Sam Allen

Our Blog.
Sam's two cents.

Our Blog. Sam's two cents.

ScanCafe CEO Sam Allen weighs in on industry events, company news, and more.

I’m a proud new papa!

I am a proud new father (if you swing by our offices in Burlingame, I will give you a cigar).  We just launched a completely new website and I couldn’t be more proud of the results.  Not only is the new website faster and more professional, but it is a testament to the valuable input we have received from you, our loyal customers.  It is a website that is rich in feature content – the type of content you deserve.  We also strived with this site to do more than just use it as a vehicle to pitch our service.  We have actually dedicated pages to instruct folks how to pick their own scanners, how to clean your slides or negatives, what to look for in a scanning service, and even how to scan their images themselves.  A friend of mine asked me “why would you empower your customers to scan their own images – that is suicide.”  I told him that I held quite the opposite opinion.  We think that it is critical for everyone to bring their imagery into the 21st century.  We also know that people are extremely busy and few folks have the time or energy to scan their entire archive themselves.  Also, there are folks out there that just need to scan a few images – why make them pay for a service when I can just teach them how to do it themselves?  I don’t have minimum order sizes like everyone else in this industry so if I can empower a person to scan a few images on their own, so much the better.  Besides, I know how monotonous scanning images can be – if people have large archives, they aren’t going to scan them all themselves, no matter how much data I give them.  I keep telling our team here that we want to be a scanning partner, not simply a scanning service – and partnerships are built on trust. 

You will also find a dedicated “ProZone” for our professional photographers and hobbyists.  We have a great deal of info on both our processing center as well as our world class India Graphics and Imaging Center.  This rich content was born of customer requests and we are quite happy that we were able to provide the level content required to allow people to make smart decisions about why they should scan, and why they should scan with ScanCafe.  Lastly, as this is a new site, you might find minor errors here and there – we consider ourselves perfectionists but I am sure that in all those pages we missed some items here and there so please be patient with us as we correct these minor flaws.  Also, the entire site looks great in Firefox but for some reason has some layout issues in IE and in older versions of Safari.

I hope you enjoy the new site as much as I am – and please continue to give us valuable feedback; you can send comments / questions to  Oh yeah, I am also the proud father of a second son, Jake Patrick, born in May.  I better put that in there or the wife will not be happy.

ScanCafe TIFF offering and pricing: no hidden fees

Hi Folks,

We have had some questions recently from customers about our .TIFF offering and associated pricing, thanks in part to more misleading marketing tactics by DigMyPics. I would like to take a moment to succinctly describe how the offering works.

But first, let me state the following: TIFF is a very high end file format that the vast majority of customers will not use. The ability to store image data in a lossless format makes TIFF files a useful method for professional photographers & hobbyists to archive images. TIFF files can be ten times larger in memory usage than JPEGS and can be cumbersome to work with for the novice. Unlike standard JPEG, TIFF files use lossless compression (or no compression at all) and can be edited and resaved without suffering a compression loss. Because of this “lossless compression”, TIFF files scanned at 3000 dpi (our default setting) range in size from 60 to 120 MB per image. This is clearly quite unwieldy and requires a great deal of storage space on your hard drives, lots of RAM and siginificant processing capacity from your computer. For the vast majority of our customers there is no need for TIFF as they simply need a high quality scan of the original image. For most applications, our unmatched pricing of 19 cents for negatives, and 24 cents for slides, both at 3000 dpi, is plenty. Because TIFF is “bulky” and requires additional storage space, we have a surcharge of 9 cents per image when a customer requests TIFF format.

Now, in the past we had a process associated with TIFF in that had a customer ordered TIFF images that exceeded 60GB in size (which equates to over 800 images in TIFF), we required the customer to purchase a 120GB pocket hard drive at cost. This was in lieu of sending the customer what could amount to be 15-20 DVDs (this sort of defeats the purpose of archiving your imagery). This drive can have other images / files added to it by the customer and it literally fits into your pocket. A professional can have his or her entire archive of imagery on this drive and take it with them wherever they go. Customers are actually choosing to order the hard drive for all types of orders because they believe in the utility of such a product. When we rolled out the new website, we removed this requirement so customers are no longer required to buy the hard drive, regardless of how many images they send us or type of format. Of course, we strongly encourage customers who might place an order that would require 20 discs to place an order for the hard drive, simply because it is much easier to manage. But, this is the customer’s choice – simple as that.

