The Story Behind Signority's AI Development
A challenging Ecosystem
Ontario is home to a thriving innovation ecosystem with numerous start-ups and SME’s working on cutting-edge technologies and highly focused on innovation within the Canadian industry. However, many of these innovators face severe challenges when it comes to securing funding to develop and scale their projects. As a Canadian start-up Signority, a key player in the eSignature industry, was no stranger to these challenges in 2022, when our paths crossed with the NCFDC.
“We’ve had plans to adopt AI technology to enhance the ease of use of our platform for some time, but funding restrictions prevented us from implementing it.”
Jane He, CEO and founder of Signority.
An Innovation Ally
The Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation (NCFDC) is an independent business development corporation dedicated to providing financing and strategy for entrepreneurs based in Ontario, Canada. The NCFDC is committed to supporting local innovators by providing them with the necessary funding to help bring their ideas to life. Through their programs and services, this organization is helping to drive innovation and economic growth in Ontario and in all of Canada, as this is one of its economic centers. They achieve their ultimate goal through a range of funding options, including grants, loans, and equity investments, to help innovators take their ideas to the next level.
There are five ongoing programs currently run by a group of passionate and experienced staff. Their goal is to help promote economic development and job creation in the region by providing support to innovative and promising business ideas.
“We support innovation and entrepreneurship as a pathway to future prosperity.”
thriveFORWARD: The Program that Revolutionized Signority
Signority specializes in providing secure and easy-to-use eSignature solutions to businesses of all sizes. It was founded by a team of entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity to streamline the signing process and reduce paper waste. That was only the beginning. Using this type of technologies, other companies in countless industries have been able to adopt innovation as part of their day to day.
After 10 years of being a key player in the eSignature ecosystem it is key to keep Signority at the forefront of its field. Technology is ever evolving and so are our customer needs. There is one concept that in recent years has become common and furthermore, a synonym of innovation, productivity, and efficacy in the SaaS world: Artificial Intelligence.
AI is a rapidly growing field, and many companies are looking for ways to incorporate AI into their products and services. The goal is to use it to overcome challenges that traditional technologies are not equipped to achieve. Here at Signority, we were at this very stage.
The biggest challenge for companies when adopting eSignature solutions is an ever evolving user with habits that are not easy to change related to document sending and signing processes. This could include team permission hierarchy, different tags and behavior of those tags, messages for senders, types of senders, types of documents or even a mistrust of technology. Every single one of those setups must comply with legal acts, bylaws and privacy policies depending on the document sensitivity. This can be different for each organization or team. Thanks to AI technology, Signority has approached this challenge through an innovative framework.
However, developing AI technology can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. This is where funding from organizations like NCFDC can be a game-changer. With thriveFORWARD we were able to revolutionize eSignature usability by leveraging AI technology. This translates to more value for users and a user experience taken to the next level.
The thriveFORWARD fund was a key aspect of this journey, becoming the fuel to an engine that allowed us to implement fundamental AI components to our platform and revolutionize eSigning.
This achievement represents a critical milestone in Signority’s history, and we’re proud to have created many highly skilled jobs in Canada. We’re grateful to the NCFDC team for helping us realize our vision of building a strong Canadian tech company.” Jane He, CEO and Founder of Signority.
Our NCFDC Experience
We are extremely grateful for the support we received from the NCFDC. The experience we have had at Signority for applying to the thriveForward SME fund has been highly efficient and pleasant, from the very first touchpoint to receiving the grant.
Entrepreneurship is a wonderful journey but not an easy one. It is filled with long hours, sleepless nights and a lot of unknowns. Frustration is the word of the day almost everyday, for the modern entrepreneur. When an organization like NCFDC truly understands your needs, it can make all the difference in the world.
As processes go, lengthy, and confusing explanations were expected, as with any grant request (cue frustration). This is something that would inevitably delay the application process as we got acquainted with all that was required. However, from the very first step, the online application guides were clear and provided enough detail for us to understand what was expected.
Things were looking up, could this be a company that understood what we needed and had a team of people actively working towards helping us achieve our goal? We decided not to get ahead of ourselves and enjoy the clarity and easy journey they offered.
Requirements, eligibility, terms, conditions, and measurement were clear and concise as well transparent and understandable. This translated to a great beginning to our customer journey with them. The site was easy to navigate and finding information was simple, which helped avoid jumping around different pages and losing track of readings.
As with any grant application, as the process continued moving forward questions arose and the need for a human touch was clear. This was when NCFDC proved that they do not only provide services, they provide a whole experience for their users. The staff and consultants were great listeners, they clearly knew their craft but beyond that, they were actively focused on providing the support needed at each stage. They answered all our questions within hours and were ready and willing to provide help regarding all topics needed. Sometimes those topics were not only questions about filling up forms, but a friend who actively reminded us of where we were going. Someone who continuously provided emotional and technical support throughout a tiring journey.
Grants are not easy to apply for, anyone can tell you that. From lots of forms to a myriad of deep data is required to even fit the eligibility criteria. After writing for hours and staring blankly at documents with thousands of questions and spaces that need to be filled out, it can be refreshing to talk to someone who eases that path. There is not much anyone can do to avoid all those forms, but NCFDC proved to us that there is a lot an organization can do to make that journey lighter, calmer and even unique.
The reporting stage was no different. Help was always easy to get, email reminders were constant but evenly spaced, allowing our team to work on the documents with enough time in hand. Not only that but by now we had built rapport with them, we felt we could talk freely and they would listen. By now we had a deeply ingrained belief that they cared about us and understood us.
This made it clear to us this organization is run by highly trained professionals with a clear understanding of their brand vision and values, as well as their goal. As users, our entire experience felt unique, easy, and streamlined. NCFDC made us feel welcome and important. They are a customer centric organization that puts their customers at the center of everything they do. When you find a company that understands your needs more than any other, it’s natural to feel grateful. This feeling is a testament to the quality of their work which reverbated inside Signority. It is important to recognize the efforts of companies like NCFDC and appreciate them. With more companies like this we could all turn the world of business and tech into an even more nurturing and fulfilling experience than it already is.
Our CEO and founder, Jane He, mentioned the following when talking about the experience:
As a Canadian eSignature company competing in the global market, innovation is essential for us to remain a market leader. We’ve had plans to adopt AI technology to enhance the ease of use of our platform for some time, but funding restrictions prevented us from implementing it. Thanks to the thriveFORWARD fund, we were able to develop the fundamental components necessary to build interactive document preparation and improve our platform’s functionality before documents are sent for signatures. This achievement represents a critical milestone in Signority’s history, and we’re proud to have created many highly skilled jobs in Canada. We’re grateful to the NCFDC team for helping us realize our vision of building a strong Canadian tech company.