Entrepreneur Day Q&A: Pat Kinsel on Building an Enduring Company

There are 31.7 million small businesses in the United States, each one led by an entrepreneur with passion and ambition to change the world around them. 

On the third Tuesday of November each year, we honor entrepreneurs everywhere with National Entrepreneur’s Day. It’s our chance to celebrate the innovators and dreamers among us, and recognize the impact they play in our communities.

Ahead of National Entrepreneur’s Day, we sat down with Notarize's CEO, Pat Kinsel, to discuss his journey as an entrepreneur and what it takes to build an enduring company.

Q: Happy National Entrepreneur’s Day, Pat! For those who don’t know, can you share a little bit about your journey as an entrepreneur?

Pat: Sure! I started my career at Microsoft, learning from some of the most entrepreneurial people I had ever met. There I helped incubate new concepts and bring them to market. I helped launch Bing Social Search and later led development of Docs.com, which was launched by Mark Zuckerberg as a collaboration with Facebook to bring Microsoft Office Online to the Facebook audience. 

I caught the bug to build something there and left Microsoft to build a search business called Spindle, where we developed patent-pending search technology to generate topical, algorithmic timelines from Facebook and Twitter content.

I sold Spindle to Twitter in 2013, and really by total chance, I went to get a document notarized for that Twitter transaction and a notary screwed it up. They stamped it and forgot to sign it. That was really the “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment that I had in my life – this critical transaction that got messed up – and it set me down the path to build Notarize.

Q: You often share that you’ve been attracted to entrepreneurship since you were a kid. What did you find so fascinating about it?

Pat: I’ve been obsessed with building an enduring technology company my entire life. I want my legacy to be that I built something with real, enduring impact that could stand the test of time.

I spent a lot of time searching for one idea that could have an incredible impact. And so when I think about what we’ve been able to accomplish at Notarize – being there to bring trust to mission-critical transactions that are enabling people to buy homes and cars online, or plan for their family’s future – I know we’re making that lasting, transformational impact. 

I also know this is only the beginning of what we can accomplish.

Q: What’s something you’ve come to appreciate about building a business the longer you’ve been doing it?

Pat: The thing about being an entrepreneur is you can’t do it alone. When you think about building an enduring, transformational company, it takes hundreds if not thousands of people working towards a common goal. I see it at Notarize every day. 

So much gets made of our 600% growth year-over-year from the start of the pandemic, but what escapes the headlines is what it took to get there. Our growth has truly been an “all hands on deck” journey.

When Notarize started, we were a three-person company. Everyone did everything. I was up all night manning the support queues and answering people’s questions.

What I appreciate most is that as we’ve grown to more than 400 employees, we haven’t lost the tenacity of that very early-stage startup. We’re still a company that prides itself on its best-in-class work, on its culture, on going the extra mile for each other and for our customers. That tells me we have something really special here.

Q: The notary community is incredibly entrepreneurial. What’s it been like to work with them as the future of their industry takes shape?

Pat: There are more than 4.4 million notaries in the United States. That’s more than the number of public school teachers, doctors, and members of the armed forces. 

Many of these notaries are stitched into the fabric of our communities. They are small business owners themselves, and they’re critical to helping everyday people realize life’s most important moments. 

In our early years, there was a ton of misinformation about how Notarize would impact notaries. For many people, serving as a notary is their livelihood, and digital transformation too often means eliminating the critical roles that people play.

When I was nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, I talked about the technology we’ve built for notaries as this new class of innovation that seeks to maintain and uplift the roles people play, bridging the digital divide, and pulling all people into the future we’re all working so hard to create. 

Our goal at Notarize is not to replace the notary, but to empower them. We want to provide a safer, more effective, and more enjoyable notarization experience – for businesses, signers, and notaries alike.

Notaries are important allies in Notarize’s journey to become an enduring technology company. We’re proud to work with the notary community as we realize our shared vision for the future.

Q: Any words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

Pat: Life’s too short to do anything but what you love. Find something you’re passionate about, make it fun, and work with people you like. If you can make all three happen, it starts to feel less like work and more like your calling.