Ant Group-backed Chinese e-signature service eSign nets $150m Series D

eSign, an Ant Group-backed Chinese provider of electronic signature services, has secured over 1 billion yuan ($150.3 million) in a Series D round as its market witnessed accelerated growth amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Series D round was jointly led by Chinese government-guided investment firm Shenzhen Capital Group; Evergrande High-Tech Group, an affiliate of property developer China Evergrande Group; and Shenzhen-based venture capital (VC) firm Fortune Capital, according to a statement on Thursday.

eSign saw “an accelerated recognition of the social value of e-signature services” this year, as the pandemic forced people worldwide to adapt to the new norm of working and studying remotely, said the firm in the statement.

The company has stepped up its market expansion efforts in 2020 to “tap new demands [that] emerged amid COVID-19,” said the firm. Such efforts include the launch of new offerings like e-contract services for consumers purchasing houses online, and the introduction of its blockchain-powered smart contracts in cooperation with Ant Group in May.

Grande Flight Investment, a dual-currency investment firm financed by Hong Kong-listed financial services institution Far East Horizon; and Fanchuang Capital, an early-stage fund that invests in pan-technology and mass consumption fields, participated in the deal.

eSign’s existing shareholders including Gobi Partners China, a China-born VC firm that also looks into the Southeast Asian market, and Hangzhou-based investment firm THE Capital re-upped in the new round.

China’s e-signature industry has gained traction in 2020. Industry researcher iiMedia Research predicts that the number of electronic contracts signed in the country will cross 50 billion in 2020, compared with 27.9 billion in 2019, when the industry clocked a year-on-year growth of 317.5 per cent.

Founded in December 2002, eSign serves clients in the fields of fintech, healthcare, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce, manufacturing, internet-based government administration, online travel, electronic human resources and beyond.

The firm delivers services to companies such as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Japanese conglomerate Sony, China’s Huaxia Bank, Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision, and automaker Geely. It is also a partner of Chinese local government units including the government of eastern China’s Zhejiang Province, and Chengdu’s Social Security Bureau, according to its website.

The Hangzhou-based company has served over 5.02 million corporate clients and more than 270 million individual customers as of June 30, 2020. Founder and CEO Jin Hongzhou said that eSign is “seeking to eventually serve one-fourth of the global population.”

Proceeds from the Series D round will be used to increase investment in the R&D of products and technologies, as eSign targets to promote the industry’s development and to build an e-signature ecosystem centered around the provision of electronic contract and electronic signature services.

The firm had closed 650 million yuan ($97.7 million) in a Series C round led by Ant Group in October 2019. Gobi China Partners and Eminence Ventures, a Chinese VC firm that focuses on early-stage corporate services businesses also participated in the round.

In January 2018, Shenzhen-based Qianhai Mergers and Acquisitions Fund led its 150 million yuan ($22.5 million) Series B round, with participation from Tsinghua Holdings’ THG Ventures.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.