But to be even more explicit, let me show you an example. Lets say a customer orders 1000 negatives in TIFF format along with an optional 120GB hard drive – the total price of the order would be $399.95 or 39.9 cents per image ([1,000 x $.28] + $119.95). Of course, this assumes the customer purchases everything they send us and I point out that ScanCafe is THE SINGLE COMPANY in this market that allows you to only pay for what you want and discard up to 50% of your order. Now – go to all the “competition” out there and do a price comparison of 1000 negatives, at 3000 dpi, TIFF format, with full post scanning services of color correction, cropping, dust/scratch removal, red eye reduction, etc, etc and see what you come up with. Even w. the hard drive option enacted, you will find that ScanCafe is significantly and materially much more affordable than the “competition” as the charts here show. But as always: I encourage you to investigate the real prices yourself – don’t just listen to me, and certainly don’t just listen to the paranoid scanning companies out theredo the due diligence yourself, your precious memories deserve it.



For more info and background on TIFF format, check out wikipedia You can always call us or shoot us an email as well.

Response to negative marketing tactics from “competitors”

Hi all. Sorry I have not written in a couple of weeks. My wife said we needed a vacation. Having been married for nearly 5 years, I know when to listen to my wife (usually).

During the time off, an interesting topic came up from a reporter as to why we have not been more aggressive about responding to some of the outrageously negative marketing practices that have been utilized by a “competitor.” We stated that we simply will not sink to the level of this other organization, and we have chosen to take the high road. Our assumption is that the average customer sees right through all of the negative campaigning. In fact, our customers frequently commend us for taking the high road. But then it hit me: The web is still a bit of the wild west. It is a great place to find new information and new services, but it can not be policed for mis-information as effectively as a newspaper or TV report. Every person isn’t going to take the time to actually read the details of this other organization’s mis-interpretation of the facts. Therefore, I am going to spend some time responding to the negative marketing campaign efforts that another organization is using to clear the air and represent the facts accordingly. Frankly, I don’t even like wasting my time with this, but I think it is important, because we are committed to offering our customers the best photo, negative and slide scanning service out there, and we’ve built a first class organization and scanning process in order to do so.

One of the major criticisms is that we send photos, negatives and slides to India to be processed, and that we have attempted to hide this from the customer. Let me be as clear as possible here: we are extremely proud of our highly trained technicians in India and we have, from day one, been very clear about where images are processed. Our Bangalore facilities are first-class and so is our team. We took the time to hire the right people (read about our head of operations there, Naren Dubey) and build a very sophisticated, world class logistics system to track all packages and ensure their safety. As is noted on our Web site, we use only world class courier services such as FedEx and UPS who allow our customers, as well as ourselves, to track packages at any time. We take the security of our customers’ images very seriously; period. We have built worldwide secure global connections that any logistician would be proud of. Since we started, we have processed over 1.75 million images and have not lost or damaged a single one.

They’ve accused us of misrepresenting ourselves regarding a placement in the Wall Street Journal, which is posted on our site. As regards to the WSJ comment: it’s quite simple, we were mentioned in this WSJ article as having the highest resolution for the lowest price. We make no claim as to editorial endorsement anywhere on our site and never have. To not expect us to put such a prestigious mention on our website is beyond ignorant – any right thinking business would do the same. We say on the site that the article “shows that ScanCafe offers the highest resolution service at the best price.” In the article, we are included in a table that compares us to several other vendors, and this is exactly how we are positioned in the article. We are proud of this placement and want to share it with our customers.

Lastly, we’ve been criticized for not being forthcoming about our prices. Our price comparison chart has been available since January 2007, and we mention our low prices on several other pages on the Web site. Our pricing is low (starting at 19 cents for 3000 dpi for 35mm negatives ) and is one of our greatest selling points. The other is that users only have to pay for the images they want to keep (with a minimum of 50% of the images that are scanned). This has turned out to be a revolutionary idea that saves users tons of time and energy upfront and our customers love it. They no longer have to organize everything in advance; no one else comes close to offering this type of service.

This is simple: We won’t sink to the level of degrading a competitor’s business just for the sake of improving our own. When we launched the service, we were attacked quite aggressively by existing “competitors” because they knew that they wouldn’t be able to compete with us on price – but if you actually review our service, price is not nearly as powerful as the ability for customers to send us all of their images and then review online and then be required to only purchase 50% of the images sent. We have removed the labor from the client – if you use any other organization, you have to spend a large amount of time sifting through all of your photos to determine which ones to send in because the pricing is so high. With us, you spend three minutes at a computer when placing the order and you are done. Also, because you can review on line, you don’t have to waste time holding negatives or slides up to a light source (most people don’t have imaging tables or optical loops) to determine which ones to send in. Simply send me everything, I will scan it all, and you only pay for the ones you want to keep (with a 50% minimum). This is, after all a SERVICE and it suppose to be easy for the customer.

