There is a popular startup idea – let’s make an Uber for notary services. The services are standard, the market is big, the quality of services is nearing zero, – an ideal opportunity for digital transformation. In reality, the projects usually remain at the stage of a presentation – you still need to take a walk to the notary, that’s why people will still choose the one closest on the map, and that’s why nobody wants an Uber.
The lawmakers in the American state of Virginia opened the dam, they allowed to confirm one’s identity remotely. The notary has the right to communicate with the client and look at their ID via a video chat, there’s no need to go anywhere anymore. As soon as the law emerged, Notarize – the startup of the day – appeared right next to it. No marketplaces, everything head-on – the notaries are hired in house on an hurley rate, they work day and night shifts. Clients enter the website 24/7, start video chats, show their IDs, and receive the necessary e-signatures – a colossal progress in view of the traditional offline horrors.
By the way, Virginia wins in terms of taxes and employment rate: it was the only state to enact this law, but nothing stops a resident from Utah or California to receive notary services in another state according to this state’s regulations. So Notarize serve the whole country and raises its small motherland. Perhaps, some hypothetical Estonia could turn such a trick in the EU.
The startup grows quickly, it raised USD 20M in its last round, but naturally, it will never become an Uber-scale company. Even though Notarize founders detected the niche faster than anybody, nothing stops anyone from creating a competing online notary, and the one more and more, the service doesn’t have any networking effect, and the scaling effect is quite weak. To achieve similar efficiency, a second player would merely need to come up with a similar software and gain sufficient demand for night shifts
This is a rerun from 2018.
Everything went exactly by the forecast. Notarize is doing quite well, but it’s no Uber by a mile, and it hasn’t even become a unicorn yet. It’s valuation after last year’s round is USD 750M. In Europe Estonia was indeed the first one to take advantage of the opportunity. The country allowed online notary services last Autumn – but a startup using it for the whole EU is nowhere to be seen just yet.
Translation: Kostiantyn Tupikov