In today’s profile, we interview Sam Bobley, co-founder of Ocrolus.
Ocrolus have engineered a FinTech platform that analyzes bank statement PDF’s from every financial institution with 99+% accuracy, regardless of document quality. Replacing labor-intensive manual reviews of financial statements, Ocrolus technology enables professionals in a multitude of sectors to conduct faster and more cost-effective analyses with unprecedented accuracy.
Over to Sam.
Who are you and what’s your background?
Since I was a little kid, I was taught to think like an entrepreneur. My father, Peter Bobley, started a number of companies over the course of his career. His most successful venture was PhoneCharge Inc., a forerunner in electronic payment processing that was sold to CheckFree, which was acquired by Fiserv shortly after. During my final semester at the University of South Carolina, my father came to me with an idea to automate the long-term care Medicaid process, which requires applicants to submit five years worth of bank statements to determine eligibility. I couldn’t believe there was no solution on the market to accurately extract and analyze transactions from bank statements, so I teamed up with Victoria Meakin, my father’s former partner at PhoneCharge, and thus, Ocrolus was born. Medicaid was the use-case that opened the door for us, but we quickly realized the widespread need for our technology in a variety of industries. What started as a financial tool to streamline healthcare eligibility evolved into a broader FinTech platform used by alternative lenders, banks, accounting firms, law firms, government entities and others.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I am the CEO of the Company, responsible for overseeing all aspects of our emerging business. There are four central areas that I devote time to on a daily basis: fundraising & investor relations, technology, operations and sales. Especially at this early stage, I feel that it’s important for me to spend time with every employee to build personal relationships, intimately understand the challenges we face and refine / improve our processes. I’ve learned that culture is supremely important and strive to continue adding fantastic people to our team as the Company grows. My job is to keep everyone at Ocrolus happy, incentivized and focused on the big picture of what we’ve set out to achieve.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Ocrolus’ technology is valuable to any professional who reviews bank statements manually. Our products are unique because we’ve embedded human intuition into our processing engine, creating >99% accurate output for every file we process, regardless of format and document quality. Crowdsourced labor is employed to correct potential errors via a proprietary CAPTCHA-like verification process before data is returned to our customers. Traditional OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software is inherently imperfect; end-users must spend time reviewing and correcting the output before analysis can begin. We eliminate this manual labor for our clients by using ‘human empowered automation’ to generate decision-ready data. Clients immediately appreciate the value of our products because we seamlessly replace tedious, error-prone labor. Manual review teams and standard OCR systems simply can’t match the speed, cost, and accuracy we deliver.
Tell us how you are funded.
We self-funded the Company initially (founding team, friends and family) but have since taken outside capital from a number of angel investors and micro VC’s to accelerate growth. We plan on closing our Series A round toward the end of 2017.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
The Company was founded to eliminate the tiresome manual labor that is typically required to review financial statements. There are a number of problems associated with traditional review methods. The process is not only time consuming and costly, it’s also fraught with human error. Transactions that are incorrectly recorded can be very costly in certain scenarios.
Consider the example of a small business loan applicant- if a lender approves a loan based on inaccurate information, the likelihood of that loan defaulting increases dramatically. In extreme cases, even one overlooked or misinterpreted transaction can cost a lender hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another problem is that firms struggle to predict the number of pages they’ll need to review on a weekly or monthly basis and therefore have trouble matching supply and demand. For example, an accounting firm might employ 5 data entry professionals. If that accounting firm takes on a white-collar crime case that contains 50,000 pages worth of information, they may need to scramble and hire temporary employees to deal with the volume. The aforementioned human errors are exacerbated when situations like this arise. Ocrolus solves these problems via automation, enabling clients to upload files as they are received for timely and hyper-accurate analysis.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
We target professionals who review high volumes of bank statements. In January 2016, we launched the official version of our platform and currently have more than 150 paying customers. Our biggest clients are alternative lenders but we also service banks, accounting firms, law firms and government entities. Key customers include Strategic Funding Source, Lendio, BDO, Elliot Davis and Dixon Hughes, to name a few. Ocrolus charges customers per page analyzed, providing great flexibility to those who cannot accurately predict their page volume. The testimonial below will give you a sense of the value we deliver:
“PerfectAudit simplified [the investigation] process dramatically and enabled me to sort much faster and better by the use of the various search features – it is so efficient and fast, I was able to make numerous spreadsheets showing the extent of the theft from different angles. I am very pleased with the program. Thank you!” -Detective Lara Young, Largo Police Department, Investigative Services Division: Economic Crimes]
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
I wish that banks and other financial institutions would follow the startups’ lead on building up lean infrastructure. The industry has hyped up alternative lenders’ advantage in technology and analytics, but banks certainly have the intellectual talent and experience to close that gap. The banks’ disadvantage stems from their legacy systems and complex data channels therein.
A simplified version of this story is that banks already have the foundation to conduct data analysis on subprime borrowers, but since they cannot efficiently cull the data in the first place, their analytical potential is unrealized.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Embrace the FinTech movement. Certain financial institutions, like Goldman Sachs, have started to invest significant capital into emerging FinTech companies. I would like to see more traditional banks place an emphasis on technology, innovation and startup partnerships.
What phone are you carrying and why?
I hopped on the iPhone bandwagon on day one and have not found any reason to hop off.
Where do you get your industry news from?
Every day I read the Lending Times, which I feel provides a solid overview of major industry movement. I also enjoy reading the MatterMark Daily newsletter for a broader look at the startup ecosystem.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Karen Mills, @KarenGMills: Former administrator of the SBA. If you have the patience to read 142 pages, I would highly recommend a paper co-authored by Mills entitled “The State of Small Business Lending: Innovation and Technology and the Implications for Regulation.”
Nick Thomas, @nickthomas: Co-founder of Finicity. Nick frequently shares interesting information about modernizing the loan underwriting process.
David Blumberg, @davidblumberg: VC investor who provides insightful content on leadership and FinTech trends. ]
Can you suggest the name of an Angel Investor or VC that might be interested in being profiled?
Kevin Zhang of Bain Capital Ventures. Kevin was formerly one of Fundera’s first employees and Head of Product, so he can offer both an investor and operator perspective on FinTech.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
Akouba Credit has developed a platform that I feel is badly needed. They are helping community and regional banks modernize their small business lending underwriting capabilities. Technology like what Akouba has built will help the banking sector move away from legacy systems more quickly and efficiently.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
I believe alternative lenders will prove they are here to stay for the long-haul and that their business models – although a little tweaking may be required – are sustainable. I also think that banks will become more proactive to adopt techniques that have enabled alternative lenders to provide capital to those who wouldn’t traditionally qualify. Specifically, an increased focus on bank statements and transactional data in underwriting processes will offer banks a deeper, more nuanced look into the financial history of borrowers. Top-tier banks will continue to partner with leading alternative lenders but there’s a significant opportunity for community and regional banks to compete for market share if they’re able to migrate away from manual processes to a technology and data driven approach.
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