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eID Easy on growth trajectory with Dropbox and Veriff deals

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Recently, eID Easy, which offers an API aggregating the multitude of electronic signatures used worldwide, has announced two significant deals. One was with Dropbox Sign, an electronic signature provider owned by the Bay Area file hosting service with 700 million registered users. The second was with Veriff, a global identity verification service headquartered in Tallinn. Both are symbolic of the rapid expansion underway at eID Easy.

On the top floor of the Estonian Business School on Lauteri Street in Tallinn, something is brewing. Literally. eID Easy Chief Marketing Officer João Rei is making coffee and tea in the kitchenette. The window looks out on an Estonian business district that is always under construction. There are cranes and trucks, all coated with ice and snow. Tiny workers labour away in the cold. It’s midwinter, but that doesn’t seem to slow anybody down in the eID Easy office. Karli Palts and Mats-Joonas Kulla, the company’s COO and CTO, are huddled around some computers in the back room. Both have this look about them as if they have been working for days and yet there is still much to do. That’s because there is a lot to do.

‘Dropbox is gigantic’

The Dropbox Sign partnership, announced in October, generated plenty of local media interest.

“Well, it’s a large multinational company,” says Rei, a bespectacled, affable native of Lisbon who came to study at the Tallinn Institute of Technology in the mid-2000s and, like many, never left. “Dropbox is gigantic. The fact that we would get them as a client captured some attention.”

Indeed, a video tutorial on Dropbox Sign’s website now shows how a customer in Sweden can electronically sign a document using Dropbox Sign using BankID or the mobile app Evrotrust to authenticate their identity. And there, at the bottom of the pop-up window, in small text, one can read the phrase, “Powered by eID Easy.” For any Estonian startup, this is something to behold.

According to Rei, one can only expect more of such partnerships for eID Easy. The Dropbox Sign agreement aligned with the company’s strategy to be embedded into all leading e-signing platforms. Today, Dropbox Sign, tomorrow, perhaps, DocuSign, Adobe Sign, or Google Sign. The company wants to bring its eID aggregator to the world, helping to reduce fragmentation. There are about a thousand or more such electronic identity applications out there today, and eID Easy aims to make them available in one place so that someone in Japan and someone else in Sweden can use qualified electronic signatures on contracts that will stand up in court.

“Each country has its own adoption curves and solutions,” says Rei. “This highlights the need for an aggregator like ourselves to put it all together.”

A way of life

For most Estonians, electronic signatures have been a way of life for over a decade. Residents who want to pay for goods or services online, vote, or file their taxes have a variety of ways of authenticating themselves, mainly via the apps Smart-ID, Mobile-ID, or via their trusty electronic identity card, which was most people’s first gateway into electronic identity.

Estonians have thought of themselves as leading the pack regarding electronic identity. The country has certainly been an online pioneer, but in recent years, and since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been widespread global adoption of electronic signatures. Methods and applications have proliferated, creating new challenges for users.

“We have been holding on to this notion that Smart-ID, Mobile-ID, and the eID card are so ahead of the curve,” Rei says. “We forget that some countries are already ahead of Estonia.”

Not every country has had the same approach to adopting electronic signatures either. In Estonia, where the government-issued eID card is the primary means of self-authentication, the state has deployed the infrastructure to support such applications, but in other countries, electronic signatures have arisen in the private sector. In Sweden, for example, the most popular electronic identification and signature app is BankID, which is owned and administered by local banks, though one needs a government-issued personal identity number to use it.

Almost all Swedes today use BankID.

The impact of the pandemic

These are rather new developments, even for eID Easy. Rei co-founded the company in 2016 with CEO Margus Pala, but for the first four years of its life, eID Easy mainly served clients in the Baltics and did some consulting, mostly because electronic signatures were not widely used in other countries. “When we started in 2016, nobody outside of the Baltics was using these kinds of technologies,” Rei says. That all changed in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, remaking, it seems every market in its wake, especially the one for electronic signatures.

“The world changed dramatically,” recalls Rei. “Governments realised that they needed to let citizens interact with the state while being locked at home,” he says. “Businesses needed to keep operations running, which meant, in many cases, signing contracts online.”

Not only did governments and businesses see the benefit of implementing electronic identity and signature platforms, but people who had avoided them also adopted them en masse. Rei notes that in Portugal, his home country, the state had offered residents identity cards with chips, called a cartão de cidadão, or citizenship card, since 2006. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic when the state introduced mobile services that people began using them routinely.

A handful of companies, such as San Francisco’s DocuSign, benefited immensely from the shift. But there were many lining up behind them and in every market, which meant the time was ripe for an aggregator to make all these services available in one place. eID Easy’s time had arrived.

The company was able to secure a pre-seed round of €720,000, brought on Palts and Kulla as cofounders and developers, and has henceforth intensified its efforts to move the market away from simpler electronic signatures, such as a scribble drawn with a computer mouse on a PDF, to the qualified, legally binding identity-based signatures that have been popular in Estonia for years.

Just as there are big victories, there are also incremental additions. Recently, the company added HARICA, the Hellenic Academic and Research Institutions Certification Authority, to its aggregator of signatures. This means that Greek customers can now provide electronic signatures via the eID Easy interface. eID Easy also recently partnered with OneID, a UK company that offers bank-verified, identity-based signatures to Britons. The firm, founded in 2020, has drawn inspiration from Sweden’s BankID, as well as Belgium’s itsme app, which has 6.5 million users.

“We try to add two new methods to the API each month,” says Rei.

‘A landmark collaboration’

While eID Easy courts big players like Dropbox Sign and adds methods to its API, it is also engaged in a new collaboration with Veriff to create a new product that will alter the landscape for identity-based signatures. Veriff is headquartered across town in Tallinn’s Kalamaja District, offers an AI-powered identity verification platform, and employs about 400 people globally.

The companies announced at the end of 2023 a “landmark collaboration” that will see the development of a “secure, universally recognized means of signing digital documents.” eID Easy and Veriff also foresee the adoption of the resulting product for international transactions. Also, personal document signing, particularly in markets where such methods have not emerged.

“We need strong identity tools like Smart-ID and Mobile-ID,” says Rei of the collaboration with Veriff. “But some countries don’t have those tools, and that’s where Veriff comes in,” he says. The collaboration aims to serve markets without robust local identity solutions. Veriff and eID Easy’s products could fill this gap.

Rei says that eID Easy is already live with signatures using Veriff’s ID verification (IDV) system. Creating an e-seal-based signature that is simple but has a strong identity component. They are now working on creating a qualified electronic signature that should go live by the end of ’24.

Again, the Veriff collaboration is aligned with the firm’s strategy. Having added methods from around Europe, the company now sees Latin America and Southeast Asia as its next frontiers.

“This will be the year when we start implementation in countries outside of Europe,” Rei says. The company has launched its first integration for e-signatures valid in Mexico. They are preparing to introduce similar services in Chile, plus collaborating with the Brazilian government. Fundraising efforts are also ongoing at eID Easy to support these efforts. According to Rei, eID Easy aims to raise between €1 and €2 million in the first half of this year.

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