The road to Captricity’s latest $10 million financing from Atlas Venture began nearly 10,000 miles away in the AIDS clinics of Tanzania.
That was where Captricity chief executive Kuang Chen was doing research on data science applications and first confronted what remains a universal problem in both developing and developed countries — a profusion of paperwork.
While Chen recognized that paperwork is a necessary evil for any data project not involving a population completely penetrated by high technology, he noticed that some of his assistants had made steps to hack the process, using a mental version of what Chen said was a run-lengths compression. The assistant would make a mental note of the number of “Yes” answers in a survey, and then record all of them at once.
What Chen realized was if there was a way to scan documents, and have an algorithm compile affirmative and negative answers and incorporate that into a dataset, it could immensely speed up the amount of time taken to integrate paper data into electronic records, and so Captricity was born.
The name is derived from the CAPTCHA technology used to separate humans from robots when logging in to a website, and electricity which is ultimately the life blood of the internet, according to Chen.
Since its launch in 2010, Captricity has moved beyond its humble origins and intends to extend itself even further with this latest $10 million round of financing led by previous investor Atlas Venture, with another returning investor, Social+Capital, also participating. As a result of the investment, Chris Lynch, partner at Atlas, will join Captricity’s board.
In all, Captricity has raised $14 million from a slew of bold-faced angel investors including Dave Goldberg, Mitch Kapor, and Reid Hoffman, as well as its returning institutional investors and the Knight Foundation.
Interestingly, Captricity charges per-field for its data transformation technology, which can convert any paper form into data that’s readily understandable by legacy and cloud technologies, according to Chen.
The company had initially billed itself as more of a solution for small and medium-sized businesses, but with the new round, Captricity intends to refocus its efforts on large enterprises and government clients. The first large client for the Berkeley, Calif.-based startup was the Food and Drug Administration, and with the latest financing Captricity adds New York Life Insurance to its roster.
Chen insists that the shift to larger clients will not effect the company’s continuing mission to bring document management and big data technologies to every public service and rural clinic that needs it. Beginning with the FDA, which is using Captricity’s software as a cornerstone of the administration’s openFDA program.
“We’ve made enterprise data capture self-serve and we have a growing pipeline of customers,” says Chen. “[But] everyone at Captricity is here because we have that vision of helping that rural health clinic.”
Photo via Flickr user Heather