If you’ve ever had to notarize something you know that the process can be really annoying. You usually have to drive to a bank or office to meet a certified notary and watch them sign and stamp your form.
Notarize, an early-stage start-up working out of incubator 1776’s new Crystal City office, says it has an app that can replace that trip using a phone’s video call service. The company launched its product Thursday morning, fueled by $2.4 million from venture capitalists.
Because it’s just now publicly launching its product, the company has no customers yet and hence no revenue. But there are 24 notaries already signed up to work as independent contractors. Due to regulations, all the notaries will have to be based in Virginia, chief executive Pat Kinsel says, but customers can call in from any state.
Notaries will be paid per call and do not qualify as employees, much like Uber and Lyft drivers. Kinsel says that’s because most of the notaries already have other jobs, and are just trying to supplement their income.
But Janet Bradsher, a certified notary who has signed up to use the app, says she wants to make it a full-time gig. She currently does some accounting services during the day and works as a notary part-time, getting her work from websites like Snapdocs.com. These websites coordinate business for so-called “mobile notaries,” that meet customers at an agreed-upon location rather than working out of a store-front.
She says working through Notarize’s app will allow her to spend more time at home caring for her mother, who lives with her at her house in Hampton, Va., rather having to drive around to meet clients all the time.
“Anything I can do to be available for her and still help people is a win-win for me all round,” said Bradsher.
Plus it means she doesn’t have to meet customers in sketchy locations, something she says happens all the time with her in-person work.
“One gentleman I refused to do business with because he wanted to meet in a strip club, and I’m not comfortable doing that,” Bradsher said. “And there are some places that women should never go by themselves and I can’t always take someone with me.”
Notarizing a single document takes just a few minutes and costs $25 through the app, roughly competitive with the rest of the industry. Kinsel wouldn’t say how much of each transaction his company plans to take, but said it will be between a quarter and a half (closer to half, he says) of what the customer pays.
“We’ve got profitable economics from day one,” Kinsel said in an interview.
Right now the platform only works on iPhone and specifically targets individual consumers. But Kinsel says he is getting interest from companies, which often have to regularly notarize scores of documents, so he is working on an enterprise model for businesses.
Before starting Notarize, Kinsel was a partner at Polaris, the venture fund that led Notarize’s initial funding round. Polaris has also funded alcohol delivery start-up Drizly, of which Kinsel is a board member. Kinsel worked at Microsoft before founding Spindle, an app that was bought by Twitter. Former General Services Administration chief Dan Tangherlini and Facebook engineering executive Andrew Bosworth are close advisors to the company, Kinsel says.