When the pandemic all but slammed the door on Joel Kapongo and Moktar Yusuf’s startup aimed at streamlining the worker relocation process, the University of Ottawa graduates didn’t ditch their entrepreneurial dreams.
Instead, they did what thousands of other Canadian business owners were forced to do when the COVID crisis derailed their plans – they adapted on the fly.
After shutting down Relomigo, the “personalized relocation” service they’d launched in early 2019, the pair decided to tackle a thorny problem that had cropped up as businesses around the world shut their offices: with face-to-face meetings suddenly taboo, how do you virtually sign legal and financial documents that require witnesses?
Kapongo and Yusuf think they’ve found the answer in Pactima, their new company whose software combines videoconferencing and online signature technology in one platform.
Yusuf says that while regulations were loosened early in the pandemic to allow sensitive contract signings to be witnessed remotely, existing solutions required participants to host video meetings on one type of software, then sort through emails and PDFs to find the right documents before finally signing on the dotted line using a separate e-signature platform.
“It was just a nightmare for people, but that’s what they had to do to continue their business,” Yusuf says. “We saw an opportunity to mix those experiences so that it’s more seamless.”
Pactima’s platform allows customers to host virtual meetings, instantly call up documents in PDF form and affix signatures using a mouse or their finger, all in a single application. The system can be used on any device with a camera, and all meetings and data are stored in secure, encrypted servers.
The founders say they’re already seeing brisk business from law firms, real estate companies and financial institutions for their solution, which is sold on a monthly subscription basis that varies in price depending on the number of users and level of services.
The company says big-name customers, including a major Canadian financial institution and several U.S. auto financing firms, are preparing to sign on to Pactima. The firm’s revenues have been growing at a compounded monthly rate of more than 50 per cent since December, and the founders recently hired their first employee after building the startup from scratch on their own.
Capital shouldn’t be a problem for the young enterprise, at least for the foreseeable future. Pactima recently closed an oversubscribed seed round led by San Francisco-based venture capital firm FundersClub, whose past investments include Instacart and GitLab. Kapongo wouldn't divulge how much funding the company raised, saying only it's north of seven figures.
He and Yusuf recently took part in Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 Demo Day, where they say their e-signature solution generated plenty of excitement.
“I think people see that there’s an opportunity here,” Yusuf says, adding the seed funding will give the company “more resources to be a lot more aggressive” as it expands into the U.S., Europe and Australia.
"We’re trying to be a global company."
The platform is now available in English, French and Spanish. Yusuf says more languages will be added as the startup expands its geographic footprint.
“We’re trying to be a global company,” he says. “Regulations across the world are changing to allow these transactions to be done online.”
Kapongo and Yusuf, who met in 2016 at a mentoring program for budding entrepreneurs, have tried other ventures in the past that didn’t exactly rocket out of the gate. But they both believe they’ve hit on a winning formula with Pactima, calling it a potential “multibillion-dollar” business.
“I feel like we’ve caught lightning in a bottle,” Yusuf says. “I’ve started a few companies, had some successes, had some failures, but this is the first time where I feel like there’s something here that is explosive. Opportunities like this don’t come often. It’s ours to lose.”