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Version One finally brings justice to their website

Have you visited Version One’s website in the past? Were you impressed? Probably the answer was "no". Have a look at their new website. Except for "Copyright 2006" at the bottom of page, it looks great. My disappointment is that there is no blog. But they have provided a RSS feed. What is also missing is details of the Board and the senior management. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that Version One is a family owned business. Actually owned by two families, Bray and McGain. Husbands and wives (I may have analysed this slightly wrong as there are 3 home addresses instead of the expected two) owning 25% each. They have grown organically since the incorporation in 1989 without requiring Venture Capital (VC). That is the same year Direct Data Capture Ltd was set-up. And both companies generate about the same level of revenues, both offering scanning solutions. And both are well run and financially sound. What a coincidence!

Why is that most modern companies need VC funding? Perhaps, it is due to the fast pace environment we live in and the MBA culture, i.e. form a company with a clear exit strategy. You have generally five to seven years to make it happen.

So who are the Directors of the business? Tony Bray is their charismatic leader. As the company is family owned, the directors are also the owners. Oops! I just found the directors page. Being modest, Tony has identified himself as the Sales & Marketing Director. Derek McGain, whom I have not met is the Technical Director. Here are their mug shots.

Version One has recently become the darling of many large software vendors. Notably, this includes Oracle, who have given them significant amount of publicity. Most of the solutions are distributed through 100 or so channel partners. Version One also has a green agenda, and became Carbon Neutral recently. Wow!

So, what does Version One do? They have number of solutions, these being:

  1. Document capture, storage and retrieval – DbArchive, DbCapture, DbAuthorise
  2. Electronic document delivery – DbMail & DbFax
  3. Laserforms – DbForms
  4. Automated payment systems – DbChequePrint and DbBACS-IP

Basically they are selling scanning solutions (with respect to item 1), which are growing rapidly. I keep wondering why customers continue to buy scanning solutions (most recently BP bought a solution from ReedSoft) when solutions like Accountis allow them to capture the document electronically before it is ever printed. I guess the reasons might be:

  1. Companies still like to own IT solutions. They certainly can buy a scanning solution from Version One, IKON, etc and therefore percieved to be in control.
  2. The electronic document exchange market is still not well known, even though EDI came about 40 years ago and companies still see XML/EDI based solutions as very costly and difficult to implement and maintain.
  3. Companies has less trust on outsourced solutions due to security aspects. Hang on! we bank on line, don’t we? Same or higher level of security can be provided by web based exchanges.
  4. Its also perceived that implementing scanning solutions is much easier. This is partially true as you only need scanner(s), software and integrating the solution with your accounts/ERP system.

Being a SME, Version One does not declare its revenues, therefore I am unable to comment other than knowing its around £4 to £5m based on previous conversations. Balance sheet and shareholder’s capital are sound, as well as the net current assets for 2005.

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