Ream no more: Software innovation Papr could throw the need for physical paper in the trash

Pair gets help from Covington business accelerator

CINCINNATI -- Even in the age of electronic documents and e-signatures, the average U.S. employee prints about 10,000 sheets of paper per year and 40 percent of that ends up in the trash.

U.S. offices still use 12 trillion sheets of paper per year. Fueled by the use of paper in packaging, the demand for paper worldwide is expected to double before 2030.

These are the sorts of facts that led Josh Israel and Devin Serago to start Papr, a system designed to literally reduce paperwork -- or at least, physical paperwork.

How does it work?

Suppose someone emails you a document to sign. Instead of printing it out physically and signing it, you click on the print icon as you normally would, but it sends the document to a special electronic tablet provided by Papr. Using that tablet, you can highlight parts of the document, sign it, and then send it back to whoever wanted the signature -- if they have a Papr tablet too.

This system saves you the trouble of printing the document, signing it and then scanning the signed document back into your computer for emailing.

The creators of Papr wanted to make creating a digital copy as easy as printing out a physical one, Israel said. They believe that the only reason people still print physical copies is ingrained behavior -- they have been conditioned to open a document and tell their computer to print it.

Hoping to redirect that habit, they rewrote the operating system of a tablet to trick a computer into thinking the tablet was a printer.

Josh Israel is shown with his laptop open to the website for Papr, and with the tablet used to access Papr’s paperless document system.

Whose idea was this?

Israel and Serago, who met 13 years ago as students at Monmouth University, hit upon it when they were signing documents related to the sale of a mobile dating app made by their previous business, The Thrill Group. They sold it in October to Shaadi.com, an Indian company that provides matchmaking services.

They lived in New Delhi for five years building the business, which they had conceived of in Los Angeles, where they participated in a business incubator with their previous business, Plan A Drink, a failed group-dating concept.

After they sold The Thrill Group’s app, they created Papr in August and spent about $50,000 of their own funds to build the product, Israel said. In September, they were accepted into the UpTech accelerator in Covington and moved here.

How will Papr make money?

Through charging users $35 to $40 per month, Israel said -- the tablets are free. There are no customers yet, he said, but there are a few in the pipeline.

The potential market is very large. One local law firm with 150 attorneys told Papr that it annually spends $150,000 to $200,000 on printer paper alone, Israel said.

“If we are able to reduce paper usage by 30 to 40 percent, the solution pays for itself,” he said. 

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