Disrupting The Photocopier Business

Clayton Christensen says that the most disruptive things start out as "toys." I was reminded of that yesterday as I was standing at the counter of a bike store in Calistoga filling out a list of bikes I was renting for our family and a few others. I had guessed the heights of everyone on my list and I wanted to take a copy of the list back to our house and make sure I had guessed correctly.

With my phone in hand, I looked up at the young man helping me and said "can you make a photocopy of this page so I can take it home with me?" He looked straight at my phone and said "that has a camera in it, right?"

I felt silly and chuckled. My friends who were with me laughed at me and the irony of the situation. I snapped a picture of the sheet of paper and then when I got home I went over everyone's heights to make sure we were getting correctly sized bikes. The phone worked perfectly for that situation. The young man was right. No need for an expensive photocopier in the bike store when all of his customers are carrying smart phones.

#Blogging On The Road

Comments (Archived):

  1. Douglas Crets

    Why did you have to wait until you got home? That camera has the internet in it, right? Or maybe it was a question of family logistics.  I use the camera for that function all the time. I am shopping: does this look good? 

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i could have kik’d everyone the photodidn’t even think of that

      1. JamesHRH

        Breaking habits slowest part of change process……..

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. panterosa,


        2. fredwilson


          1. JamesHRH

            Sent you email re: in NYC this month.

  2. scottythebody

    I often upload such things to Evernote right from my phone. Instant filing, and it has character recognition so you can search them. Just wish Evernote, which has a *killer* feature set, would work hard to make everything smoother, more elegant and a lot less friction in their UIs. 

    1. Stephen

      I also do the same thing, snap and upload to evernote. Reading a book that’s not mine and i cant underline, snap and upload, see a sign somewhere, snap and upload, after writing on a piece of paper that i know i might misplace, snap and upload.

  3. William Mougayar

    Lol. Just like snail mail, photocopying is a slowly dying breed, and so are printers to some extent. Think about how little need we have for printing these days. And I’m willing to bet that lawyers are probably the largest consumers of Print/Copying today.It’s not only that they start as toys, but they also start to get used by a new generation of users who are indicators of trends to come. There’s an iPhone app I love Scan2PDF. Just snap a pic and you’ve got a PDF document.  

    1. ShanaC

      This is going to create some interesting legal issues if we all stop using paper. How will we legally sign things in an unhackable way

      1. William Mougayar

        You’re right, I didn’t mean to say paper will disappear. We still need to sign on real paper, also for banking/financial transactions. But we’ll think twice about whether an electronic scan / photo might do the trick in many cases. Yesterday at a take-out restaurant, they wanted to give me a copy of their menu. I declined and pointed to my iPhone, saying “I’ve got it here and on your website, thanks.” 

        1. ShanaC

          This is why I think the post is so ironic. because of the way the image is made, scanning technology on a phone would allow for the security of biometrics

      2. Elia Freedman

        I haven’t signed a contract in years where I couldn’t just email a PDF to the participating parties. And I started scanning legal documents instead of holding printed copies, too. This issue has been around since the invention of the fax machine.

        1. ShanaC

          True, but as Charlie’s story goes, you really want to rely on a computer signature…I think long term biometrics on the go become super important

          1. Sourabh Niyogi

            Echosign is going viral for me.

          2. ShanaC

            (@markslater:disqus  this response is for you too) why echosign as opposed to some sort of biometric based solution (are the biometric ones that bad)

      3. markslater


        1. Bo Sartain

          Vignature is another cool one.

      4. Lawrence Wang

        Signatures have always been hackable by people with good penmanship.Also of note: The other day, I discovered that OSX Lion has a feature built into Preview that lets you sign PDF’s: http://www.tech-recipes.com…It’s a really clever little feature that uses the computer’s camera to capture a written signature.

        1. ShanaC

          cool.  Though I have to say,. actually copying a signature well is much much harder than it looks.  Penmanship is partially a biometric based on your biomechanics, which you can only change so far. To really copy a signature, you need to trick yourself at looking at the letters as an image (which is why it is common to flip a signature if you are going to copy it….)  Even still, your biomechanics will play a role, and it becomes really really hard to mimic hand weight in copying (affects ink flow)Just don’t ask what you learn in a drawing class….

