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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 6, 2020 5 months ago

Young co-founders seek to upend staid industry

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Backed by some prominent board members, eNotaryLog has ambitious plans.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Forget Software-as-a-Service.

The founders behind Tampa-based eNotaryLog, James Mitchell and Joseph Bisaillon, aim to be pioneers in something they call Notary-as-a-Service. The company provides remote online notarization services 24 hours a day to a host of clients. Following the legal requirements of a Florida electronic notarization bill that went into effect Jan. 1, eNotaryLog also offers enterprise customers the ability to template and send documents for eSignature and online notarization.

The company’s model is to essentially digitalize the old-school notary experience, which, for years, has required an in-person transaction. With eNotaryLog, a customer instead logs on to the site and, after identity verification and security checks, can download documents. The customer then connects on video with a trained, state-issued, bonded notary to complete the transaction. “We are a blend between DocuSign and a telehealth doctor,” Bisaillon says. “You have to be able to do both. … We want we want to change an industry that’s never been changed before.”

'Having a powerhouse board has really helped us. You have to set up a company properly if you want to have a good exit.' James Mitchell, eNotaryLog

Both, in that the firm’s mission is to provide both the notary services and high-touch customer service — and not skimp on either. That’s why it debuted its service in the market already with 16 trained notaries, full-time eNotaryLog employees who work out of an office suite in the Carrollwood area of Tampa. Bisaillon says competitors use notaries who work from home on a freelance basis, giving eNotaryLog a competitive edge. “Our goal was to build a higher-trained staff, with more expertise,” Bisaillon says.

Friends since they met in Williams Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Bisaillon and Mitchell founded eNotaryLog in February 2019. They’ve spent most of the past year hiring and training notaries and working on the software development side. (The firm has five in-house software developers.) They raised $300,000 in the startup phase and have participated in several Tampa area startup incubator programs. “It’s been a lot of tweaking on the software,” Bisaillon says, leading to a soft launch in late January.

The duo started the business in Bisaillon’s parents house, working in a spare bedroom. Joseph Bisaillon’s dad, Dan Bisaillon — who had recently retired as COO of St. Petersburg-based America II Electronics, a 600-employee electronic component firm — would walk by and check out their work. First the elder Bisaillon was curious about the startup. Now he works there, as COO.

Dan Bisaillon isn’t the only high-profile Tampa executive on the eNotaryLog team. Howard Jenkins, son of Publix founder George Jenkins and CEO and chairman of the grocery giant from 1990 to 2001, is on the eNotaryLog board. So to is former Tech Data Chairman and CEO Steve Raymund. The founders knew the Jenkins and Raymund families from growing up with the executives’ children.

The prominent board members have not only helped eNotaryLog increase its capital raise, to some $2 million. They’ve also opened doors for potential partners and vendors and worked with Bisaillon, 28, and Mitchell, 27, on other parts of the company. “Having a powerhouse board has really helped us,” \ Mitchell says. “You have to set up a company properly if you want to have a good exit.”

Although Mitchell and Joseph Bisaillon have known each other for years, they formed eNotaryLog out of seeing a market need born in tragedy: Their friend, Kevin Gaskin, had died of cancer in November 2018, at 26 years old.

When Gaskin was in the hospital, right before he died, Mitchell, an attorney, and Bisaillon, a software engineer, couldn’t find a notary to help transfer Gaskin’s assets. “We started brainstorming about what we can we do,” says Bisaillon, who founded an inventor’s club at USF when he was a student in 2013. “We kept going back to this problem we had at Kevin’s end-of-life care. The [lack of a] notary was a real sticking point.”

The notary industry is at least a $15 billion sector, Bisaillon says, so even a small percentage could be a big business. He projects eNotaryLog will hit close to $1 million in revenue in 2020, with a focus on industries that adapt quickly to disruptive technologies, such as fintech. Banks, credit unions, mortgage businesses, law firms and legal associations are other future clients. “There’s a lot of moving pieces,” Mitchell says. “There are many industries we can target.”

Externally, a big challenge is customer education. The biggest internal challenge, Mitchell says, is to train notaries on the technology and system, given most come to eNotaryLog after years of doing things differently.

A worry both founders share is being sure to build a company with an entrepreneurial culture where employees want to stay and build a career. Another up-at-night worry, Mitchell asks, is: “What if you are not a success? But you have to block that out of your mind.”

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