Accusoft, an under-the-radar Tampa software company, is aiming to elevate the image of Tampa Bay as a technology hub, as well as its own profile.
The 28-year-old company is a leader in the document and imaging industry and has grown through a steady stream of acquisitions. It has a staff of 160, about 70 percent of them software engineers, developers and technical writers, and it owns three buildings in west Tampa.
Still, the Accusoft name is not well known among consumers because the software it develops historically has been sold to other developers.
“Our customers are ISV’s [independent software vendors] that put our technology into their technology. In most cases, it’s their secret sauce,” said Steve Wilson, vice president of product. “We’re the technology behind their products, and that’s partly why no one know about us.”
That could change. Accusoft recently began selling one of its products directly to end users.
Jack Berlin, founder and CEO, is part of a coalition of Tampa Bay software CEOs that wants to make the area a magnet for technical talent, and Accusoft itself has ramped up hiring in part through a partnership with Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland.
The company also is rebranding, with a new website set to launch at the end of September, said Megan Brooks, vice president of marketing. Previously, the company’s message focused on its products. The new messaging will emphasize how Accusoft can help its customers solve any problems they have around processing their content, converting content from one format to another, or automation involving that content, Brooks said.
The company initially was named Pegasus Imaging Corp. when Berlin, a veteran of the technology industry, established it in 1991. Four of its first employees were members of an international committee that set standards for JPEG digital images, and Accusoft still owns the jpg.com web address.
The company grew quickly, spun off a logistics operation into an independent company, and acquired other firms that brought key products as well as the Accusoft name, which it adopted in 2012.
Accusoft’s software is largely used by companies in the legal, medical and finance industries, and more broadly by document management system providers. The company’s bread-and-butter is providing technology that other software companies license, so they don’t have to write it themselves.
Accusoft holds more than 40 patents and supports 25 products that have been developed over the years, but fewer than 10 are in active development, Wilson said.
ImageGear, with a toolkit that includes image conversion, creation, editing, annotations, viewing, scanning and printing for hosted servers, is a flagship product picked up in the 2008 acquisition of Accusoft.
PrizmDoc, the successor to a tool that was part of the 2011 acquisition of Adeptol, is another key product. It helps web developers embed document viewing, editing, processing and conversion into their applications.
Barcode is used by the U.S. Postal Service and logistics companies to fix “broken” barcodes, those in which the ink is difficult to read.
The most recent product is OnTask, a business process automation tool that was released in 2017. It’s Accusoft’s first B2B end user product, and was developed initially to solve the company’s own problem, handling the 1,000 customer contracts it has to renew on a quarterly or annual basis.
Previously, each version of the contract was attached to an email, and had to be downloaded, signed, scanned back in and emailed again.
“To us, that became ridiculous. We were allowing customers to solve their paper issues, and we’ve got paper flying around,” Wilson said.
Accusoft built OnTask to integrate with its customer relationship management system and to allow the attachments to be managed through its own software as a service platform.
“We no longer had to track attachments that were the right version. We already knew what versions they were. Once the client read and signed the document, we could track that all the way through and end up back at our CEO’s inbox, where he could open it whether he’s on the beach, on his phone, sign it, execute the contract, and put it right into our CRM system,” Wilson said.
Accusoft has hired a team of 12 for OnTask, eight of them on the development team, along with a product manager, marketers and a salesperson.
“We see that we can get the most growth over the next three years from that product. Our SDK [software development kit] and API [application programming interface] products are expected to grow at a slower rate, 3 percent to 7 percent year over year, but we’re looking for much more aggressive growth from OnTask,” Brooks said.
OnTask taps Accusoft’s expertise in machine learning — knowledge cultivated in the early 2000s as part of the company’s optical character reading, handwriting recognition and barcode technology.
“We’ve been doing machine learning before it was cool,” Wilson said.
The company also is adding robotic process automation.
A mortgage application is an example of how the technology works.
“The bank tells you to upload all these documents. Someone has to manually go through the documents and say, this is a W2, here’s a Social Security number,” Wilson said. “Our technology has a more intelligent way to do that, to capture that information, so we can take that processing time to a fraction of what it would typically happen in a manual process.”
Accusoft tends to stay ahead of the market, which provides both opportunity and challenges.
“A lot of smart, techie people work here that know how to build this technology,” Brooks said, adding that the challenge is continuing to find that talent.
“Most of the first contact with our customers is through a developer, who is trying to find a tool to do what they need to do. That means we have to keep up on the latest trends in development and stay ahead of that,” Brooks said. “That makes us really appealing to someone coming out of school who wants to work on the latest and greatest technology … Once we get people in and they see what we do, we have a good conversion rate on hiring those people. It’s just getting them to be aware that there are companies out there like us, doing really cool stuff right here in Tampa.”
To fill its recruiting pipeline, the company has two internship programs. One is for the children of current workers. The other is a partnership with Florida Polytechnic and students at the Lakeland school.
“They are really interested in building a technical career, they are interested in coding, and they don’t necessarily have the training to do that, so we put them on different teams and give them a taste of what it’s like,” Brooks said. “I think we hired 60 percent of them last year.”
Accusoft has three buildings on West Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, including its newest, the Innovation Center at No. 829. That building has room for growth, so the company plans to sell one of its other facilities, which has to be accessed by crossing a bridge over the Hillsborough River.
The location is great, Brooks said, because it is only 10 minutes from everywhere, “but unless you come to this area or spend time in west Tampa, you don’t see the logo driving by. That’s a challenge,” she said.
“The other thing is attracting technical talent from other states, like California, to come live in Tampa Bay and work for a high-tech company doing really cool stuff. We’re not quite at the point yet where we have that infrastructure in Tampa that’s attractive to those millennial workers who want to work in a tech hub,” although the area is improving, Brooks said.
Berlin, the founder and CEO, is working with CEOs of similar sized software companies to raise awareness about the Tampa Bay area. The coalition “will help us have a larger voice,” in shaping the tech ecosystem, Wilson said.
Wilson himself is a second-time employee at Accusoft. He started work at the company in 2007, and left in 2013 to become chief technology officer at MamaBear, an app for parents to track their children that was part of the Tampa Bay Wave accelerator program. He returned to Accusoft in 2015, after MamaBear was sold.
Brooks previously led marketing at Tribridge, a Tampa software company that sold in 2017. She joined Accusoft after that sale.