Biden presidency ‘good for tech’.
David Swan, The Australian 21 January 2020
This article initially appeared in The Australian.
Joe Biden’s presidency will bring renewed optimism for the US tech industry and Silicon Valley, but also some new regulation, according to the chief executive of San Francisco-based tech company Docusign, whose stock climbed 200 per cent in 2020.
Speaking exclusively to The Australian, Docusign CEO Dan Springer said that there was a feeling of excitement around the Valley, and the US more broadly, surrounding Mr Biden‘s inauguration.
“Most people, regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, are excited. It‘s time for change,” Mr Springer told The Australian. ”It’s gotten a little crazy in the last few weeks here, I don’t think people expected this to occur in the United States, or probably in any sort of developed nation. It’s been about 250 years since we’ve had this level of excitement around our politics, and I think most people are probably feeling a sense of relief, and that’s probably where I put myself.”
Mr Springer said that Mr Biden’s inauguration as President will likely lead to a focus on extra investment for the tech industry, as well as a renewed focus on climate change and the environment. DocuSign, which offers an electronic signature platform, is one of a growing number of tech companies to be outspoken on social and political issues including climate change and equality.
“We pulled out of the Paris accord, which I think was not a good example of what our country should be doing. There is going to be a big positive push on the environmental side.”
The executive added that there will be an increased regulatory impact for tech companies, but it would most likely be consumer companies – like Facebook, Amazon and Google for example – rather than business-to-business software companies like Docusign.
“As a citizen, I think it‘s probably on the margin a good thing, although as a business person, I know it’s tempered,” Mr Springer said. ”The other thing that’s going to be important is that Docusign is a global company. Our headquarters is in San Francisco, but when I’m with customers in Europe, or Asia, I think of ourselves as a global company. And I think the change in administration can be an opportunity for us to be better citizens, which would make me happy and proud, as an American headquartered company.
“I want us to play well in the sandbox with others.”
DocuSign was one of a number of tech companies to boom during COVID-19, with the company up 194 per cent during 2020, particularly as office workers increasingly worked from home during the pandemic. The meteoric rise for it and companies like Zoom and Netflix has led to big expectations for 2021 from investors who are keen for even more growth.
“It’d be hard to do that every year,” Mr Springer said of his company’s growth, ”but all the time I tell our employees ‘don’t look at the stock price’. I only look at it once a week, and the reality is, there’s nothing we’re doing on a weekly basis that should be moving things in a significant way, it’s market moves for market reasons.
“The other thing I say to people is we’re a growth company, and we’ll continue to grow. I think our shareholders and our employees want to see us keep growing, and creating opportunities. We’ve hired substantially into COVID, and at the end of this quarter, about a third of DocuSign employees will have joined since COVID.”
According to Mr Springer, he’s found a silver lining in the way the pandemic has impacted the way Australian professionals are making workplace related agreements, and it‘s helped shape DocuSign’s ‘Employee First’ return to work strategy for 2021. The company has also teamed with stock photography website Unsplash in what the companies are describing as an Australian-first partnership, to launch an image gallery that reflects the changing face of agreements in Australia.
The company has released research that 49 per cent of Australians have made an employment agreement in the last year, with only 2 per cent of Australians saying redundancy was the most significant agreement they made in 2020. Twenty per cent added that agreeing to a new job or promotion has been their most important decision in the last 12 months.
“One of the things that was a bit surprising to me was how dramatic these results were,” Mr Springer said. ”I expected the trends to be where they were, but they were more dramatic. We knew that lots of people were signing their agreements electronically, but the magnitudes were surprising. We saw that 60 per cent of the respondents were saying they preferred to sign an agreement electronically rather than paper-based, and 53 per cent said they would be actually frustrated if they have to go back and do it the old way.
“People are signing their agreements from the beach, from a cafe, wearing their pyjamas and from their living room. Everyone can use Docusign, from anywhere.”