Is Facebook the perfect tool for contracts?

    In the realm of freelancing it seems that paperwork and the legal gymnastics required to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s is one of the most painful and frustrating parts of the job. Arturs Kirtovskis and Karlis Bikis, two of the four man team from Latvia behind Officialize.It think they have come up with a way to simplify the process and take the pain and hassle out of forming a contract.

    The plan to improve upon the current process for arranging and agreeing contracts began when Karlis became increasingly annoyed at the amount of time he felt he was wasting on travelling to meet clients and negotiating contracts. Together with Artūrs they sat down to think of a better solution and decided that an online process, where both parties could create and agree on a contract, would be best.

    With the idea in mind and a plan in place they looked to the investment community for the funds to quit their jobs and work full time on Officialize.It. While they received some positive feedback they found no one willing to invest in them. However like all good stories they didn’t give up. Believing in the idea they committed to making Officialize.It a reality, and while holding down other jobs used their free time to build the service.

    Today Officialize.It is up and running, and the small team are reading through the feedback they’ve been getting to improve the service even further. However before we look at how Officialize.It might progress from here, lets look at what it does right now.

    The basic structure of the service allows two parties to create legal documents which both can edit from a range of templates or a blank sheet. When both parties are satisfied with the agreement they click confirm, the document is locked and no more edits can be made. All agreements are kept private, however either party can choose to make it public. Once that has been done anyone can view it if they have received its unique url.

    Facebook is used to authenticate a person’s identity. It was chosen because so many people have an account, and using it simplifies another part of the process. Instead of spending time going through a number of steps to verify each others identity both parties can just login using Facebook and get straight to work creating an agreement that both are happy with.

    The team envisioned the service being used by freelancers such as wedding photographers, people who will be providing a one off service and for whom spending a lot of time working on contracts is restrictive. Currently the legal strength of such agreements is unknown as one has never been tested in court, however from legal advice they have been given the Officialize.It guys say they are optimistic.

    One of the central pieces of feedback the team received has been to do with identity and verification. While the service was created for freelancer to client relationships, it seems like a number of b2b (business to business) people are interested in the service, however using Facebook is not a viable solution for them. Instead it has been suggested to the team that they look at what Airbnb has done. Airbnb use a service called NetVerify from Jumino which requires users to scan a government issued ID, generally a passport. This can be linked to an online profile to provide a much stronger proof of identity.

    The Officialize.It team are really happy with the service they have created, and proud to have done so even without the help of investors. Now they are eager to hear what people think of it, and are looking to improve based on constructive feedback. Without investment they still have to do all the work in their spare time but we, along with them, hope that now they have a working product investors might once more consider taking a chance on this bold Latvian team.

    Regardless of future investment though, let us know what you think of the service in the comments below. Creating contracts and agreements online seems like an sensible thing to be doing in this age, but do you think there’s anything they’re missing?