Wiseed: the crowdfunding platform

95% of signatures carried out on the WiSEED platform are done electronically with Universign. We’re bringing together gains in productivity at all levels

Nicolas Cougoulic
Director of Information Systems

Wiseed integrates the Universign electronic signature with their crowdfunding platform 

WiSEED is the first French crowdfunding website. The www.WiSEED.com platform offers private investors the opportunity to invest in innovative startups with significant societal impact. With over 50,000 registered investors, WiSEED has allowed for the financing of over 70 French companies in the health, sustainable development, digital and industrial sectors. WiSEED’s goal is to bring together private investors looking to support the development of visible and tangible economic activities and become truly active shareholders. 

A simplified subscription process

The crowdfunding sector is particularly regulated and supervised. In this regard, the French Financial Markets Regulator (the AMF) pays particular attention to the protection of private investors’ investments, and to the integrity and legal value of documents presented. WiSEED has been an accredited “Crowdfunding Advisor” since 2014. Issued by the AMF, this accreditation offers a clear and precise legal framework and introduces a certain degree of regulation. 

WiSEED offers investors the opportunity to sign a series of documents to finalise transactions and secure investments, while complying with AMF regulations. “In practice, future shareholders are not investing directly in the company requesting financing. We create an intermediary company, in which our subscriber-customers become investors. Through a domino effect, this intermediary investment vehicle then purchases shares in the target company”, explains Nicolas Cougoulic, web developer at WiSEED. “This particularity requires a precise and thorough procedure, which includes the signature of documents with evidentiary value”. 

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The future investor’s path is marked out on the WiSEED platform: filling in the registration file, analysing the options and deciding on their choice of project to finance, before finally filling in the subscription form which formalises their investment in the selected project. The investor attaches their signature to several regulatory documents throughout their “customer journey”. 

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Until 2013, this process included a “physical” stage. “We used to ask the customer to print the documents and the subscription form, sign them by hand and return them to us by mail, enclosing a cheque or transfer order for the payment of their investment”, explains Nicolas Cougoulic. “This phase created a break in the user experience and their investment cycle. From our point of view, this wasn’t acceptable”. 

The change of their technical provider at the end of 2013, who had previously managed their contractual documents, accelerated their considerations on the matter. WiSEED effectively found itself having to internally manage the administrative aspects of the contracting processes for subscription forms, which had previously been outsourced. “This was a significant workload!” recalls Nicolas Cougoulic. Considering the growth of the company and the desire to improve the user experience, there was a real need to digitalise the processes of subscription, signature and payment. WiSEED therefore undertook research to find a solution capable of simply and seamlessly managing all aspects of the contracting process, while offering their investor customers a simple, streamlined and ergonomic user experience. 

They therefore established five aims: 

  1. To offer an entirely digitalised user experience for the signature of regulatory documents. 
  2. To reduce the costs paid by customers in eliminating postal deliveries and reducing the need for travel. 
  3. To gain time between the investor deciding to invest and their actual investment. 
  4. To gain productivity by limiting internal administration and collecting approved and signed registration documents more quickly. 
  5. To secure the storage of digitalised documents and subscription forms. 

A pioneer of the electronic signature for crowdfunding 

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After a phase of benchmarking and research, WiSEED was able to draw up a precise panorama of the actors on the electronic signature market. Technical, regulatory and economic criteria all directed this consultation. “One of the most important technical criteria for us was the existence of a turnkey API, which would be easy to integrate and which focused on user experience. At the same time, the sensitivity of our documents meant that we needed to ensure the identity of signatories and the evidentiary value granted to documents – in other words, we had to be sure that the signed documents could not be called into question”. WiSEED needed a technically agile and legally reliable solution. They found that the signature and timestamping solution offered by Universign was the choice offering them the best legal guarantees. 

