How we started ScanCafe
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.