      5. Matt A. Myers

        In important cases it will require a) live verification via video (recorded), and b) a witness via video (recorded) who knows and verifies identity.Essentially, a contract verbally agreed to and with evidence of such, which in Canada already is a binding contract if you can prove there is a contract.Edit: And then make laws so fraud has huge penalties. Also, this is how voting should be done in the future; I know a lot of people who would actually vote then.

      6. vruz

        That’s actually may not be terribly hard to do with existing technology.A combination of smartphones, QR codes, and Public-key cryptography.I can’t believe there’s nobody doing this already.

    2. Carl J. Mistlebauer

      Some things are best left to old technology…ask Anthony Weiner!  Photocopying ones private parts just doesn’t ever seem to get much further than ones office…

  4. ShanaC

    I find this post kind of funny if only because scanner/photocopier technology is much better than chip as film. It would be far more disruptive to stick scanner technology behind the lens of the phone in terms of image quality.

  5. Aaron Klein

    When we got started seven months ago, I went out of my way to save money by signing up for one of the free conference call services for our Monday morning team meetings. Only problem was….it didn’t work so well. It would place us in different “rooms” or we couldn’t hear each other, etc.”Guess you get what you pay for,” I said as I started to open an account with a paid conference call service.All of a sudden we laughed at ourselves…opened up Skype, held down shift, clicked all three names and clicked call.

    1. Rohan


  6. Rohan

    Haha. Started doing this a little while back (I think it began in university to save cash!) and have hardly looked back. All my scanning’s done on my iPhone camera! There are some very good apps on the app store that even make it look like a proper ‘scan’. 

  7. Elia Freedman

    I noticed myself using the camera on my phone for all kinds of things I never thought to do before I had one. For instance, my wife and I don’t bother with technology for lists like groceries. We write them on a white board and take a picture of it before we leave for the store.It is a great lesson for developers, too. Sometimes the simple solutions are good enough.

    1. fredwilson

      That last bit is exactly the point

      1. Sonicrick

        Been doing this for a couple years but have learned recipients are still wary of receiving images printe out vs (cleaner) photocopies. Barely a difference but some companies push back on me. Dinosaurs.

        1. JasonIvers

          No shaky hands blur on a photocopy, no issues with cropping, etc… when a photocopier is handy, it generally makes as much or more sense to use it for its intended purpose.

    2. nickgs

      We do the same Elia… works great. I would love an app that knows the layout of the store I frequent and arranges the most efficient path for me. I find things go up on the board in an ‘as needed’ basis and then I walk back and forth in the store wasting a bunch of time… 🙂

      1. Elia Freedman

        We are getting there. Check out Meridian, developed by some friends of mine, here: http://www.spotlightmobile….

        1. nickgs

          Awesome stuff Elia, I am going to have to check that out. Thanks! 

    3. Wen Tian

      Totally agreeing with you. Too many applications these days want to be the single destination (platform) for all. This tends to make solutions to simple problems very difficult. We need to go back to the original Unix philosophy: Write programs that do one thing and do it well.

      1. vruz

        Or better, you don’t need to go back if you never lose the Unix philosophy that lives on in Linux, and to some degree underneath OS X.

  8. awaldstein

    Connected mobile cameras are a huge change agent.Scads of wine apps are trying to connect the visual label image or bar code or QR code to databases for sharing and purchasing wine on the go. No-one has cracked the code on this yet.

      1. awaldstein

        Hi Rui…Great examples. And good companies both.Andre (founder of both) is a good friend . We are meeting in Brescia in a week to talk about the wine biz.That being said, they are solving a slightly different problem in a different way in my opinion. Glad to discuss offline if you’d like.

    1. RichardF

      Wish they would crack it, I’d love to be able to use a QR code to connect me directly to the vineyard and buy direct from them or a co-operative.

      1. awaldstein

        It’s coming…There are a bunch of different problems to solve, not least of which are shipping regulations and a common database. This is a layered mess ripe for disintermediation.To me the most interesting is to crack the mass market piece.

        1. RichardF

          the thing about mass market wine – at least here in the UK, is that distribution is really controlled by the supermarkets like Tesco and is very very price driven.  The £3.99 – £5.00 price point is very important.I like to take a photo of the label of a bottle of wine that I may have tasted in a restaurant or when travelling and then tracking it down when I get home.

          1. awaldstein

            yeah…your market is unique and with its own set of problems.Because of that though is why Naked Wines is so successful and valuable. BTW…they are beta testing a broader mobile app that you might check out.



  9. Jan Schultink

    Take a shot of people around a meeting room table and put the names next to their faces later.

