CompuSchmooze Podcast #15: Interview with Rafi Spero, inventor of NeatReceipts

Screen Shot of NeatReceipts

Rafi Spero, inventor of NeatReceipts, is our guest on the CompuSchmoozeTM podcast this week.

Download the podcast file here (24.5mb stereo MP3 file, [17:23] length).




Here’s the text of the related “CompuSchmoozeTM” column as it appears in the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey in May

CompuSchmooze? May 2006: Neat Receipts Keeps Expenses Organized and Trackable
By Steven L. Lubetkin
Copyright © 2006 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.
WORD COUNT: 664

Business travelers scurrying through the concourses at Philadelphia International Airport and other airports around the country often barely notice the shopping kiosks with the pocket-sized digital scanner and the computer monitor.

But these kiosks are where NeatReceipts (www.neatreceipts.com), a Philadelphia-based company, is transforming the pressured lives of road warriers by simplifying the tedious chore of competing expense reports.

NeatReceipts transforms a crumpled bundle of receipts that you previously stuffed into a wallet or suit pocket into a neatly organized page of clear, scanned images. The images and accompanying summary reports are acceptable to most corporate accounting departments and the IRS.

Neat Receipts is the brainchild of Rafi Spero, who started the company with his father Les, after working as a consultant with KPMG and its successor, Bearing Point. The elder Spero, who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard Business School, had earlier founded Strategic Management Group (SMG), which pioneered development of computer based business simulations.

Rafi Spero recalled that on one of his frequent business trips, he was walking through an airport loaded down with baggage, and ended up spilling soda and pizza all over himself while trying to protect a $7.00 receipt.

From that experience, he and his father created an electronic expense report system built around the scanner, and began selling that at airports. However, customers told him they were more interested in using the technology to eliminate paper receipts.

Spero said he went back to the drawing board and designed a new version of the program around databases that could gather the data from scanned images of receipts, business cards, and other papers.

Neat Receipts’ latest version includes a technology called “scanalyzer,” that interprets the data on receipts. The program converts the image into data and enters it into fields in a checkbook-like database, where the data can be edited, amounts allocated by expense category, or charged to different clients. The program allows you to create automatic summary reports about specific groups of receipts and attach neatly printed full pages showing multiple receipts.

You can also assign multiple page images to a single database entry if the receipt runs longer than one page. Unlike other scanners that are not designed for long register tapes, NeatReceipts will let you scan the complete receipt from a department store like Wal-Mart, and the image is automatically reduced to fit on letter size paper, but the images are sharp and easily readable.

The principal challenge in designing the program was to get a “great image,” Spero said. The company gathered thousands of receipts from different merchants to gain knowledge about how the data was laid out on them so that it could be captured accurately.

NeatReceipts comes with a small Plustek scanner that plugs into a USB port. The scanner is optimized for clean, sharp, black-and-white images of receipts and other documents. The scanner stores vertically in a desktop cradle when not in use, and fits into an included travel pouch so that road warriors can organize receipts directly on a laptop computer while traveling.

The program also includes a “Tax Organizer” function that creates a consolidated summary report of all tax-related receipts. You can also export the data gathered from receipts into standard programs like Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, Quicken, Microsoft Word, Microsoft, Money, Acrobat PDF, HTML, and comma-separated value files.

Among future upgrades to the program, many users have asked for a recipe manager so they can scan recipes into a database to manage them more efficiently.

NeatReceipts is selling about 15,000 units per quarter at a suggested retail of $229.95, Spero said. Also planned for future upgrades is web-based storage of receipt data for customers, and the ability to extract individual line items in a receipt.

“If you are a contractor going to Home Depot or Lowes, and buying hammers, nails, or other items, it will enable you to break out those items as taxable, tax-deductible, and so on,” Spero explained. “We think that has a lot of use and a lot of power.”

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