Email is one of the most utilized and effective means for communication in business. It organizes meetings. It helps teams build ideas. It takes products from ideas to shipping. It's amazing what it does. But could it do more? If you are in the startup space, you know that there are many people trying to figure out how to add deeper and deeper functionality to email, just to see what else it can do. 

So, lo and behold our excitement when we found out that Microsoft BizSpark startup FormVerse was ready to talk about their startup solution.  It makes email into an even better, and stickier, tool for business processes. 

 

FormVerse is a platform for building workflow applications inside of Microsoft Outlook.  It turns a company’s email infrastructure into a powerful and ubiquitous Business Process Automation (BPA) tool.  According to founder Kirk Deininger , "We assist organizations in improving decision-making by leveraging content to drive growth, support compliance requirements, and reduce data management costs.  FormVerse leverages the company’s existing email infrastructure, so it can be implemented in a fraction of the time and fraction of the cost of legacy BPA solutions.

Sounds like a team that is trying to make the most effective means for work communication actually do that! We love it! 

 

A brief description of your Application if applicable:

FormVerse provides a user-centric, email-based business process automation (BPA) solution embedded in Microsoft Outlook—the most widely used email application in the world—that enables the rapid automation of business processes in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of legacy BPA/BPM solutions.

FormVerse’s patented Active Structured Email™ technology adds structured forms and workflow capabilities to Outlook, transforming corporate email from an informal, unstructured medium to a highly structured one, and enabling organizations to leverage email as an agile and ubiquitous BPA tool. The form actually becomes the email, not simply an attachment.  No other company has taken the approach of delivering a cost-effective BPA solution within an organization’s standard email environment where knowledge workers spend a large percentage of their time.

Once initial setup is complete, FormVerse empowers business personnel at all levels to automate business processes without requiring support from IT. Adoption is fast and easy, since no “new application” is introduced. Users no longer need to leave their email application in order to leverage this automation. Everything is done within Microsoft Outlook, and all process data is captured and available for integration with enterprise applications and databases so as to enhance corporate decision making. This is an approach to business process automation that makes sense, and FormVerse is the only company to deliver it.

Microsoft technologies that you are using in conjunction with the development of your application (and if you’re using Windows Azure, please highlight that):

FormVerse is built on Microsoft® .NET, InfoPath, and Outlook technologies, as well as exploiting the advantages of XML and Web Services technologies. FormVerse leverages these technologies and Microsoft Exchange to provide a platform for Business Process Automation and development of other workflow applications. By leveraging its patented Active Structured Email™ technology, organizations implementing FormVerse are able to greatly enhance other initiatives such as: Archiving, eDiscovery, Compliance, and modernization of legacy systems.

Technology Overview

FormVerse transforms traditional email into a powerful application engine. Components include:

FormVerse Processing Server for Microsoft Exchange: Executes processing rules as defined by the organization such as rule-based email dispatching and data processing. It expedites, tracks, and simplifies the use of electronic forms, which are sent embedded in email and processed instantaneously over LAN/WAN and Internet.

FormVerse Registry Server: Ensures that only authorized users registered with the system are provided access to the forms, and that the forms receive appropriate routing in accordance with business rules.

FormVerse Outlook Client: A small add-on which provides transparent use of FormVerse-enhanced email without changing end-user email behaviors. Forms are just an email address away from being accessible. End-users are able to receive and take action on FormVerse emails from within Microsoft Outlook. FormVerse Outlook Client also interacts with the registry server to ensure the appropriate users have access.

FormVerse Admin Console: Implemented as a standard Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, this module provides the administration interface for all FormVerse components. Here administrators can orchestrate a FormVerse deployment and manage the Process Template, Accounts and FormVerse Services. The Admin Console also provides the import account wizard which allows importing users from Active Directory. FormVerse utilizes batch processing, which allows jobs to be set up so they can be run to completion without human interaction.

FormVerse Database: Stores and serves the FormVerse Process Templates to end-users as and when initiated. FormVerse supports MS SQL Server Express (supported but not recommended), MS SQL 2005, MS SQL 2008, MS SQL 2008 R2, MS SQL 2010. Data collected through FormVerse email forms uses XML as a neutral data interchange format. The FormVerse processing engine, as defined by the business process rules, extracts the data contained in a FormVerse e-mail and applies the processing rules defined for that particular process; such as routing the email to the appropriate recipient(s), or inserting form data into a database.

FormVerse Process Template Editor: Provides a flexible platform for designing FormVerse Process Templates, including dispatching rules (i.e, which forms to send to a recipient) and processing rules. By utilizing user-friendly wizards, or the powerful .NET script-based rules editor, users are able to define any kind of simple or complex set of dispatch/processing rules to implement their business processes.

FormVerse Process Step Editor: Embedded in the Template Editor, provides a visual design interface for defining the core of a business process, specifying the various steps that make up the process, the conditions that govern transitions from one step to another, and actions that may be taken at each step from process initiation to completion. It can be used to define even the most complex business processes in an intuitive way.



Kirk Deininger, President and CEO - FormVerse


BizSpark: Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?

We have a B2B solution that we’re selling into corporations.  When I think about scale, to me it means being able to handle the demands of large corporations.  From the start FormVerse was designed and developed to handle the large volumes of transactions expected from enterprise customers. 

Driving revenue has been a key focus of our team from day one.  The ability to derive revenue from our products and services is validation of the value we provide our customers.

BizSpark: How are they related?  

Without scale, there is no revenue.  Without revenue, there is no scale.

BizSpark: How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?

There are many people and causes that I want to help/support.  Every day I see opportunities where I can make a difference in someone’s life.  I want to be a mentor for young people and help them achieve their dreams of creating exciting technology and companies to go with it.

In order for me to achieve this goal, I first need to be successful myself.  FormVerse WILL be successful because we have a solid product that addresses a need in a huge market.  With that success, I will be able to achieve my goal of helping others.

So, from that standpoint, I am laser focused on profit and serious about creating world class products.

 

BizSpark: When did you decide that you were “startup material”?

I grew up in a family business.  I saw my grandparents and my father manage all aspects of the business.  From my early days, that is all I knew.  I guess you could say that being an entrepreneur is in my blood.

BizSpark: What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?

The great thing about being on the West Coast is that I can start early in the morning talking to our technical team on the East Coast.  Then I can work all day to get 11-12 hours in before 6:00 pm.  It’s when I sneak into my home office after dinner for a two hour conference call that I get in trouble with my wife!  She puts up with a lot, but she says “enough is enough”!

Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?

Our relationship with Microsoft while building FormVerse has been amazing; early on we were accepted into the BizSpark program.  The tools provided by the BizSpark team have helped us build our solution and develop our product road map. 

Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?

We chose to use the Microsoft product stack as the platform for developing FormVerse for two reasons.

  1. Microsoft’s marketing reach and customer base. 
    1. 868 million Outlook users
    2. 80% of companies use Outlook for email
  2. Product Quality
    1. We can always be sure of the quality of the Microsoft stack.
    2. FormVerse and millions of other companies depend on products from Microsoft to manage their mission critical applications.

Microsoft was the obvious choice for us!