  10. David Hunegnaw

    I often use my Camera+ on my iPhone as a “photocopier” for emailing docs. Even though my attorney cringes every time I do so, I think it works perfectly!BTW, I had a similar “duh” moment a few years ago when asking hotel concierge for directions to a restaurant while holding my iPhone in my hand… clearly visible to the concierge who promptly called me out.  **Felt pretty silly**



    1. William Mougayar

      Did you draw the diagrams from your last post with your finger (or a special pen) on the iPad? 



        1. William Mougayar

          Wow. Those Wacom drawing tablets are amazing. Thanks for pointing them out.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. William Mougayar

            $199. good price. thanks.

          3. ShanaC

            0_o….next time, don’t share (I have the wants, suddenly)

          4. leigh

            My 15 yr old daughter saw a wacom online – decided she wanted one for her bday – had never used a tablet before and learned through watching youtube tutorials -And of course, now she’s saving up for the new one that everyone was posting a couple weeks ago.  Will completely revolutionize digital art.  Very cool.   ps. Cee made me take her link down! She said the pic was too old and she has to do a new one before i can share it. kids.

          5. William Mougayar

            Hey @FAKEGRIMLOCK, you’ve got a competitor for your drawings….Watch out!

        2. Mark Essel

          Coding is painful on my phone or tablet. The problem is I need to see more of it, and wider lines than tablets allow. Plus typing on a tablet is meh.Maybe a zoomed out voice high level code block sketching tool would work.I gotta think about it.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. vruz

            mmmmmmmmmmm…Not so sure. I’ve found myself in situations where I just wanted to test an idea, or a simple math algorithm. Or refactoring code that was already written, say during a train ride.JRuby runs so damn well on Android. So does Python I’m told. Probably mostly everything else these days. Mind you, there’s real language implementations like Freepascal too.So maybe we should make a distinction between ‘deep coding’ and ‘shallow coding’, sort of. There’s also docking stations and keyboards which render much of your argument moot even when you don’t really need actual mobility, with dual core mobile devices and larger memory capacity becoming the norm just a few months away.

  12. John Clyman

    Camera phones are also good enough for memorializing whiteboards. Elia mentions it above for grocery lists; I’ve taken UI and architectural scribble sessions and checked photos into source control for permanent reference.

  13. bfeld

    There’s a great article in the NY Times by Randall Stross about the obsolescence of the US Postal Service. It’s the same aha moment when you actually think about it.http://www.nytimes.com/2011…There are a lot of things in our world that won’t exist in 20 years.



      1. Dave W Baldwin

        @bfeld:disqus go with FG on that one.

    2. ShanaC

      Hi Brad.  I think that situation is a bit different.  I’m at a loss why the post office isn’t taking up the slack with packages.  I mean, take that Amazon delivery locker with 7-11.  Post offices honestly would be a better choice, and yet….I think the post office having issues is largely about mismanagement because the federal government is in charge.  You don’t hear UPS complaining….Edit: homophone problem

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        I could cut the USPS expenses in half, by simply going to every other day service.  We used the USPS to mail packages to Canada….they claim that you can “track” the package….right!  When you use their tracking service you know when you dropped the package off and eventually someone gets around to updating the delivery…usually two weeks or so after the customer got it.Even on a slow day it takes 20 minutes to accomplish anything in the post office.If it was not for direct mail the post office would have nothing to deliver.

        1. ShanaC

          agreed.  it seems they need a business restructuring, not a fundamental change in what they do….Why isn’t the government treating it more like the business it is?????

          1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

            Government is not a business. Government has to placate too many interests. Lots of rural folks and elderly want their daily mail deliveries, even if they do not get mail.The real question is “fundamental change” and why does society resent the reality of change!

    3. Tom Labus

      20 it is.No matter how well marked the road to the future is, it takes along time to get everyone going down it.

    4. JLM

      Hmmm, on a personal note, hope we’re not two of them!

  14. matthughes

    Napa Valley is a terrific place.I lived there for several years up until recently.Hope it’s a fun trip – 

    1. fredwilson

      Fantastic trip. Having a blast

  15. JimHirshfield

    My daughter just did this yesterday. She was planning the layout of her terrarium and wanted to draw a diagram …so I told her to take a picture. 😉

  16. Elliot Ross

    The google docs app will use the camera to scan the list into a doc as well – OCR not perfect – but can do it

  17. David Petersen

    a scanner, a device built for the sole purpose for getting documents onto a computer, is slow, bulky, expensive, and hard to configure.meanwhile your typical smart phone makes scanning documents (a total afterthought in the scope of this products functionality) fast, easy, and super portable.i haven’t used a scanner since the day I got my iphone 4.

