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Why a data-driven approach to deal management is good for everyone

Our mission is to give business leaders a strategic advantage in creating and sustaining successful business partnerships.

When Dave, Tony and I started DocSend in 2013, we ran through several ideas that didn’t pass the “Why this, why now?” test.

The problem DocSend was solving was simple: professionals were still sharing important business documents as attachments, which was bad for a variety of reasons. Attachments can’t be updated once sent, the owner has no control over them, and there’s no way to know if the other side can open them (i.e. does it open on mobile? Do they have keynote? Can they log into Google Drive? etc.).

Founders raising money were our first users, followed by salespeople, customer success managers, investment bankers, general partners in VC funds, and many others. We have about 9,000 customers today across a variety of use cases. I would describe most of those users as trying to get a deal done or trying to manage a business relationship. DocSend is valuable to any business professional, whether they are a CEO, a sales leader, an investment banker, or anywhere in-between.

Our mission is to give business leaders a strategic advantage in creating and sustaining successful business partnerships.

Empowering the sell side of the table

In every business transaction, there is a buyer and a seller. The buyer typically holds the cards and can often control the outcome of a transaction. In the fundraising process, the investor is the buyer. In a business development deal, it’s the client or customer. For an investment banker who is trying to assist in an M&A deal, it’s the buyer or the company that’s looking to make the acquisition. For a boutique venture capitalist raising capital for her fund, the LPs are the buyers.

In each of these situations, DocSend can give the sellers some control over the transaction. Knowing if someone opened or ignored your document gives you more information than what you had when you sent it as an attachment or shared it as a Google Drive link. It shows that someone is interested—and if they spent a long time looking at a particular slide or skipped over a bunch of slides to get to your pricing, that tells you something too.

That little bit of information gives the entrepreneur, investor, or salesperson some insight on where they need to focus their next conversation. And that’s very powerful.

Ideas are good; data is better

In keeping with our mission of transparency, and to help those in positions of lesser advantage move their business forward, we partnered with Harvard Business School to study fundraising pitch decks shared via DocSend. Every company studied in that research volunteered to be included and explicitly opted-in to be part of the study. We believe that by studying seed and A-round pitch decks and gleaning best practices from the data, we can help make the fundraising process more equitable and transparent for all involved.

Before we did this analysis, we reached out to a number of founders who were using our product and asked them if they would like to be part of the study.  Founders who opted in also answered a set of questions that we included in the analysis.

I want to reassure those who are anxious about privacy that we take your privacy very seriously.  We never look at your documents unless you ask us to do so. We will get explicit permission from you before we study your data, and if you opt not to participate in the study or don’t respond to our request, your documents will not be included in the analysis. You can learn more about our research methodology here.

We’re not the first, and we’re likely not the last

Providing research based on anonymized, aggregated user data is not unique to DocSend. Many organizations have responsibly used user data and published research that has been beneficial for all. For example, Mozilla releases its Firefox Public Data Report as a resource for journalists, researchers, and the public to understand the state of desktop browsing. HubSpot studied email open rates by industry and published trends in this blog post. Backlinko recently partnered with Pitchbox and analyzed 12 million emails and published what they learned in this blog post. OkCupid has successfully used anonymized user data to share trends relating to dating.

While we have only published fundraising study and sales content data so far, we plan to share data and insights that can help other business functions like Customer Success and Marketing. These studies will also follow the same methodology and will adhere to explicit user consent and our privacy policy.

We founded DocSend with the mission of helping business leaders work deals transparently and equitably. We are committed to providing document owners with security and control over their files, while enabling viewers of these documents to easily see what’s been shared with them—without large files clogging their inboxes. We believe there is value in what we’ve built. We believe our ongoing research and analysis, done with user consent and with responsibly collected data, is useful to the broader ecosystem.

But I want to hear from you. Do you think this research is valuable? What else would you like to see? What other concerns do you have? Please tell us! We’re listening.