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This husband and wife duo is building the next Canva of the world 

As tech businesses are constantly on the go to hit new milestones and targets, many businesses seem to have forgotten simple objectives like providing great customer support and aftersales services. 

Dean and Diony McPherson cofounders Papersign.

Paperform, a forward-thinking Australian tech startup, has emerged as a self-funded venture led by the dynamic team of Dean and Diony McPherson. Their ambitious vision has recently given birth to Papersign, an innovative e-signature solution poised to disrupt the industry landscape and challenge established players, drawing parallels to Canva’s remarkable ascent.

Hailing from Australia, Paperform has risen to become the world’s premier online form builder. Today, it proudly introduces its latest creation, Papersign—a clever e-signature tool designed to enhance business efficiency by simplifying obtaining digital signatures.

In a time of economic uncertainty that has prompted businesses to reassess expenses and streamline operations, Papersign emerges as a beacon of cost-effectiveness and time-saving potential. Through its close integration with Paperform’s renowned online form-building software, this innovation introduces a comprehensive platform for document creation, drafting, and signature collection.

The beginning

The inception of Paperform in 2016 emerged from the collaborative vision of Dean and Diony. Rooted in the desire to free business leaders from tedious tasks, the duo aimed to redefine the norm. Rejecting the pressures of the rapid growth culture often associated with startups, they embraced sustainable growth strategies to bootstrap Paperform.

Initially an online form builder, Paperform swiftly evolved into a versatile tool, enabling companies to create and automate a range of functions from registrations and payments to surveys and beyond. Significantly, Paperform achieved this feat without resorting to venture capital or external funding, amassing a user base of over 10,000 paying customers.

Diony McPherson’s sentiment echoes the founding motivation, “Paperform’s origin was rooted in our personal frustration with the complexities of online form creation and management.”

“As a married couple with four kids, we always value the time spent outside of work and with our family, but we also know many parents around us who struggle with balancing both work and life. So we started Paperform with the aim of helping business owners who are time-poor automate mundane and time-consuming tasks so that they can focus on building and growing their businesses while freeing up more time to enjoy life.

“Since then, we have never looked back. By interacting with customers and addressing their needs, what started as an online form-building company has quickly transformed into a ‘digital swiss army knife’ for companies, empowering them to create and automate registration pages, payment pages, e-commerce sites, restaurant order forms, surveys, quizzes, application forms, proposals, project scopes, onboarding forms, invitations, and more — all with the main aim of helping people save time.”

Choosing autonomy

There was a period of time when we stopped looking at what competitors were doing. When we did that, we realised that we were losing sight of what it really means to be customer-centric which also stifles true innovation. 

However, the journey wasn’t without challenges. Dean recounted a time when they became overly focused on competitors, losing sight of customer-centric innovation.

Right from the beginning, the duo behind Paperform embraced the idea of full bootstrapping, consciously avoiding external investments. While this decision brought challenges, it offered them unparalleled control over the company’s direction and objectives.

“This approach also enables us to dedicate time and effort to developing a product we deeply care about. We’re not beholden to investor deadlines — we set our own so we can take our time to build products that work for our customers. Our latest product release — Papersign — was developed over the course of many months of trial and error to ensure that we are putting out the best for our customers.”

“As a product-first company, our platform is constantly evolving with our customers’ needs and we strive to create solutions for companies looking to change the way things are done. By simply understanding our customers and how to operate in different markets, we have branched out to build a versatile tool that businesses can tap on for multiple uses on a daily basis. This is how we have grown and thrived over the years, listening to our customers and building high-quality software that is now distributed and used globally.”

At a certain point, the team deliberately shifted their focus away from monitoring competitors. This pause led to a vital realization: their customer-centric approach was losing priority, impacting genuine innovation.

This introspection illuminated the fact that innovation thrives when rooted in a deep understanding of customers. They recognized that their true strength lay in empathizing with customer needs.

“We operate in a highly competitive industry with big players like DocuSign and Typeform that have big marketing budgets, but we have learned that sustainable growth boils down to embracing the values of what it means to be ‘product-led’. Now, we make sure we are hearing out what customers want, building an experience that users love, and that really adds value to their lives. We never lose sight of our mission to help businesses return to the things in life that matter. 

“As tech businesses are constantly on the go to hit new milestones and targets, many businesses seem to have forgotten simple objectives like providing great customer support and aftersales services. We always believe that it is important to know what your customers are looking for and how they feel about our products, and this is something we have definitely learned and seen value in over the years as founders.”

Balancing Act

It is true that as founders, we are often responsible for either doing or overseeing just about everything, it can be time-consuming, and easy to fall into the hustle culture mindset. However, it is always important to remember that there’s things in life that matter more than work.

Offering advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs, Diony highlighted the importance of defining success on one’s own terms.

“We founded Paperform when we had two kids (now four), and that meant we had to balance our time between being parents and founders — not an easy feat as you can imagine. But before we started the business, we sat down and talked about building a business that we enjoyed growing together and not having to burn our nights working overtime. We have stayed true to this conviction over the past few years and I think that’s the key lesson for me, knowing what matters to you and what success looks like for you.

“For me, it was about building Paperform at our own pace and under our control, learning from mistakes, and growing together as co-founders and a married couple.”

“Recognizing the importance of balancing work and life is a crucial takeaway for every founder. While establishing boundaries between work and personal life can be challenging, finding that equilibrium and aligning personal and business goals is pivotal for building a successful, enduring business.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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