    1. Austin Clements

      This just happened to me yesterday. I needed to provide someone with a copy of my drivers license. The thought of working with my copier/scanner did not excite me. Just used my iphone and emailed the picture over.Seems like scanners, at least as consumer products, never really got it right. Thank goodness we moved on. 

    2. LE

      I think you have to separate small personal use from commercial, industrial and office use.  We own a few high volume scanners which can do 260 pages duplex color and OCR etc. (Now that’s a bit of a “top track speed” but you get the point).There is actually a nice market that exists for turning legacy paperwork into  OCR documents that is used in legal discovery, record archiving, EMR etc.For small business by the way it is still easier tohave an office work flow that uses photocopies and file foldersthen it is to do things electronically which takesdiscipline, and cooperation by other parties(vendors and customers for example.).Try exiting a real estate closing without printed paperwork in hand.I still don’t have a one click way to take an email andsave it with other scanned and pdf documents in a file folder on myhard drive (or in the cloud whatever). Of course ifI want to do 3 clicks I can but I don’t want to do that. (Tomuch friction).Faxes worked when they came out because they offered anadditional better easier way and instant time saverfor existing behavior once the prices droppedand they became ubiquitous.Replacing photocopiers won’t be as quick (and it hasn’thappened even with scanning so far, right?).Faxes on the other hand, a little history.How fast did faxes get adopted? So fastthat Fedex had a failed fax venture called zapmail whichnever found a market because of dropping equipment pricesand fax machine adoption. What’s interesting is that companymanagement (including Jim Barksdale of Netscape fame) never anticipated that equipment prices would drop and theirtarget market would get their own equipment and potentially canabalize  fedex delivery.

      1. ShanaC

        This is very market dependent though – web developers I would be surprised if small shops weren’t paperless.  Meanwhile I would be shocked if a construction company was (I know of one very major one that still uses carbon paper regularly…..)Why do different industries have such different adoption curves?

        1. LE

          One reason might be pretty much the same reason people wait until the last minute to do anything as simple as that sounds.If they can limp by doing it the old way and they essentially don’t have the time or energy to change (and time is always short more than money actually) they will wait until they have no choice but to make a change.There was an owner of a very successful company that I interviewed in college that hadn’t made an obvious technology change. They needed to do it but didn’t and had no plans to change.The reason? Management was to busy with day to day business (what they did was very lucrative) and they didn’t need to. They could get by doing it the old way even if it cost themmoney (they were highly profitable).Paper is highly portable (sneakernet) and it also servesas a reminder when it sits on your desk. You can dropit off on someone else’s desk as well.There are also barriers to going paperless dependingon the industry. For example the accounting firm I usejust started using a SAAS where you can securingsend tax documents by email to them and receive back. Theyhave 10 partners and support staff and just got thissetup last year. And even though I pdf things I wouldimagine the majority of their clients send them things byfax or postal mail.Filing corporate and other tax returns? While some thingscan be done electronically I still have documents thatI have to mail to the state by postal mail even ifno payment is due. No way to do it electronically.So I guess this is similar to what happens with new softwareversions. While apple can come out with a new software (OSX)and at a certain point stop allowing a new version to run(legacy os9) programs that’s not going to happen withbusinesses or state governments. And the local titlecompany is not going to tell lawyers “sorry don’t bring a briefcase full of paperwork we only accept electronicdocuments” (they will just go elsewhere..)

          1. ShanaC

            I really wish someone would follow up with a discussion of “how do I get around these issues, what are some common techniques to help people cross the chasm” because I am totally at a loss. 

      2. Trish Burgess-Curran

        I agree, at the moment, there is a ‘standard and established’ way of working around legal documents within big companies, legal firms and the government.  It will take some time to change things in these areas.  Personal and commercial activity within small firms is moving forward much faster.  It will not be immediate but I hope that, sooner or later, the ‘big guys’ will realize that there is a more efficient way of working!  Even ‘they’ keep everything scanned (I work for a large bank and all legal documents are scanned and stored in digital format for safe-keeping and easy reference). At some point, they will realize that ‘digital format’ can add value to the process even from an earlier stage.  A good example is some countries in Europe where you have digital signatures provided with your national ID that allow you to interact with government directly over the Internet.  I know this is not exactly what the post is discussing but, why not a ‘personal digital signature’ that can be recognized across all entities and commercial/government bodies?

