Market Alert: Box Acquires SignRequest to Develop Internal Electronic Signatures

Key Takeaway: “This opportunity for existing Box customers to embed e-signature more deeply into their document approval processes is a multi-billion dollar opportunity when the analytics, automation, workflows, and business process optimization opportunities are all taken into account.”


On February 3, 2021, Box announced its intention to acquire SignRequest, a Dutch e-signature vendor founded in 2014, for an estimated $55 million to develop Box Sign. Box plans to launch Box Sign in the summer of 2021 and to make it available both for personal and enterprise plans. Amalgam Insights believes this is an interesting opportunity for multiple reasons.

First, consider that Box’s entire go-to-market strategy is driven around placing enterprise standards around cloud-based content. This has always been its key driver and was the foundational starting point for allowing Box to succeed at a time when cloud-based content management system startups were popping up like wildfire a decade ago. As a starting point, let’s just use “enterprise standards” as a shorthand to describe the governance, security, analytics, and automation necessary to translate basic data and activity into the context and foundation needed to support businesses. Adding e-signatures allows Box to better serve its pharmaceutical, healthcare, government, legal, & other regulated clients with contractual & personal information transfers.

Second, the emergence of the COVID pandemic has driven the need to develop remote work capabilities and highlighted weaknesses in paper-based workflows that organizations have avoided for decades. The disease-driven digital transformation happening now is forcing companies to conduct the operational equivalent of changing the tires on a car while driving on a highway and requires complex problem-solving solutions that are well-packaged and readily available. This need drove the revenue of enterprise Software-as-a-Service companies in 2020 and will continue to drive growth as the majority of companies still need to fill gaps in their digital work toolsets.

Third, with internal e-signature, Box can now add human trust, activity, response time, & human-driven automation to a variety of documents and activities where it was previously dependent on partners. Human sign-off is a key data component, but it’s not the be-all, end-all of work. This is an opportunity to add signature-based approval as a foundational metadata component to every document, workroom, and content-based collaboration that Box supports, which is a vital area that no company has fully conquered. Looking at the enterprise market, companies that have started taking on this challenge include Workiva and ServiceNow, which are both obviously cloud SaaS darlings both from a revenue growth and valuation perspective.

I’m hoping this is a step towards Box being a Workiva (and eventually ServiceNow) competitor and starting to push activity analytics, machine-learning driven optimizations, and workflow capabilities to themarket. The content activity Box supports has immense latent value in benchmarking, authorizing, and rationalizing work. This trusted activity was one of the areas that some analysts, including myself, hoped that Blockchain would serve. But reality has proven that unlocking value from trusted activity requires hybrid activity that includes people, documents, and transactions.

This hybrid activity management along with the analytics, automation, trust, and force multiplier productivity that could result from this combination of human trust, document context, timely context, and related documents and workflows is the true promise of this acquisition. Existing document management vendors either lack the enterprise governance, platform standardization, automation, or functional capabilities to bring authorization and work together to the masses in a cost-efficient manner. Box’s business model that includes both freemium and enterprise models provides a unique opportunity to bridge the gaps in e-signature adoption, content, and business scale to provide both a better e-signature product and a next-generation trust platform driven by e-signature.

The takeaways here are two-fold. First, look closely at Box to see how they bring Box Sign to market in 2021. This opportunity for existing Box customers to embed e-signature more deeply into their document approval processes is a multi-billion dollar opportunity when the analytics, automation, workflows, and business process optimization opportunities are all taken into account. Second, expect enterprise workflow and content vendors ranging from ServiceNow to Workiva to OpenText to both change their esignature offerings and to start a product war to support greater advancement in signature-based capabilities, data management, and analytics as Box threatens to change the game.