprise clients, banks, lawyers, and all sorts of stuff, which are probably one of the hardest to get into many new founders.
Don’t take into account things like sales cycles. So can you tell us a little bit of length of sales cycle and any tips for founders trying to get in that first or second enterprise
Matthew Gibson: client? Obviously, depending on the business that you’re in. I mean, I’ll, I’ll draw attention to. We look at gaining access to the enterprise quiet.
And that, that is a much heavier lift. So we, as a company said, who are the enterprise clients going to be looking to, to be able to say what we as a company are providing and are proposing is. The time is worth the complexity of process change. Should they adopt us? And that generally comes down to the compliance officers and the lawyers.
So we made a conscious decision to basically start marketing to lawyers out of the gate. And that’s, that’s pretty brave in the sense that if you take a look at any lawyer, historically prior to two, all my lawyer friends, don’t take it the wrong way. The fact is that lawyers really did not want to chase.
Until the pandemic and then they were forced to, and now that they have, they’re going, oh, look at all this opportunity. I mean, here are all the things that we can now do. So I think it’s key to identify. And this goes to the enterprise, those reference clients that are meaningful to an enterprise client and then do whatever it takes to land your first shining star of enterprise.
And that could be, um, It could be something that’s familiar, you just focus and get them as a reference customer. And that starts to smooth everything. But what you really need to do is take a good amount of time to do your homework on what their regulatory, what their security, what their process expectations are going to be from you as.
Because the list is long. I mean, when we go into an enterprise client, the security documents alone are sometimes 35 pages long. And so it is hard, but persistence will pay off, but do your homework, know what they’re going
The Startup Coach: to hit you with? So many startups struggled to get where you are at the scale of stage you’re at 25 employees.
You’re past the startup stage, ready to take on new markets and challenge. How did you grow to where you are today?
Matthew Gibson: Bootstrapping, trying to keep our costs down, finding creative ways. My background isn’t skull Scholastic. It’s sort of in the street entrepreneurial street, flooding. How do you get what you need when you don’t have the resources to get it?
And that means being creative. That means surrounding yourself with people who know more than you. My view is, is that you don’t need to do everything really well. You need to do things well enough, and you need to understand where your weaknesses are and surround yourself. Ideally with people who fill those.
And so how do you bring on general counsel when you’re trying to raise capital in Canada as a startup? And the answer is maybe you start talking about equity. Maybe you start talking about find creative ways to get your resources involved, uh, without burning cash. And we did that for a while. I
The Startup Coach: often say that the difference between successful founders and those ones who struggle often is the willingness or ability to do the things that no one else is willing or thinking about doing sounds like that’s exactly what you had to do.
Matthew Gibson: Uh, become an expert at packing up long pans. I mean, I. As a startup, you really have to understand that you are going to, and everyone that you team with, ideally, you, you know, you find people who are as passionate about the venture as you are for the right reasons. And there needs to be self checks. I mean, you need to dissolve check because entrepreneurs have a tendency of becoming a bit focused too focused in many respects that they, they can’t step back.
So much of how I’ve looked at my career and Lord knows I’ve made enough mistakes and some of the mistakes I’ve made, it’s been because I haven’t actually taken the time to step back. You’re constantly going constantly going. You always have to perform it. Well, we didn’t have to do all the different things.
And I can’t stress enough. The importance of being able to take some time for reflection step outside of what it is you’re doing. And this comes down to life work balance, and, you know, entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at that. They really. Um, by being really bad at it, you’re doing yourself an enormous disservice.
Take the time. Step back, look at the big picture, take a look at what’s happening in the market that may impact what it is you’re doing. I mean, we, as a company, one of the greatest enabling things that allowed us to accelerate our growth was the introduction in 2007 and 2008 of the iPhone and the Samsung touchscreen smart.
Prior to that, we had way calm tablets that were specialized for artists. We had an HP tablets, uh, computers, laptops that were, you know, six times the cost of a standard laptop. That’s what we had to do as a business. And when technology caught up, if we had not seen that coming, we couldn’t have coded, we couldn’t have responded and we saw it coming and we did.
We also saw what was going to happen with. And that allowed us to go back to, you know, all of the intellectual property, the patents we filed, um, which is now 11 family and say, this is where we think the world is going to go. And for us, thankfully, we hit it on the head with regard to video and signing documents all in one session.
We couldn’t have known that back. But here
The Startup Coach: we are. I like to say that entrepreneurship is not a solo sport, and I think you nailed it there. When you’re saying you need to take a step back and the best way to take a step back is make sure your network find a group that you talk to once a week, however often have other founders talk about your struggles.
Talk about, so you, so they are looking at it and they’ll pull you out. Hey, why aren’t you doing this? And why aren’t you doing that? So you’re not so focused. That’s why we run networking events and try and get people together and find a like-minded people see that you’re not so focused on those things.
That’s amazing and great advice. I like to share, uh, both successes and failures so that others may not make the same mistakes. Can you tell us a time where you messed up?
Matthew Gibson: There are so many and you know what? There’s so many. I think when I was younger, I would’ve had a hard time saying. As I’m older now.
And I take a look at the experience, the life experience that I’ve had. Yeah. I’ve made some pretty spectacular errors in preparation and assumptions and calculating where the world might be going. And then importantly, my personal perception that what I was doing was going to be absolutely valuable to someone else.
And unless you can step back and say, why wouldn’t this be again, you continue to appear as it here as a one and a deals with intellectual property, which is actually something that entrepreneurs I’ve covered only because we have companies now infringing us. Is that not enough firms actually, when they come up with our ideas to say, I wonder if there’s something out there that suggests we can’t do this.