  18. TedHoward

    I’ve taken a photo of printed out Internet mapping directions. I constantly snap photos of things I might want to buy later. It’s a short-term memory crutch like having a notepad at work.

  19. Douglas Crets

    Actually, maybe there’s not even a need for this kid to have a physical store. If you can GPS the bikes, and confirm purchase and receipt with a phone, then all you need really is a few places along the trail where people can leave the bikes, and pay for them with their phones. Seems to me most retail strategies and physical locations are meant to put gates in place to encourage sales, but if you give people the ability to purchase anywhere, then why do you have to worry so much about storing everything in one place? I am reading that great hacker book by Steve Levy, and this mindset will begin to rule commercial sales in this decade. 

    1. LE

       It’s not like bike sharing, if you look at the price of the bikes they rent and how they talk about not renting rusty bikes you will realize it can’t be done at least not in this particular situation.  And I’m not sure it can be done with other “bike rental for tourist” type places.(Tourists want maps and other info. Additionally they might purchase things at the rental shop on impulse maybe food, water etc.)  And people need helmets as well and the shop would normally provide that (and make sure they fit as well.)Also even though I’ve never been there I would imagine that having someone rent a premium bike is part of their strategy.Also as a for profit business they have insurance and liability needs that are different from a sharing operation.

      1. RichardF

        London do it and it is amazingly successful.  So does Paris.  The demand is huge.

        1. LE

           If you’re talking about this:http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadu…That’s not the same as a rental place in a small low volume vacation area which is what my comments were directed toward. It’s even on a government website and has a tie in with Barclays for support.  The volume is tremendous and aimed at a different market. (They added 570 new members in a week). Many things work at scale that won’t work for less demand.  As I said “you will realize it can’t be done at least not in this particular situation”

        2. Tom Labus

          Most European cities have bike racks and its a great way to get around.

    2. AndyGCook

      Systems like the HubWay in Boston are like ZipCar for bikes. You can join as a member, and get a bike whenever you need it.http://www.thehubway.com/It would be even more convenient if the rental industry just took orders online and Fred never had to leave his home to book a bike rental.

  20. Mark Essel

    I refinanced my mortgage with my phone as a “fax machine”.

  21. Ken Fromm

    And here I thought a tie-in between bikes and innovation would be made. Going back to the Wright brother (bike builders) and extending to advances in material sciences. Bike builders didn’t invent titanium or carbon fiber but their extensive use of it and widespread distribution in affordable products have certainly transferred knowledge to many other “non-toy” products. Even things like LED lights, power bars, energy drinks, compression materials, and physiology understandings have benefited from cycling. Not only do you have a highly motivated and connected audience but also a great laboratory to introduce new innovations quickly and affordably with less product risk and production costs. 

  22. Dave W Baldwin

    Cool post. Technically, for those referring to the bike, you should be able to snap a shot of a bike as you are out and post it for info/GPS and so on.Re mortgages, yes the closing table is a tradition.  But how many folks would say NO WAY to multi Skype with photo of signed docs that can then be backed up by the paper the photos were shot from with the money going to the accounts electronically?

  23. testtest

    asymmetric competition is the most interesting, and the most devastating  

  24. Mark Figart

    I use ScannerPro on my iPhone all the time for these kinds of things. Better than just using the camera. Not as fast as my Fujitsu s1500M scanner when it’s close, but the iPhone works in a pinch when it’s not.

    1. Trish Burgess-Curran

      Fantastic app!  I am checking it out right now and I think I am already a convert!

  25. laurie kalmanson

    i started taking iphone pix of receipts for travel things — rental cars, etc. — when i was at an airport and they told me they couldn’t email me a receipt.works great.

  26. laurie kalmanson

    also, fax machines are generally credited with helping to bring down the ussrin previous decades, carbon paper/onionskin samizdat passed hand to hand were the communications tools — faxes were (a) faster (b) scalable

    1. Tom Labus

      They didn’t even tell Pasternak he won the Pulitzer for some months.  Then made him decline it.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        sakharov …http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andre…the only bad thing about the end of the ussr is the loss of dissident dystopian science fiction

  27. Rob K

    Remember those expensive white boards with printers so you could print what was on the white board? I know, I’m dating myself with that reference…

    1. Cam MacRae

      Used one this morning! But then I write with a fountain pen… (seriously).

