Promises direct scanning receipts and business cards.
ShoeBoxed has signed a deal with HP as the exclusive application for scanning business cards and receipts through the printer vendor’s Print Apps interface. ShoeBoxed was in similar discussions with Fujitsu and other printer manufacturers to install its software on their hardware.
BoxFreeIT caught up with ShoeBoxed CEO Taylor Mingos and CFO Tobias Walter were in Australia earlier this month and asked about integration with printer-scanner vendors, why they were chosen and how the company has separated itself from conventional scanning (OCR) software.
And Mingos and Walter reveal the unusual and sometimes illegal extras sent in with a bunch of receipts.
NB: The pricing on ShoeBoxed.com is impossible to find. Here’s the link.
BoxFreeIT: What are the details of this deal with HP? Why are they wanting to put ShoeBoxed on their printers?
Tobias Walter: HP’s new printers will be able to scan to four business tools, Google Apps, Box.net, Stamps.com and Shoeboxed. We’re talking with a good number of scanning providers right now because a lot of them see a similar picture. There some problems in their old business in that people stop making copies, people fax a lot less, people print less.
At the same time they have millions of these machines out there and with the cloud becoming more and more important especially to small businesses they see these machines as a gateway to the cloud where we can get all paper onto these services.
At the same time we’re in a unique position as we’re the only company that can take that paper and get the data out of it and activate it into tools. It’s not just scan your content into Google Docs, we know what the data is and we can structure and organise it and move it into these tools.
Taylor Mingos: With the HP integration you’ll be able to scan the business card into Google Contacts without going to our website.
BoxFreeIT: So HP is building an app store, like a Google Apps Marketplace for printers?
Walter: HP is not going to do a marketplace of different apps where you have to pick and choose. They have talked to a lot of their customers and figured out four or five use cases that almost every small business owner has.
One is scanning in contracts and agreements with your clients, suppliers and landlord, and so on, either just to store it or to share it with your lawyer. Another one is to scan in employment information, payroll and tax forms to share with your accountant. These are the two use cases they found for Google Docs and Box.net.
The other two were receipts and people wanting to put the data in their accounting software, and a stack of business cards they want to use in email marketing or Google Docs or a mobile address book.
BoxFreeIT: Haven’t we already tried to do the paper-less office?
Walter: This time it’s a lot more specifically value driven. If you are a restaurant owner and you collect business cards from customers in the fish bowl up front you can turn that little piece of paper into an email marketing list. The good thing is it has very precise flows and specific values that people see all the time. It’s not just about something that sounds great but is a whole lot of work.
BoxFreeIT: There must be a lot of competition in scanning receipts from outsourcing companies and the like.
Walter: There’s not really a lot of good competition. There are a couple of services that get you partly there. The oldest ones in the market are scanner manufacturers like Neat Receipts and CardScan.
But the software on the scanners isn’t perfect. If a receipt is wrinkled or has a coffee stain you still end up correcting all the data. A 10-digit phone number being 80 percent accurate doesn’t really help you much.
A couple of people have have tried to put optical character recognition software on iPhones or Android phones where you can take a picture of a receipt or a business card.
What we are unique in is two things. We try to get everything out with as close to 100 percent accuracy as we can. It’s almost a send-and-forget process. And we have a lot of different ways to get those things to us so you don’t have to take your scanner with you or have your phone with you. You have the mail service, the phone app, you can email things or upload yourself.
BoxFreeIT: Aren’t you worried that some startup is going to raise a big round of capital and build better OCR software?
Walter: In terms of market entry barriers there are a couple. The partnership one is a very big one. And the technology is not one you could develop well in a couple of weeks or months. Beside the time and investment in the technology we have also been around for four years. That’s really helped us in building up a very big database of documents that help us become more accurate, know more about the stores you’re buying from, how you identify a receipt from there, what the receipts looked like a year or two ago, etc.
Mingos: That’s one of the reasons that our device is going to be better than an isolated scanner device with software that’s shipped every six months. We have a lot of machine intelligence. Our system knows that a $1000 receipt from Starbucks doesn’t make sense. But it might for this one user because he has these spending habits.
It’s a really good system that ensures accuracy and can do it cheaper than you could do it yourself. We are more accurate and a lot better than outsourcing to India, and we’re actually cheaper.
We tried outsourcing our data extraction to a couple of Indian outsourcing companies and it was four times higher than doing it with US labour.
BoxFreeIT: OCR software seems to be getting pretty smart though. Why do you need labour?
Mingos: If you look at receipts It’s not a single form. You guys have a little bit of standardisation here in Australia, at least your receipts have to say tax invoice and have a seller number. We get receipts all the time that don’t have a legible seller and we have to figure out through the URL who the seller is. The same with business cards, there are so many different colours and fonts, especially in creative industries. People go pretty crazy.
We had one business card that was made out of solid metal and it ruined the scanner heads.
Walter: We’ve had some made out of wood a few times too.
BFIT: What’s the weirdest stuff you’ve received?
Mingos: People look at us as the big blue envelope that makes all their clutter go away and people accidentally send things to us sometimes. It happens quite often that people are emptying their wallets out and they have a condom in the wallet. Never used, of course. People also send us money all the time, like $50 bills, $20 bills. The best is that someone sent not only their receipts, it had their weed stash. It was pretty awesome. We were like, ‘We don’t have a policy for this. We can’t return it.”
Walter: We put a little sticker on it saying ‘Item cannot be scanned’.
BFIT: What else have you received?
Mingos: We’ve gotten socks.
BFIT: People carry socks in their wallets?
Walter: That’s more likely a desk drawer. We had some medication pills, gum. Coffee cards all the time.
Mingos: It’s also validation for us because people are really trying to get organised and they’re using us to take all this stuff off their plates. We talk to a lot of geeks who say, ‘I only need the mobile app’.
I say, ‘Really? Every month you’re going to sit there and with discipline do 110 receipts – because that’s our average. That’s going to last two weeks. You’ll get busy, go on a trip, get behind, you won’t have the internet…
So who’s the most natural acquirer?
Walter: There’s a lot of people where the products would make sense to be together, either integrated by APIs or from the same brand. And it’s probably a little different by country too. In the US QuickBooks is the leading accounting software, so Intuit would make sense in a couple of ways to serve their customers better and make their products more differentiated and competitive. We see that with a good amount of software companies.
There’s a pretty wide range out there. We’re just seeing with partnerships, what it does for the customer, who likes what, where do they want to go and ultimately what they want to use.