One of the tech industry’s “unicorns” (a company valued over $1 billion) is making moves in Chicagoland with the opening of a new innovation hub in Warrenville.
DocuSign, a cloud-based company that helps businesses manage online signatures and other digital documents, announced the opening of its Chicagoland Research & Development Innovation Hub in Warrenville. The office, a 5,950 square foot space that will house more than 40 employees, is opening as a result of DocuSign’s acquisition of Naperville-based Cartavi, a cloud-based real estate document management startup, in 2013. DocuSign founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tom Gonser said Cartavi created a product that was “leading edge in the real estate space,” and he wanted to make sure DocuSign kept that team together and in the Chicago area.
“Chicago is actually a great location from a US coverage perspective,” Gonser said in an interview. “I hadn’t really looked at that region as place for fostering tech and innovation, but there’s quite a bit of activity going on there. And it’s growing. There are good universities around close. It’s a big market. It just makes a lot of sense.”
The Warrenville office has around 15 employees now, but plans to roughly triple that number “as soon as possible,” Gonser said. The office will consist of engineers, product managers, and sales and marketing people.
San Francisco-based DocuSign has been growing like crazy, as it raised a $278 million Series F investment this May, valuing the company at $3 billion. That’s almost double its valuation from just a year prior, when DocuSign raised $85 million at a $1.6 billion valuation.
The company says it has 100,000 customers in almost 200 countries, and has offices in Brazil, Israel, Australia, Singapore, the UK and Ireland. DocuSign is moving so fast, Gonser admits he hasn’t even been to all of the company’s offices.
“It represents the worldwide demand for a more more efficient, digital business process,” he said. “Now you actually can completely digitize any type of transaction, no matter if it needs a form filled, a signature, or anything … We’re talking about every single market, every single vertical, and every single person (working) more efficiently with this technology.”
DocuSign’s Warrenville office opening comes at a time where many inside the city limits of Chicago are worried about stifling tech expansion due to the city’s new “cloud tax.” Some in the Chicago tech community fear the tax, which charges an additional 9% to companies that use cloud-based services, could send tech businesses heading for the suburbs or even other states all together. DocuSign’s decision to move to Warrenville took place before the cloud tax news, and Gonser wasn’t aware of the tax when we spoke over the phone Wednesday.
“It doesn’t sound like a great idea if you’re trying to attract talent,” he said, adding that the mayor’s latest proposal to exempt startups from the tax based on revenue isn’t a strong long-term solution for growing a tech ecosystem.
“You get your startup going until they reach that limit, and they move out of the area when they’ve got big revenue going,” Gonser said.
Gonser added that he expects the Warrenville office to continue to grow as the company continues its fast expansion.
“If you asked me 3 years ago how big DocuSign was, I think I would tell you were in the 300-400 person range, and now we’re over 1600. And I don’t know that that slows down any time soon.”