And that’s not something people generally think about. So a freedom to operate investigation, and that’s not all that hard to do. I mean, back when we started Google, didn’t have Google. Um, you can do keyword searches on something that you’re looking at doing. And we now have a handful of companies that we’re talking to saying, you know, it’s really great that you’ve built this video center, the technology, however, we have intellectual property that says we need to talk.
And so a freedom to operate. Here’s my failure. And it deals with the America’s cup sailing. Since a technology license said at university of Toronto aerospace. Applied to Wayne, to Kiehl’s and to keel and Rutter technology. Um, we filed IP for, and then we went on this grand European tour talking to the U S the savory team, the Italians, the, the people in the UK, the Germans and the Giggy for us was we have this new technology that will allow, give you a technological advantage in the America’s cups again.
Um, but we can’t tell you what it is and you need to pay us 4 million. And when you pay us the 4 million and we’ll tell you what it is, because we didn’t have IP at work. And in the middle of this negotiation, I was contacted by our law firm and they said, uh, we didn’t really search the German patent office.
And there is IP that’s already been issued to somebody else, which means you can’t do it. And at this point we had, and this was many years. We probably had half a million dollars. And not to mention my professional credibility, talking to Peter, to savory and the UK. So do your homework and do take into consideration freedom to operate intellectual property.
And as somebody else doing this, if there’s no IP, it’s you markets for us best wins. If there’s IP, then you need to take a look at, can we get around it? Should we license? Should we partner? Should we even undertake any of this? Because the risk is too
The Startup Coach: great. And usually you can get a first or second call with an IP lawyer, uh, inexpensive.
So take the time and just ask those questions if you’re moving and you don’t know. And
Matthew Gibson: I honestly, their answer may be, there’s absolutely nothing out there. And that’s a great thing to hear because just say, okay, well, you know, back in 2003, when we started, our lawyer said, it’s a total Greenfield, there’s nobody doing this who would be filing IP on.
Really every, it was all going away. Why would anyone be assigning? I, you know, doing a P on video, on paper and ink, and yet here we are.
The Startup Coach: What’s your favorite book for entrepreneurs,
Matthew Gibson: but it goes back to my comment about how do you get what you need when you don’t have the resources to get it. And that sort of led me to the thought when I was posed that question and I would have to say, getting.
And getting to yes is really an elegant way of negotiating where everyone feels as if they’ve won, but it gives you an upper hand on how to actually get what you need. So that would, that would be a good, short read on skill sets that allow you to be convincing and allow everyone to feel as if they’ve won now because
The Startup Coach: of your background and your co-founder we’re switching to any genre.
What’s the book you most recommend people.
Matthew Gibson: Well, I was taking a year off traveling around the world with only enough money to get halfway around. So I knew I’d have to work. And I read while I was in Australia book called the city of joy and the city of joy is really, it could be seen as an enormously depressing story, but the triumph of the human spirit to me is really indicative of.
What entrepreneurs face every day in a very different way. I mean, if you’re in the slums of Calcutta as this book sort of positions itself, and it will put some perspective on where you are in your own life, it isn’t all that bad, but it will also sort of reinforce that. You can dig deep. And if you dig deep and you believe in what you’re doing and you stick with it and you find the right resources of advice, there’s a good chance.
You’ll be able to pull it off. When I got back from my round, the world trip as a younger man, I felt like I could do anything. And so it’s, it’s that kind of human. But to me, at least it is a good read. Do you have
The Startup Coach: any tips for founders?
Matthew Gibson: Lots? Uh, there are, as you, as you know, resources such as your own it’s networks, I mean, find mentors.
I was extraordinarily fortunate to find a couple of old school mentors because I’m old enough to have old school, um, that had. Extraordinary wealth and extraordinary value in, I mean, one of them started as a magician and built an enormous empire in radio and broadcasting. Another is somebody who has a company that’s named never an FQ, which is, I’m not sure I can say it on your, in this, but it’s never fucking quit and that kind of don’t quit, but find the perspective.
Find the time and find the balance and then run like.
The Startup Coach: What is next for you and sin
Matthew Gibson: graphy? I think we continue to try and eat the lunch of some pretty large industry leading organizations. I think we continue to file intellectual property. I think we, we expand in all aspects of our business and ironically, the long pen is really taking off at the moment, you know, physical pieces of paper being assigned.
And so it’s just listening to our customers. It’s adding features and services that are important. We’re going into the remote online notarization areas with much of our platform, which is a big up and coming and again, into banking applications, customer service, client onboarding. We, we just continue to add value drive revenue and add clients, ideally marquee clients to really get people to notice.
The Startup Coach: where can people go and find out more about you and singer fee and all the links you mentioned here and previously will be in the show notes or in their chapter links. So if you’re listening on the podcast, cook your chapter links. When we’re talking about the long pan or any of these technologies, you’ll go right to this page, but where can people go for.
Matthew Gibson: obviously the corporate website and, um, singer fee is spelled S Y N G R a F I I, but it will be in your, your, uh, links and a quick story because singer fee is actually based on some graphics. And this is Anson Graphis goes back to the time of the pharaohs. And the Pharaoh is when they were doing contracts would write the contracts, specifics the top and bottom of a page and rights and graphics across the middle of.
And that way you knew had an original a document. When you put the two back together, then what you agreed to, and that’s sort of how the company based it. Certainly I’m also on LinkedIn and we have, uh, support and context numbers on our website. Should you wish to learn more? We also have free trials come and give it a shot.
I think you’ll like it. I think I like the platform.
The Startup Coach: Thank you for taking the time to be a part of startup talk. I really. Yeah, it’s
Matthew Gibson: been my pleasure. This
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