The BizSpark company of the day is Paper Terminal Pte Ltd, based in Singapore. Company’s mission is to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get relevant information from paper documents into digital formats. You will find below an interview with Khasali, co-founder of Paper Terminal Pte Ltd. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!
I am Khasali, co-founder of Paper Terminal Pte Ltd whose first product is OCR Terminal (www.ocrterminal.com), the online OCR service.
I worked in marketing in a company that made wood working machinery.
Paper Terminal has always focused on paper management and one day, my co-founder and I were having a discussion about who, if anyone, would require an online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) service. We decided to answer that question by building one of the first web-based OCR applications ourselves.
Despite much of our communication taking place digitally, we still use a lot of paper on a daily basis. Our company’s mission is to bridge this gap by making it easier for individuals and businesses to get relevant information trapped on their paper documents into digital formats. OCR Terminal allows users to perform OCR or convert scanned images to editable documents. Typically, users upload multi-page PDF files/ TIFF files and get them converted to Microsoft Word documents (DOC) or text files (TXT). Every user gets 20 free pages on sign-up, and if a user needs additional pages, he/she can easily purchase as many as required.
The typical OCR Terminal customer has an immediate (often intermittent) requirement for OCR. Our customers come from a variety of industries - IT, academia, translation, education to name a few. We also have a web based API that a number of third party developers want to use in their applications.
A lot of the progress we have made this far can be attributed to our enthusiastic user-base. We get a lot of suggestions and feedback and to a large extent, this determines the next set of features we work on.
The company was started in 2007 with founders’ investment. Since then, we have bootstrapped our operations, working for different partners on consulting projects to cover our operational costs and fund further R&D.
OCR Terminal has shown steady growth in users registering over the last few months. We have been getting a lot of feedback and are working on new features and specific applications for different markets.
We have 4 full time employees and a few temporary and part-time employees. At the moment, there are four developers and two members who handle sales and general business operations.
We are looking for talented developers who would like to work on designing and operating web services. Familiarity with software engineering practices such as version control, bug reporting and automated testing or experience with Linux, Perl, PostgreSQL, or Apache will be particularly valuable to us. Any open source contributions will be a plus and should be included in the CV. For more information, please visit http://www.ocrterminal.com/about-us/careers.cgi
Our frontend runs on Perl/Apache running on Debian Linux; our backend runs on Perl/Apache on Windows Server 2003. Both run on Amazon's EC2 infrastructure. We also use Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2008 and C# Express editions.
With a first (test) version launched in December 2007, we were one of the first online OCR services in this space. We have also built a web-API that would allow developers to use our back-end to build their own applications – I believe this was the first completely web-based OCR API.
One of my biggest challenge in running my own company has been a lack of experience. To make up for this want however, I have tried to read about the experiences of those who have taken on similar challenges before. I cannot think of any one person who has been my role model, but a lot of people in both technology and business have helped me learn.
Adoption of technology has so far not been able to deliver on its ‘promise’ of reduced paper usage. On the contrary, the use of paper in many industries as actually risen - e.g. some banks and legal firms require their employees to print and store all their emails. As such, products that can help in the management of these paper documents can open new business opportunities. The increasing adoption of the internet provides a new platform for development of digitization solutions. Over the last decade or so, a number of companies and offices across different industries, especially in developing nations, have started converting all their old records to maintain them digitally. Furthermore, they continually require end-to-end solutions for digitization, storage, indexing and easy retrievability. As an online digitization service, OCR Terminal is trying to find new ways to manage paper better.
We are currently looking to raise ~ USD 200,000.
The Bizspark program is great for web start-ups. Free software, technical expertise and avenues to gain visibility – it has been of a lot of value to us this far.
- Find team members you can trust and have confidence in. This will make your job easier.
- Release a ‘first’ product that you can charge people for early and iterate continually with user feedback.
- Boot-strap if possible, and get to profitability early. Raising investment (equity or grants) can easily consume significant resources. Look for opportunities to do projects build custom-solutions in your industry. It’ll help you learn more about your field, and give you some valuable references.