HelloFax Lets You Ditch Your Fax Machine and Sign Everything Electronically

3/30/11Follow @wroush

This is the third in a series of profiles of Y Combinator Winter 2011 (YC W11) startups.

You don’t run into many startups that are already planning for their own technology’s demise. But that’s the case at HelloFax, part of the Winter 2011 batch at the Y Combinator venture incubator.

Ostensibly, the company’s service is all about helping people send and receive faxes electronically, without having to find an actual fax machine. Once you’ve uploaded a digital document to HelloFax.com, you can send it off to any fax number (the first 5 pages are free, and after that you pay $1.99 per fax, or sign up for one of several premium plans). But co-founder Joseph Walla says the company knows that faxing is a dying form of communication, and that HelloFax was actually built to serve an underlying need that isn’t going away anytime soon. To wit: signing documents electronically.

After all, nobody voluntarily sends faxes anymore. The only reason most offices still have the 1980s-era machines on hand is to exchange documents that require signatures. And as soon as people realize that it’s possible to sign a document without printing it out first, they’ll abandon their fax machines. The only question is which software or service they’ll use instead.

“Faxing is still huge today—it’s a billion-dollar-plus market,” says Walla. “But it’s not the future of communication, so we’re building for people’s present needs and adding all these tools that we are confident they are going to need in the future. We want to be the new way people sign documents.”

It turns out that people really like the simplicity of the startup’s faxing-and-signing service. Since launching in late February, HelloFax has signed up 7,500 users and is growing that number by 30 percent per week, according to Walla. Most simply send faxes, but a growing number also sign them by uploading a scan or photo of their signature or drawing it with their mouse or trackpad.

Walla conceived last year after giving up on his previous software project, a Website landing page optimizer. “Somebody needed a signed Google document from me,” Walla recalls. “The fax machine was broken, and I didn’t want to replace it. I remember having to print out the document and sign it and scan it and e-mail it. So here I had eliminated the fax machine, but I still needed a printer and a scanner.”

Working with a designer-programmer friend in Minnesota named Nate Uri, Walla built an in-browser editor that allowed users to upload documents and send them to a fax number—in much the same way that established services like eFax allow, but without having to download software or sign up for a dedicated fax number. “All of a sudden you didn’t need any hardware or special software to send documents,” Walla says. “At the time I don’t think we realized how big of a pain point we were solving.”

He’d find out soon enough—but not before the fax project almost got derailed. It turned out that Uri had too much other work to help Walla found a startup, so Walla applied for a job at Google, and even got as far as an interview at the … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

Single Page Currently on Page: 1 2

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • patrick hogam

    Hellofax has a clean website, but their product doesn’t work. I signed up and paid for a custom number a week ago. The fax still rings busy. I emailed support and received no response.

  • http://www.hellofax.com Joseph

    Patrick,

    Sorry to hear about that. We try to reply to all emails within 10 minutes. You can email me at support@hellofax.com and we’ll get on this asap.

    Also, let me know which account you signed up under, since I’m not seeing your account in the database.

    Thanks,
    Joseph

  • Dave

    How is this any different from http://www.freefax.com ?

  • patrick hogan

    The support just got in touch with me and fixed my ring/busy. Patrick.

  • Neville

    I tried sending a free fax. Didn’t appear to work. Instead I got this:

    “Could not authorize card. Please try again later.”

    If you’re going to gate a free service with a $0.00 charge to a credit card, at least make it so that if the credit card authorization capability goes down at your end you can still deliver a free single sample to the potential customer. We send thousands of (medical) faxes a month, and this is something less than a persuasive demonstration that your service is ready.

  • http://www.hellofax.com Joseph

    Hi Neville,

    Mind emailing us at support@hellofax.com. We’ve never run into that issue before. Would love to look at it.

    Thanks,
    Joseph

  • MarvinH

    I tried to fax a test page (http://www.articlewritingtools.com/cpn) directly from my browser and I can’t seem to find how to do that…do just I need to do that via the “Print…” menu in my Internet Explorer or am I missing something when trying to fax directly from my browser…?

  • http://www.hellofax.com Joseph

    Hi Marvin,

    What you can do to send that fax is save it to your desktop as a PDF, then upload it to HelloFax. Then, you can send it as a fax.

    If you have any questions, send me an email at support@hellofax.com. Happy to help!

    Best,

    Joseph
    cofounder

  • http://www.faxcompare.com FaxCompare

    HelloFax’s customer support has always been top notch and super helpful. I manage an online fax comparison site and have had the opportunity to interact with Joseph from HelloFax on multiple occasions. He’s been nothing but professional. Here’s our review of HelloFax: http://www.faxcompare.com/hellofax