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Q&A WITH BRENDAN WOODS, FOUNDER AND CEO OF OCREX 

Why did you decide to set up OCREX?

Having already worked in software development for 10 years, I had first hand experience of the impact emerging and disruptive technologies were having on business practices and the opportunities that were becoming possible. This was especially evident for those practices which were typically labour intensive and challenging to monetise in a way that provided sufficient margin.

Brendan Woods
Brendan Woods

Whilst working for a leading financial services company, one area that jumped out at me was the cost of manually re-entering data from paper documents in the bookkeeping and accounts preparation industry. Realising that there was a gap in the market, I founded OCREX to address an appetite for an intelligent, yet cost effective data automation solution for accountants and bookkeepers that were servicing the SME market. Having played with a proof of concept solution for some time, I finally quit my job in late 2011 and began developing our first commercial solution. This solution leveraged Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to automate the accurate capture and analysis of data from scanned images of bank and credit card statements to provide quick and effective accounts preparation.

Since then we expanded on this concept, such that our solution AutoEntry now automates this process for invoices and receipts as well.  

The technology provides users with significant cost and time savings whilst also eliminating the traditional side effect of human error arising from manual data entry. Our customers, which has since grown to be a collection of over 2,000 accounting and bookkeeping firms, now benefit from not only largely eliminating their direct data entry related costs of provisioning their service to their SME clients, but also in terms of service turnaround times, workflow visibility, document collection, document storage and general interaction with their clients. The technology allows them to easily scale their service offering to many more SME clients without a linear growth in operational overhead.

What was the size of your workforce when you began? How has that changed?

When I quit my job in 2011, OCREX consisted of just myself and one senior software developer who continues to head up our technical team to this day. Once we got to the first product release in June 2012, we hired our first sales executive who now continues to lead our sales team. We later secured High Potential Start Up (HPSU) seed funding from Enterprise Ireland alongside investment group Signature Capital to help accelerate our growth. We now have a team of 10 in our Dublin HQ as well as another six sales staff in the UK which service our predominantly UK customer base.

Having included functionality for accounts payable automation with the addition of invoice and receipt capture, and by integrating and partnering our technology with many of the leading bookkeeping solutions such as Xero, Quickbooks, Sage and others, we have seen exceptional growth over the last year.

We’re excited about what 2017 has in store for us and will continue growing our team to support our growth across all functions but in particular, in areas of customer care, sales and marketing.     

What’s next for OCREX in the next 12-24 months?

Primarily, our aim is to continue growth in the UK while also establishing a significant presence in some target international markets.

In the UK, there are significant changes on the way for these taxpayers over the next few years. These changes will require a large portion of UK taxpayers to digitally file tax returns quarterly, whereas now, they only have to file a non-digital tax return annually. This is expected to drive the greatest growth in demand for accounting automation solutions and it is likely only a matter of time before we see similar requirements being introduced in other countries. With this in mind, and in light of existing plans to enter into additional international markets, we expect to secure a new round of funding in the first half of 2017 to expedite growth.