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Supplier Set for Data Capture Explosion

A growing list of suppliers who convert mountains of paper into searchable data expect to make billions over the next few years, and Brainware Inc. of Ashburn, Va., wants its slice.

This company was formerly a division of European enterprise content management solution provider SER, which is based in Germany. A management buyout in 2002, along with an unspecified amount of investment of at least $1 million from Vista Equity Partners in 2003, made it independent, albeit with close reseller ties to its parent.

Since then, it's been a gratifying ramp-up for Brainware, which has about 80 employees and claims just under 400 customers, half in Europe, half in the U.S. Among these are EDS, Southern Company, U.S. FoodService, Shell Oil, Kimberly-Clark, Pitney Bowes, Her Majesty's Prison Service, Capgemini, and Halliburton. Many of these customers process more than 1 million invoices annually, Brainware says.

Despite a widespread move to "paperless" business transactions, companies like these have an astounding number of applications requiring input from paper invoices, vendor proposals, purchase orders, insurance forms, legal documents, and the like. Halliburton, for instance, is said to have an invoice processing system that involves 550,000 distinct vendors, whose invoices must be placed into the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) database to feed other applications.

That's where Brainware comes in. Using scanners from partners like ABBYY, Brainware converts images from paper to electronic format, which is then subjected to its "Brainware Engine" software. That package uses fuzzy logic to extract data, organize it using a proprietary search engine, and place it in a customer's ERP system -- which in Halliburton's case is based on SAP.

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