  28. Avram

    How ironic that the post had a photocopier ad on my google reader page.

    1. kenberger

      I see that too on Netvibes.This is very exciting to me: we were debating this topic here on this blog 3 or 4 years ago, the notion that in time, ads would finally get smart and relevant. Maybe it’s finally happening.

  29. daryn

    Check out the “Scandy” on kickstarter :)http://www.kickstarter.com/…

  30. panterosa,

    Where is JotNot app in this discussion? So cool and useful. Love it.

    1. Marios Koufaris

      I agree. I use JotNot constantly instead of a photocopier. And it creates pdf documents that I can email directly from my phone

      1. panterosa,

        I like also that it can convert to text with a plug in so you can use the copy in text form which you have taken a phone pic of in JotNot.I think JotNot, in addition to the ‘add signature feature’  Fred posted a while back makes life on the go infinitely easier. I’ve forgotten what that service is, but combined with JotNot it is the greatest way to get docs scanned, signed and returned via phone.Do you remember which service that is?

  31. Brian Park

    Good to know you’re human. (wink)Thanks for the laugh.

  32. panterosa,

    And when is that signature thing I heard of going to come into play? the software thing which tracks how your signature is signed, like video vs. still – it takes a fingerprint of the rhythm of your signature which then becomes the ID of your signing, not just the print version of the mark you made

  33. Donna Brewington White

    My teens who have never used a scanner and don’t really know what one is constantly “scan” with their iPhones and think nothing of it.  Would never occur to them to do otherwise.I learn a lot by watching them use technology.

  34. Donna Brewington White

    Thanks for the tip on Clayton Christensen.  Shocked to discover that I wasn’t following him already.  I’ve been following his co-founder Whitney Johnson and she is a great find as well.  http://twitter.com/johnsonw…

  35. Benjamin Kerensa

    It will be a great day when use of paper is minimal at best…. Photocopying should be a thing of the best but unfortunately some businesses and governments still demand paper copies.

  36. eitank

    “There’s an app for that” 🙂

  37. Kathryn

    try that with a 50 page legal document….then take it over to the courthouse and try to file it…

  38. baba12

    Between a tablet and services like dropbox, people are printing less and less.Scanning a document into your computer and then doing what you need to do with it or taking a picture of it and doing the same is effective & productive plus lowering the costs both financially and environmentally. I have not bought new printer ink since it got finished 3 months back and so far have managed just fine.What does this mean for the companies that make these machines, will they see what is happening and change course or have already changed course. The larger they are the less likely they have decided to cannibalize their market share and moved on to the next big thing.

  39. Brad

    This happened to me in China. Could not get to a fax machine, signed a document and sent it to the bank. The bank had never had that before, so they asked me to fax it as soon as possible.

  40. Kevin

    My all-in-one printer broke and I’ve been using an iPhone app called Scanner Pro instead of replacing the scanner.  It’s pretty great.  For large documents it could be a pain, but for anything smaller, it’s perfect.

  41. kenberger

    …and you turned round and offered him your new Analyst spot.The irony of the situation, indeed!

    1. fredwilson

      i should have

  42. Susan Wilson

    Thank gosh you exited your investment in liveprint/kinkos.com b/c clearly geniuses at Kinko’s, Inc. NEVER saw that coming.  Given sarcasm doesn’t always translate, let me clarify that WAS in fact sarcasm!Any other “toys” come to mind?  

    1. fredwilson

      it is sad that more didn’t come of the liveprint/kinkos deal

  43. maithreyi

    I love not needing to connect my laptop to a printer for personal use..ever anymore. Also, whats pretty great is that most businesses accept coupons from your mobile device (or app), saving us millions of sheets of papers compared to just 10 years ago.

