Addicted to novelty since 2001

Business Card Data Extraction

Here’s a service I want. Basically, it’s RipDigital for business cards. I want to be able to put the 200 business cards I’ve collected over the past couple of years into an envelope and send them off to a company. This company will extract the data from the business cards and make it available to me in several formats (CSV file, Outlook contacts, etc). For bonus points, they’d have a Web interface that shows me a scan of each card (to jog my memory) and lets me annotate each contact with additional information.

I know that there are many business card scanners, but I have two problems with them. One, optical character recognition continues to disappoint me. There are always messy errors. Two, I just can’t be bothered. I’d be happy to pay for this service instead of scanning and tweaking all this data myself. Surely with third-world out-sourcing this service could be offered at an affordable price.

This service might already exist. I did a quick run through Google, and came up empty.

10 Responses to “Business Card Data Extraction”

  1. fyfey

    My advice is be bothered Darren.
    Write yourself a little database or spreadsheet , or buy a lead tracker, or download a free one, do the work entering your collection (it’s only 200 cards – an arvo at most) and move on!
    Actions always speak louder than blogs.

  2. Darren

    Thanks for that. I’m a firm believer in paying other people to do things that I don’t want to do. In this case, my time is more valuable to me than my money.

    What’s an arvo, incidentally?

    Ah, I looked it up. From

    Short for afternoon

    There’s no indication of it’s etymology there, but this page ( says it’s a 1930s abbreviation. This Google search suggests that it’s Australian in origin.

    I learned a new word. Thanks.

  3. Ryan

    To me it seems like you would spend just as much time (if not more) subscribing to a service as you would just tapping the information into your PDA.

    When I was reading this the first time I thought you were going the social networking way with this, in that case, send your business contacts to potential employers and maybe they’ll hire you for “knowing the right people.”

    If you still want to do this though, I suggest you start using Linux and eventually you’ll just come to know the scripting required to do this. Once you get there, just automate the rest of your life while you’re at it.

  4. Darren

    Ryan: Maybe I haven’t articulated my model very well. Basically, I put my business cards in an envelope (better yet, the service provides me with a self-addressed envelope) and send them off. A week or so later, I get the cards back, plus I get my data in my desired formats (via FTP or on CD or whatever). I imagine most of the demand would be for Microsoft Outlook.

    The tweaking through a Web interface is purely optional. For example, I might want to note when a client’s birthday is, or reference the conference where I met somebody.

    Put cards in envelope and mail = 10 minutes (less, if you courier them)
    Acquire data and import into Outlook = 5 minutes

    I’m thinking it would take at least 30 seconds or a minute per card to input all of the card data. Say it’s 45 seconds x 200 cards. I’ve just saved myself two hours and a lot of banal work.

  5. jenny

    Wow I can’t believe some of the stupid responses you’ve received. This is a MARVELLOUS idea you have and I can think of a lot of people and businesses that would pay for such a service – a one-time model or subscription would even work so you could send them cards a few times a year. I know, because I once entered over 700 business cards into Outlook for a job.

    Trust me, it wasn’t pretty and make that at least 5 arvos.

    Imagine having this service at your fingertips as a sales organization – send cards off, receive perfectly formatted information that can be used company-wide back. Fantastic!

  6. Joe

    How much would you pay for this service Darren?

  7. Darren

    Hmmm…let’s see…maybe 40 or 50 cents a card? That’s just a shot in the dark, but that’s in my ballpark.

  8. Lynsey

    Rocco paid $9000 US for 6000 business cards.

  9. Sue

    Having just spent about 80 minutes inputting information from approx. 40 business cards into Outlook, my first response to this was unless you find some very well-trained monkeys, you’re going to have to pay more than 50 cents per card.

    Then I reconsidered. Actually, much of my time was actually spent trying to use the “tab” key to get to the entry fields I needed in Outlook’s contact form. An enterprising soul could create their own streamlined form for entering this information into a generic database, then program some kind of data translation utility that would prepare each record in Outlook contact format.

    If you could get the time per card down to less than 1 minute per card, and pay your staff $15 or less per hour, you would have a fairly attractive gross margin on this service. Beyond that, you’d have to have good logistics and a very accurate, organized method for keeping track of orders. It could be a very profitable business.

    With that said, Darren, I know of a young lady who has helped me out in the past with entering contacts into Outlook, and I’ll email you her information.

  10. Sue

    I just re-read my above comment. Good lord, I am a geek.

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