The consultation phase was truly beneficial. In short, it allowed the WiSEED engineers to proceed, in total transparency, to carry out technical tests with the API, thanks to the provision of precise and detailed documentation, and to make test accounts and signatures. Their goal was to ensure the compatibility of the API with their platform, and the proper technical functioning and solidity of the solution. “Universign was very easily implemented. The clear, simple and effective documentation allowed for integration to be carried out in under 4 days. Very quickly, we were able to carry out the first signatures on our platform”, explains Nicolas Cougoulic. The professional support and the educational role of the teams was also a determining factor in the choice to opt for Universign. “We were attracted by the instructive approach offered by the Universign team, who took the time to explain the different types of signatures and to support us in our various choices. The support service was always present and responsive”. 

WiSEED simplifies the customer experience for their investors as far as possible, thanks to Universign

With a view to improving the customer experience, WiSEED hoped to simplify the different signature stages as far as possible. They therefore opted for the Universign integration in iframe mode, to maintain the entire subscription process within their platform, in an environment which is familiar for the investor. 

Its implementation has also encouraged an overhaul of the registration and subscription procedures. Before they can view the details of a project and subscribe, the investor completes a registration file in advance and transmits their identity documents. Their investment is then carried out via the signature of a subscription form, offering them the choice between an electronic or handwritten signature. WiSEED wanted to maintain the “physical” process with handwritten signatures, to allow users who were still resistant to the “100% digital” approach to continue investing. 

For the “digitalised” process with electronic signature, the subscription form is displayed directly on the site, within the WiSEED interface. The investor reads the document before accepting, approves it by checking the acceptance boxes and receives an SMS code on their mobile phone. Once the SMS code is validated, the subscription is activated and the shareholding finalised. “Thanks to the electronic signature, the subscription process is more simple, more secure and much better regulated. We support the investor at every step of the way, from their registration to the online payment stage,” explains Nicolas Cougoulic. “In terms of customer experience, you won’t find anything better!”. 

Immediate productivity gains thanks to the electronic signature

“95% of signatures carried out on the WiSEED platform are done electronically with Universign. Support is almost unanimous. The electronic signature also offers the advantage of adding a new level of security to our procedures”, explains Nicolas Cougoulic. 

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Since the integration of the electronic signature within their platform, WiSEED has enjoyed significant time savings in several areas. The electronic signature frees signatories of burdensome stages like the printing and scanning of signed documents, or certain administrative processes (travel to a post office, sending letters, etc.). The time saved throughout the subscription cycle (signature stages, automatic management of digitalised documents, etc.) is considerable. The prior approval of files secures the entire process and therefore avoids any back and forth with incomplete or incorrect files. At the same time, financial gains are also not negligible, particularly for the investor: as they no longer have to pay for any postal deliveries, nor bear the cost of the electronic signature. 

“We’re bringing together gains in productivity at all levels”. The documents are directly stored in our IS, which saves on the human cost of processing mail, and the costs of administrative processing and physical archiving. The very competitive Universign pricing system brings us closer to the price of a postal delivery… Overall, the financial gains are not negligible!” notes Nicolas Cougoulic. 

A solution capable of supporting your growth

The success of the adoption of the electronic signature for registration and subscription forms, the simplicity of Universign’s implementation within the WiSEED environment and the various gains generated have encouraged the use of the electronic signature for other documents. Delegations of powers, voting instructions and annual general meeting minutes for investment vehicles, signatures of subscription amendments or even the acceptance of GCU/GCS by startup directors looking for financing can now be carried out via digitalised processes, thanks to the electronic signature. 

“With the Universign electronic signature API, it’s very easy to reproduce the mechanisms in place, in order to apply these to new types of documents requiring signature. All we had to do was develop a new workflow within the WiSEED platform and replicate the process. In just a few days, we were able to offer a new feature to our customers, which was very much appreciated!” concludes Nicolas Cougoulic. 

From January 2014 to July 2015, the number of documents signed electronically has increased by 400%… Proof of the good health of our platform! 

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