  44. thinkdisruptive

    Several embedded assumptions in this article that are false.- Not everyone who rents a bicycle either has a smart phone, or is necessarily carrying it with them- if you take a crap picture, it won’t be useful later- this does not target an unmet need, under-served market with a low end solution (pen and paper, or photocopier are still more convenient for the masses), although it does cater to a higher end user, and depends on the customer to solve the problem, when it would be more convenient for the store to solve it for the customer- how is a smart phone a toy?I have used my phone for similar things. Taking a quick pic of samples or ideas to evaluate later at home can work, but it also doesn’t work a significant percentage of the time. Bad color, pic out of focus, resolution not good enough to do anything with. But, I find that others around me often marvel that I do that (contractors don’t get it, people with shopping lists don’t get it, people without the technology don’t get it). We are talking about a solution that only works for high-end tech literate consumers – there are lots of smartphones out there, but they aren’t yet pervasive enough for any shopkeep to suggest this as a “good enough” solution.  Still well below 50% of most potential market segments carry one. I think we make the false assumption that everyone is like us – that’s a poor way to target markets or decide if something is a “good enough” low end solution to a problem.Now, if the bike store had a smart phone for things like this, and offered the service (as a matter of course) to take pics for you and email them if you didn’t have your own phone, then it would be a good enough cheap solution for the majority of the market. In fact, it’s not a bad idea for a lot of stores – include a picture of the items, associated with the sizes, and now you do have a good enough solution most of the time. You having to do it yourself caters to too small a market to fix the general problem, and doesn’t make things more convenient, or a better experience for a large percentage of potential customers.

  45. Matt Straz

    I use this technique all the time during white boarding sessions. At the end of a meeting I’ll snap a bunch of pictures with my iPhone.I save them and often go back to them, especially the diagrams that were drawn freely on the spur of the moment without thinking.That’s when the “IP” of most startups are really created and live now.

    1. MarilynCraig

      I have more photos of whiteboards and meeting notes on my phone than photos of…well, other stuff. The fastest way to make sure everyone has the meeting minutes/decision immediately.The other day, during a process mapping session, I commented how nice it was that we could just take a picture of the whiteboard and be done. And then realized, that we could have always done it this way – with that lovely 4m pixel camera my husband gave me…years…ago. But it never occurred to us to do that with a real camera. It took the camera phone. huh.

  46. Josh

    My first experience with “camera as copier” this was at a brunch I was having with my family. My dad was parking the car, we were seated, and we wanted to order because we were in a rush. Instead of waiting for my dad to park and come over, I snapped a picture of the menu, texted it to him, and he texted me back what he wanted us to order for him,

    1. Jasonpwright

      Smart 🙂

    2. Adrian Meli

      That is intelligent. Printing companies have been making the point that the numbers of things that need to be printed will go way up so that printing will not go into decline. It seems like a weak argument and that over time we all will be accustomed to using our phones, tablets, etc. in more innovative ways. I would guess tablets reaching the sub $200 price point pushes us even more in that direction faster…

  47. Jason

    I love riding bicycles. Got a Serotta dirt road bike with a front disc and a rear canti brake and a Wound Up cyclocross fork – uber stiff – which I compensate for with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires at lower pressures.Calistoga – I don’t know it, but it’s not too far away from the residence of a very well known and very successful VC. I wonder if a new joint venture investment deal will be taking shape out on the trail? 

  48. NICCAI

    I’d like my camera to have “paper recognition” so it would zoom/focus on the sheet in question.

  49. jdelvat

    I’m on a business trip in Bogota, Colombia.In the hotel lobby, they have a computer with deals, but no printer.So I took a picture of the coupon with my phone.Thanks, Fred, your trick saved me 10% on my mojitos ;o)

  50. Elia Freedman

    The only reason I have even cared about upgrading to Lion is that new PDF signature feature they have. That looks awesome! Apparently you write or scan your signature and assign it to the Preview app. It makes the image transparent and, when requested, will “paste” it on the line for you.

  51. William Mougayar

    Kodak…yup. They are on the brink of brankruptcy. A 131-year old company, and they couldn’t use the last 10 years to re-invent themselves. A sad ending to an American business legend company. 

  52. spatro

    Hi Charlie,There is even a much simpler app to sign documents using iPhone or iPad. Try EasySign App which lets you sign and fill almost any document format (PDF, Office, Image) without any printing, scanning and faxing. You can draw your signature on the iPhone itself using your finger.RegardsSunil Patrops: I am the co-founder at EasySignMobile.com.



  54. ShanaC

    I thought they were already.  A pity, they have some of the best imaging patents out there.

  55. testtest

    agreed.enterprise value == ~700mpatent value == 3b

  56. fredwilson

    He’s one of my main inspirations

  57. Trish Burgess-Curran

    I just started following him (literally) in Twitter.  I am follower 8,305.Thanks to you and Fred for mentioning him.  I used to follow him but had not done so in quite a while.  Time to re-connect!