I will leave it up to smart customers to decide whether or not to believe a competitor who, through his own actions, has shown a great deal of paranoia. I reiterate, we let our service and our track record do our talking for us. We also encourage test orders – we have no minimum order size so send us a single image if you like and let us prove the value.

We at ScanCafe will continue to remain positive business professionals and focus on delivering a quality service to our customers, rather than engage in any negative marketing tactics towards other organizations. We feel our service speaks for itself and we will do everything in our power to ensure that our customers are getting the very best of every single person on the Scan Cafe team – that is my pledge to you. We appreciate your business and if there’s anything you feel we could be doing better, we’d like to hear about it, so please send us an email at any time.

How we started ScanCafe

Management Team

When I was at business school, my buddy Laurent, who is from Switzerland, had to attend his grandfather’s funeral back in
Lausanne. His grandfather was the de facto family archivist (every family has one, whether they recognize it or not) and the family was unsure of what to do with the dozens of photo albums he had left behind, some of which contained photos dating to 1898. Laurent stepped up to the plate and said that he would return with them to the US, scan them, burn discs for everyone, and then return the originals to his grandmother. After spending 6 consecutive Saturdays trying to scan the material (and after spending about $800 on equipment and software) he thought “there has to be a better way”. So, he looked around online and, although he found a huge cottage industry of professional scanning companies, he failed to find a single one that offered decent pricing and, more importantly, a user-centric experience. He was discussing this frustration with me, Naren Dubey and Damon Mercadante when a collective light popped on over our heads. “Hey, sounds like a great opportunity for a service unlike any other.”

Voila, ScanCafe was born (although the original name was “ScanMyMemories” – a little trivia for you). But we didn’t want this to just be about price – for which we are the clear and unchallenged leader. It needed to be about more than just cost effectiveness. Photography is emotional, as is all art, and we had to leverage that to provide an excellent experience for the customer. The highest level of frustration for Laurent initially was not the prices in the market, which we thought were exorbitant, but that he had to spend so much of his very valuable time on the project. If you accept the high prices, you still have to spend many hours sorting through your images to determine which ones to send in for conversion. “This” we thought “is the right leverage point”. So we decided that we would offer a “no hassle” service. People are quick to point to our pricing – but I know from talking to the customer that the idea of “no pre-sorting necessary” is a more valuable part of our offering.

Think about it, all you have to do is grab your shoe box, package it securely, print out the label from our website, and send it in. That’s it. It can take as little as 3 minutes of labor on your part to fully convert your entire analog archive. That is pretty powerful and it is unmatched in the industry.

We spent the next 7 months hammering out the specifics of the business, developing the back end infrastructure, and exercising the right international logistics chain. We also spent a lot of our own money – but this was important because it showed that we all had “skin in the game” and believed in what we were doing. We officially launched the service on the 30th of October, 2006, and haven’t looked back since.

Why we do what we do

I was speaking with a free lance editorialist the other day and he was asking me about the value proposition that ScanCafe provides; he kept asking questions about price and ease of use. Initially, my response was “yes, we are the market leader – by far – in pricing and NO ONE comes close in ease of use (no minimum order, no pre-sorting necessary, review your images online, pay only for those you wish to have in high resolution, etc).” As he wrote down that response, I said the following: “But, frankly, what we are truly all about, at the heart of it, is enriching people’s lives. We get to reawaken the past for folks – and do so in a very vivid fashion. We also allow the incredibly emotionally uplifting experience to be easily shared with loved ones.”

This business, on the surface, is about analog to digital conversion. However, underneath, this business is about improving the welfare of our customers. It’s about being a bridge to the past. It’s about unlocking value in the archive of the professional photographer. It’s about allowing grandchildren to live the lives of their grandparents. It’s a fantastic business to be involved in and each person on our staff truly enjoys acting as a catalyst for our customers to fully enjoy their archive of imagery. We have reconnected veterans, we have strengthened family bonds, and we have provided family story tellers a wealth of new ammunition. Hopefully, all of our customers share in these types of experiences. Let me know if you have had such an uplifting experience or if you would like to share your story with other users.