Papertrailer was born out of a personal annoyance that we realized was not just personal. We, the founders—a husband and wife team—realized one day, in the process of moving, that we were in possession of a lot of file folders and USB sticks full of really important business and personal documents that we had either completely forgotten about or had been looking for just a few weeks prior and were unable to find in the mess of folders. Keeping track of the digital files and the paper files separately was also becoming a nuisance, trying to remember what was in what format and where it was therefore kept. What we needed was a way to organize and maintain these records, some of which we needed access to on a regular basis and some just periodically, in a comprehensive organization system.
So, we went on the hunt for some sort of comprehensive organization system—one that could help us merge our paper and digital documents in a way that was easy for us to find and use. However, most of the solutions we found on the market were no different than a scan-and-store-in-Dropbox alternative, still utilizing the same file folders and forcing us to manage our own paper, separately. These file-folder-based systems force you to categorize a document as one and only one thing, when in reality a bill for your local taxes , for example, is can be tax, legal, and expense-related document all at the same time.
Unable to find what we were looking for, we decided to build it. We wanted to create a new type of organization system – one focused on merging the world of paper and digital; one allowing documents and records that may otherwise be useless or hard to find useful again; and one that allowed you to classify and aggregate documents by concepts instead of folders. So that’s what we did. But in sharing our idea with our business and personal contacts, we realized we were not the only ones that had this problem. In fact, information management was one of the most important things that small business, that do so many other things, do very badly – and it costs them dearly. That’s when Papertrailer was born.
Papertrailer was developed over the course of a few years, culminating with an open beta program spanning most of 2014, officially launching in September. During the beta period we worked closely with individual and small business clients to improve on the product. Based on their continuous input, we tweaked our product offering for businesses, and added key new highly requested features. It was during this period that we learned many businesses were eager to digitize their existing documents or find a better organization system but didn’t know exactly how to go about it. We have therefore also developed a training/consulting program to help business get and stay organized.
WHAT WE DO AND WHY WE DO IT
There has been a substantial push over the last 15 years to digitize paper documents across every sector of the economy. The impetus stems from a desire to not only reduce paper waste, but to also reduce the amount of time employees/knowledge workers spend searching for information. According to IDC surveys, knowledge workers spend on average 8.8 hrs per week searching for information. Offline documents make that task far less efficient. Despite the size of the digitization and document management industry, only 1.0% of stored paper documents have actually been digitized.
Many products and services purport to offer polished solutions to the document management problem, but most are inadequate. They typically rely on a folder structure for organization – a structure which their clients continue to use primarily due to inertia, and not for its efficiency or intuitiveness. Rather than relying on old, inefficient system, Papertrailer offers its users the ability to compose collections of documents in an intuitive and efficient manner: by their concept. Documents can belong to multiple concepts, and each concept creates a narrative about its constituent documents. This system is not only more intuitive, but it also allows a user multiple logical paths through which they may find a document. We also offer full text search, and other means of finding documents, giving our users a substantial amount of flexibility for storing and retrieving their files.
Moreover, Papertrailer’s concepts offer comprehensive control over not only who can view documents within it, but even the specific viewing permissions for each shared user – an important feature for especially private or confidential documents. This presents a substantial improvement over the typical manner in which individuals and businesses share files with others: email. With email, once you send a file, you have essentially ceded control over it. With Papertrailer, files are never “sent” to shared users, they are only registered as accessible to them within our system, using permissions you explicitly set. You may permit users to download your files if you prefer (a permission you can retract at any time), or limit them to only view a low–quality copy. The same behavior applies to any subsequent versions of a file you upload.