I just spent some time looking at EchoSign, a new service launched by Jason Lemkin and Jeff Zwelling.
EchoSign helps you keep executed documents organized. Document writing and negotiation has been largely handled online, via emails, for the last ten years (before that, fedex and faxing of versions back and forth was the way to go). However, when it comes time to execute a final agreement, both sides generally print the document and fax it back to the other side. Unless someone scans the signature pages and creates a pdf, there is no electronic signed copy.
Efax helps somewhat and I often ask people to send docs to my efax number so that I have an electronic copy. But Echosign, besides being free, goes further. Once a document is finalized, you simply upload it to the site and use their interface to email it out to everyone. The emailed document includes a fax cover sheet with the fax number pre-filled. The other side simply prints it, signs it, and sends it to the fax number on the pre-printed form. The original party then receives a pdf version of the signed document for filing, printing and/or forwarding.
I have no idea what the business model is, since its a free service, but EchoSign definitely fixes a big problem for lawyers and companies trying to keep executed agreements and other documents organized.
I’ve looked at other services that are trying to solve the version control of documents…hosting a word or other document that the parties can change and finalize is a great idea and something law firms would easily pay for. Writely and the other ajax office application companies would tweak their services to accomplish this of course. In the meantime, I would really like to see EchoSign create an API and allow services like writely to built the signature piece right in.