Interview with Taylor Mingos, founder and CEO of Shoeboxed.com
Cristian: Hi Taylor and welcome to www.entrepreneurship-interviews.com Tell us a bit yourself.
Taylor: Hi Cristian. I’m Taylor Mingos, founder and CEO of Shoeboxed.com. While studying at Duke University, I spent some time in Germany, joining the initial team that started studiVZ.net, which is now one of the most popular social networking websites in Europe. I then founded Shoeboxed which has been growing rapidly since early 2007.
Cristian: You’re running an interesting business, what is it about?
Taylor: Shoeboxed digitizes paper documents, extracts data from the page and organizes everything in a secure online account. From the online account, users can view, print, email and download their data or export information to other tools that they already use, like Salesforce, QuickBooks, BatchBook, Google Contacts, Outlook, Evernote, Constant Contact and many others.
Cristian: So basically people send you documents and you make them easily available online?
Taylor: Yes, and then some! The online Shoeboxed account comes with features like automatic categorization, easy export functions and integrations with other platforms, and in general a level of usability and efficiency unmatched by do-it-yourself document digitization and organization systems like scanners.
Cristian: First question when I saw your site was: Aren’t people afraid to send over confidential information?
Taylor: Security is Shoeboxed’s highest priority, and we employ strict industry regulations to protect user data. We use SSL encryption just like online banks and medical record providers, and our operations facility is incredibly locked down including key card access, 24/7 video surveillance, and highly trained employees who all pass background checks and rigorous interviewing. And in general, Shoeboxed is commonly used for receipts, business cards and bills, none of which typically contain sensitive personal information (like credit card numbers or social security numbers).
Cristian: What would be the main benefits of your service?
Taylor: With all of your documents securely organized online, all administrative business tasks including tax prep, accounting, expense reporting and contact management are simplified and streamlined. Bookkeepers and accountants love Shoeboxed because they can take on more clients and serve their customers better by providing Shoeboxed to their clients.
Cristian: How did you come up with the idea?
Taylor: I have always been an entrepreneur. I owned a video production company in high school and developed some social networking websites during my early college years. Entrepreneurship is exciting and very fulfilling, but my least favorite thing about running a business was dealing with paperwork. I wanted a way to get rid of dealing with paper clutter and that’s how I came up with the idea of Shoeboxed.
Cristian: Who is the typical user of your service?
Taylor: Typically, Shoeboxed users are small business owners, business travelers, corporate executives, professional organizers, sales representatives, accountants, bookkeepers and lawyers.
Cristian: How are things done so they don’t mess up? What’s the typical workflow?
Taylor: Shoeboxed is the leading online receipt and business card management service. We are the industry experts at scanning, digitizing and extracting data accurately and efficiently. And on top of that we are constantly optimizing and improving our operations to further increase data accuracy and processing time.
Cristian: You are integrated with a number of related services. Can you name a few?
Taylor: Shoeboxed is integrated with many great companies, including but not limited to Salesforce, FreshBooks, Evernote, Outright.com, Bill.com, BatchBook, Constant Contact, Teaspiller and others.
Cristian: You’re doing a lot of online advertising and run sales through affiliates as well. How do these marketing techniques work nowadays?
Taylor: CPC advertising and affiliate marketing are extremely useful and effective tools for targeting and reaching prospective users. We love to build relationships with web advertisers, affiliate publishers and bloggers to spread the word about Shoeboxed.
Cristian: How many employees do you have now?
Taylor: I can’t give exact numbers, but we’ve quadrupled our team size in the past year and the growth in hiring will continue for the foreseeable future. We also have a second office in Sydney, Australia that provides the same great service to the AU market.
Cristian: What is important when hiring the first employees?
Taylor: You always want to hire people who complement and expand on your skillsets and are extremely passionate and dedicated. Since my background is heavily in technology, marketing, and development, the first partners I looked to bring to Shoeboxed were skilled in finance, law, HR and sales. In general, you always want to hire people who believe in your vision. Starting a company is not easy, but it’s nearly impossible to get something off the ground if your teammates don’t share your passion and vision.
Cristian: How do you find out if a business idea is feasible and get past the “fear of entrepreneurship”
Taylor: All business ideas need to be tested. It’s important not be afraid of making mistakes. Just follow your plan through, release an early prototype of your product or service, get some feedback and improve, improve, improve. You’ll quickly learn some extremely valuable lessons that will help you determine which ways to go in your business. I would also encourage all budding entrepreneurs to seek help from successful entrepreneurs. You need to build your contact network and find great advisors. The more people you have on your side, the easier the entrepreneurship route may be for you.
Cristian: Any thoughts on the crisis and starting a new business?
Taylor: Entrepreneurs and small businesses really are the engine of the economy. The only way the world economy can reach back to productivity levels before the recession is through the alacrity, creativity and hard work of entrepreneurs.
Cristian: What can go wrong when starting young?
Taylor: Everything in starting a company is trial and error to a certain extent. It’s a constant learning process. The crucial building blocks are putting together the right team and getting your finances in order. Here’s where some outside help is not a bad option. Shoeboxed has always benefited from great investors, advisors and attorneys since our early days.
Cristian: What if everything seems to be done before and there is no idea for something new?
Taylor: As long as there are problems in the world, creative entrepreneurs will continue to come up with new and different solutions.
Cristian: What are the most important characteristics of a successful entrepreneur?
Taylor: a) Have a vision; b) Surround yourself by smart, dedicated people; c) Always take and listen to feedback; d) and of course have a solid business model and revenue plan.
Cristian: And what are the plans for the future?
Taylor: Shoeboxed will continue to ramp up sales and marketing as well as consider other international expansion opportunities. We just released our Shoeboxed Business Card Reader and Scanner iPhone App and will continue to expand our mobile service offerings.