California startup investor partners with Chattanooga-based digital signature company

California startup investor partners with Chattanooga-based digital signature company

April 6th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Executive Vice President Pem Guerry, CEO Jay Jumper and CFO Gary Peate, from left, are photographed outside the Signix Offices on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company is entering the blockchain market for providing digital signatures and security.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga-based digital signature company SIGNiX is partnering with a leading California startup investor to help SIGNiX prepare for its entry into blockchain technology.

Company at a glance

› Name: SIGNiX

› Founded: 2002

› Services: Electronic signature verification to allow remote signing of documents

› Location: Headquarters in Warehouse Row in downtown Chattanooga

› CEO: Jay Jumper, who is also president of ProNvest

› Ownership: Privately held

Executive Vice President Pem Guerry is photographed outside the Signix Offices on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company is entering the blockchain market for providing digital signatures and security.

Executive Vice President Pem Guerry is photographed outside...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

CEO Jay Jumper is photographed outside the Signix Offices on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The company is entering the blockchain market for providing digital signatures and security.

CEO Jay Jumper is photographed outside the Signix...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Los Angeles-based Startup incubator Science Inc., which has invested in companies such as Dollar Shave Club, Medium and Wealthfront, launched a blockchain-related incubation program last year and announced three new partnerships this month, incuding one with SIGNiX.

"They will help us work through our business model and introduce us to the best vendors and partners (as SIGNiX prepares to enter into using blockchain technology)," said Jay Jumper, who started SIGNiX in 2002 and has built it since into the nation's biggest digital signature company of its type. "This is a major landmark and I think will help us as we prepare for what I think will be a significant transformation coming to the technical world. Science Inc. is a partner which has been successful in helping others to navigate these waters."

SIGNiX, which has been growing at nearly 50 percent a year in the number of signatures it handles, uses a patented technology for cloud-based digital method to make signing documents online secure and legal for any business or organization. The company expects to verify and process more than 100 million signatures this year.

SIGNiX's uses a complex cryptographic construct known as Public Key Infrastructure, or PKI, which is also used for blockchain technology. Blockchain is the basis for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and other verifiable exchanges of information in the cloud.

Pem Guerry, executive vice president of SIGNiX, said SIGNiX expects to be entering into the blockchain technology "within the next few months."

The 40-employee SIGNiX, which is headquartered in downtown Chattanooga, could be entering its biggest growth phase ever this year with a new contract to use one of the biggest digital platforms for real estate agents in the country and its plans to develop a blockchain technology for smart contracts that use a computer code contract that is autonomous and self executing.

"We believe that blockchain is the next major platform for innovation and a foundational technology – that it has the ability to change the way both business and social structures work," said Science Blockchain Founder Greg Gilman. "Science is going to be funding and creating many new Blockchain companies via our incubator."

Since Science started in 2011, the company has invested in more than 70 companies and exited multiple companies including Dollar Shave Club (acquired by Unilever for $1 billion), HelloSociety (acquired by New York Times) and FameBit (acquired by Google).

"Based on the track record of the folks at Science Blockchain, they are in very high demand and are very selective in who they pick as a partner so we think this partnership with us is a great vote of confidence in our business and a great asset as we move forward," Guerry said.

SIGNiX already has partnered with zipLogix, a real estate document service, which gives the company more than 650,000 residential real estate broker partners.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

Fast facts

What is a blockchain?
Blockchain is technology behind Bitcoin, but its potential uses extend far beyond digital currencies. Using cryptography to keep exchanges secure, blockchain provides a decentralized database, or “digital ledger,” of transactions that everyone on the network can see. This network is essentially a chain of computers that must all approve an exchange before it can be verified and recorded.

What is its potential?
Currently, most people use a trusted middleman such as a bank to make a transaction. But blockchain allows consumers and suppliers to connect directly, removing the need for a third party. Its admirers include Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and KPMG forecasts that blockchains and other distributed ledger technogies (DLT) will be widely used for managing data, contracts and payments within five years.

“We expect to see many players (particularly in the mid- to large-sized funds) start to shift processes and transactions towards blockchain and DLT platforms over the coming year, thereby creating the scale to drive ubiquity,” KPMG predicts.

Why is it so revolutionary?
The technology can work for almost every type of transaction involving value, including money, goods and property, from collecting taxes to enabling migrants to send money back to family in countries where banking is difficult.

Blockchain could also help to reduce fraud because every transaction would be recorded and distributed on a public ledger for anyone to see.