Approvr tackles document and design sign off

ApprovrBack last year at the Office 2.0 conference I was struck by the volume and overlap of web 2.0 products that have come on to the market in the last couple of years.  Amongst the ones that stand out are applications which address a specific, real world problem that most businesses have, but with an elegant and cost effective web service that is easy to use.  FreshBooks and BaseCamp are good examples.  The former tackles the invoicing and collection problem that all businesses have, and BaseCamp tackles project management.  Both can be used by a very small business to tackle one of their crucial issues and help them look as professional as a large enterprise. 
My friend Mat Atkinson is a few weeks away from starting the "beta" of an excellent new web service that fits in to the same mould - Approvr.  The problem he is attacking is document and proof sign off.  Whether it is collaboration over a contract, or approval of a complex design, most companies have to deal with circulating documents and designs for comments and eventual agreement.  Mat's recent background has been heavily involved with marketing processes.  He was the founder of Mtivity, a SaaS based marketing resource management solution that we still partner with.  Consequently he's made sure his new service can work well for the kind of documents and proofs that go back and forth between marketing and designers and service providers every day. 
Approvr example screenFirst you drag and drop the document or proof to Approvr.  Then you tell it the e-mail addresses of the people that need to review and sign off, with a covering note, and the date/time they need to complete by.  The approvers get the mail with a link to the file, which they can download, so that avoids e-mailing big files and hitting mailbox limits.  The approver can add date/time/name stamped comments overlaid on the design or document, but everyone sees all of the comments in real time to avoid any conflicts or duplication.  You get a dashboard that helps you track the various documents and proofs you've sent for approval, so that you can easily chase to get the job done.   The system even handles comments in PDFs, which can be imported and exported by Approvr to make it easy to work alongside existing tools like Adobe Acrobat. 
Obviously this works on both Mac and PC - in the design environment that is essential.

The beta release is only a few weeks away.  I've signed up, so I'll give a further report once I've used it myself.  If Mat gets the pricing right, I predict he's on to a winner here.   Mat's back blogging again, which is also great.
Disclosure:  We've both been a client of each other before now, and Mat's bent my ear for advice on some of his planned launch activities, but there is no commercial relationship between us currently. 
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what's the difference beteen this and echosign?
From what I know of Echosign, that's designed for getting contract documentation tracked and signed, either by hand or electronically. Approvr is different. It's for creating the contract wording itself internally/externally before you get to the signature stage, so that the document can be annotated back and forth. It really comes in to its own when a specification or graphic design or proof stage is involved. Then there may be a lot of iteration and annotation before you get to agreement and sign off. You might have used Echosign either just before or just after Approvr to get the contract terms for whatever it is you are developing or proposing "signed". The two processes are probably separate, but could connect.
Echosign does have comment capability, so there is definitely some overlap. I'm going to reacquaint myself with it to see how it handles graphics and proofing - the website seems to emphasise contracts, and positions it against eFax.

Thanks for the comments and questions:

Approvr and Echosign are solving different problems for different types of documents and files.

Approvr manages proofing and approval at all stages of a document's lifecycle and for a very broad range of documents e.g. marketing material, press releases. Our documents typically go through several versions and have feedback from lots of people. To manage this process we provide a range of tools to enable reviewers to comment on the document, manage versions and manage approval deadlines.

Echosign is focussed on putting "signature" on specific types of documents. These are usually legally binding documents such as sales contracts.

For both companies the concept is the same - central web based repository and streamlined workflow. However, the use cases are quite different.
Looks like it competes more with this
rather than echosign by the sounds of it.
Unless it is more for contracts in which case Echosign has a good head start

Looks interesting
Hi Al,
You're right. I don't know Approval Manager, but the blurb suggests it's intended to do the same job. Approvr will do it with a SaaS approach and cheaper. Creative organisations often implement something like this one you've found or Kodak Real Time Proof, which are pretty expensive, enterprise oriented on-premise software. Mat's providing a neat alternative.

I've got to remind myself what EchoSign does - I know it has a good alert function. Don't know if Approver has that yet, but looking forward to the beta to find out.
Approval Manager will be available in the SaaS model in Q2/2007.
Also another competitor worth checking out is Concept share : http://www.conceptshare.com/
Looks very interesting and I see it did well at Under The Radar last week. We'll check it out as it seems to have significant overlap with Approvr, although it doesn't handle the approval sign off process.
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