Simplifying work and reducing clutter through data digitization and organization
Michael Crincoli is president of The Neat Company. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Neat is dedicated to helping its customers become more organized so they can gain control over their documents, work more efficiently, and save time. The company’s scanners and software enable users to digitize key information from receipts, business cards, and other heterogeneous, paper-based forms of data. Neat integrates with various popular accounting and business software applications such as Microsoft Outlook, H&R Block, Quickbooks, and MailChimp.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about how the company started and how it’s evolved over the years.
MICHAEL CRINCOLI: The company originally started as a software concept. It was an idea around expense reporting, so it was an application to help automate or take time out of preparing an expense report. We bundled it with a piece of hardware. In 2004, we launched the first product called Neat Receipts, and for the lifecycle of the company, we were basically bundling our software application with hardware.
We launched our first cloud application in the middle of 2012. At that point in time, it was primarily a backup mechanism to the software application that we were including with the hardware. In 2014, we decided to remove the thick client application that was installed on a hard drive, moved all of the processing power to the cloud, and provided a thin client that was included in the product, then allowed the desktop integration to a scanner from a cloud base.
At that point in time, looking at the market, we saw that there was a proliferation in the way companies were receiving information. It wasn’t just paper. Things were being emailed in, things were coming in a variety of different ways, and it became very fragmented to manage financial documents, particularly for small businesses. Throughout 2014 through 2015, we got to the point where we decided that we should untether ourselves from hardware. The hardware market with our growth became a very competitive landscape, and we felt that it would be better to focus on the software application, which was our primary value driver for our hardware and what made us different. We started a certification program, in which we tested and certified other providers from a hardware perspective, and the benefit for the customers that they could use existing technology or use whatever technology they wanted from a scanner perspective with our software client. But the application itself allows mobile capture, you could email in—there’s a variety of ways to get in that’s more in line with the workflows today and in the way customers are managing that content.
Throughout 2016 to today, we exited hardware, we worked with our retail channels to liquidate and move through our inventory, and at this point, we’re primarily a standalone SaaS company—an application for the small business market.
Q. Can you describe the benefits of Neat for customers?
A. Our customer base is made up of primarily small businesses, and small businesses, like all organizations, struggle with the organization of documents and document management; small businesses in particular because they are under-resourced. In a lot of cases, they’re sole proprietors or they’re very small organizations. They just lack the process and sophistication to manage that. At the very, very core, we’re an organizational tool that allows information—all of the important information—to be consolidated in one place.
The other aspect of the product is that some of the financial documents like receipts and invoices—we’re able to extract information off that automatically and create structured data, and that structured data could either provide insights: spend, tracking, spend summaries; we help with tax preparation. We’re able to capture information and make it useful for an organization. One of the large failures for small businesses is they lose perspective of their expense line, for instance, or they struggle with getting tax prep put together—they just don’t have the time. Deck builders they like to build decks; they are not concerned about the back end, so often these processes get put off to the backburner. And when they get put off to the backburner, it falls behind.
Our tool allows someone to engage within workflow. It’s an organizational platform. They’re capturing information that’s very important to their business and extracting data that’s useful for them. The other thing is that we integrate with other applications, so if they’re using a small business accounting package like QuickBooks, we automate the data entry into those applications. The bookkeeping tasks of managing their business—we bring a lot of productivity and time savings to that, so they can focus on their business, not being in business. They get consumed by managing it as opposed to talking to clients, growing their customer bases, marketing their companies, or spending time with their family, because they are inundated with the paperwork and management of the business. We’re a productivity tool for that small business customer.
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