Featured BizSpark Startup - FormVerse

Email is one of the most utilized and effective means for communication in business.  It is used by more than a billion users.  It organizes meetings. It helps teams build ideas. It takes products from ideas to shipping. It's truly amazing at what it does. But could it do more? Many groups are trying to figure out how to add deeper functionality to email, just to see what else it can do.  BizSpark graduate FormVerse, Inc., is one of them. 

FormVerse is a platform for building workflow applications inside of Microsoft Outlook.  It turns a company’s email infrastructure into a powerful and ubiquitous Business Process Automation (BPA) tool.  According to founder Kirk Deininger, "We assist organizations in improving decision-making by leveraging content to drive growth, support compliance requirements, and reduce data management costs.  FormVerse leverages a company’s existing email infrastructure, so it can be implemented in a fraction of the time and fraction of the cost of legacy BPA solutions.

Deininger went on to say that “email has always been a very unstructured way of communicating in business.  By enabling a structured process within email, not only do organization have the ability to automate workflow across departments, but also can extract all of this data from email applications like Outlook and integrate that data into other systems, such as ERP systems, CRM’s, HR systems, even SharePoint databases and Excel spreadsheets.  From a CIO’s perspective, why not allow staff to use their email system (which they use every day) for managing workflow processes throughout the organization.  Then allow that data to automatically flow to other critical systems in the organization.  It’s a solution that is being very well received in the marketplace.”

Microsoft BizSpark: Sounds like a team that is trying to make the most effective means for work communication actually do just that! We love it!  

A brief description of your Application:

FormVerse provides a user-centric, email-based business process automation (BPA) solution embedded in Microsoft Outlook—the most widely used email application in the world—that enables the rapid automation of business processes in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of legacy BPA/BPM solutions.

FormVerse’s patented Active Structured Email™ technology adds structured forms and workflow capabilities to Outlook, transforming corporate email from an informal, unstructured medium to a highly structured one, and enabling organizations to leverage email as an agile and ubiquitous BPA tool. The form actually becomes the email, not simply an attachment.  No other company has taken the approach of delivering a cost-effective BPA solution within an organization’s standard email environment where knowledge workers spend around 50% of their day.

Once initial setup is complete, FormVerse empowers business personnel at all levels to automate business processes without requiring support from IT. Adoption is fast and easy, since no “new application” is introduced. Users no longer need to leave their email application in order to leverage this automation. Everything is done within Microsoft Outlook, for example, and all process data is captured and available for integration with enterprise applications and databases so as to enhance corporate decision making. This is an approach to business process automation that makes sense, and FormVerse is the only company to deliver it.

Microsoft BizSpark: Microsoft technologies that you are using in conjunction with the development of your application?

FormVerse is built on Microsoft® .NET, and Outlook/Exchange, and MS SQL Server technologies, as well as exploiting the advantages of XML and Web Services technologies. FormVerse leverages these technologies and Microsoft Exchange to provide a platform for Business Process Automation and development of other workflow applications. By leveraging its patented Active Structured Email™ technology, organizations implementing FormVerse are able to greatly enhance other initiatives such as: Archiving, eDiscovery, Compliance, Supply Chain, HR automation, and modernization of legacy systems.

Technology Overview

FormVerse transforms traditional email into a powerful application engine. Components include:

FormVerse Processing Server for Microsoft Exchange: Executes processing rules as defined by the organization such as rule-based email dispatching and data processing. It expedites, tracks, and simplifies the use of electronic forms, which are sent embedded in email and processed instantaneously over LAN/WAN and Internet.

FormVerse Registry Server: Ensures that only authorized users registered with the system are provided access to the forms, and that the forms receive appropriate routing in accordance with business rules.

FormVerse Outlook Client: A small add-on which provides transparent use of FormVerse-enhanced email without changing end-user email behaviors. Forms are just an email address away from being accessible. End-users are able to receive and take action on FormVerse emails from within Microsoft Outlook. FormVerse Outlook Client also interacts with the registry server to ensure the appropriate users have access.

FormVerse Admin Console: Implemented as a standard Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, this module provides the administration interface for all FormVerse components. Here administrators can orchestrate a FormVerse deployment and manage the Process Template, Accounts and FormVerse Services. The Admin Console also provides the import account wizard which allows importing users from Active Directory. FormVerse utilizes batch processing, which allows jobs to be set up so they can be run to completion without human interaction.

FormVerse Database: Stores and serves the FormVerse Process Templates to end-users as and when initiated.  Data collected through FormVerse email forms uses XML as a neutral data interchange format. The FormVerse processing engine, as defined by the business process rules, extracts the data contained in a FormVerse e-mail and applies the processing rules defined for that particular process; such as routing the email to the appropriate recipient(s), or inserting form data into a database.

FormVerse Template Editor: Provides a flexible platform for designing FormVerse Process Templates, including dispatching rules (i.e. which forms to send to a recipient) and processing rules. By utilizing user-friendly wizards, or the powerful .NET script-based rules editor, users are able to define any kind of simple or complex set of dispatch/processing rules to implement their business processes.

FormVerse Process Rule Editor: Embedded in the Template Editor, provides a visual design interface for defining the core of a business process, specifying the various steps that make up the process, the conditions that govern transitions from one step to another, and actions that may be taken at each step from process initiation to completion. It can be used to define even the most complex business processes in an intuitive way.

Kirk Deininger, President and CEO - FormVerse


Microsoft BizSpark: Do you build for scale first, or for revenue? How are those things related in your mind?

We have a B2B solution that we’re selling into corporations.  When I think about scale, to me it means being able to handle the demands of large corporations.  From the start FormVerse was designed and developed to handle the large volumes of transactions expected from enterprise customers. 

Driving revenue has been a key focus of our team from day one.  The ability to derive revenue from our products and services is validation of the value we provide our customers.

Microsoft BizSpark: How are they related?  

Without scale, there is no revenue.  Without revenue, there is no scale.

BizSpark: How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale?

There are many people and causes that I want to help/support.  Every day I see opportunities where I can make a difference in someone’s life.  I want to be a mentor for young people and help them achieve their dreams of creating exciting technology and companies to go with it.

I am extremely serious about creating world class products and a world class company, which will help me with my goal of helping others.

BizSpark: What are some of the challenges you face as a founder or developer at a startup, when it comes to dealing with family life, or socially? Does working on a startup change the way you associate and interact in these areas?

The great thing about being on the West Coast is that I can start early in the morning talking to our technical team on the East Coast.  Then I can work all day to get 11-12 hours in before 6:00 pm.  It’s when I sneak into my home office after dinner for a two hour conference call that I get in trouble with my wife!  She puts up with a lot, but she says “enough is enough!”

Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?

Our relationship with Microsoft while building FormVerse has been amazing; early on we were accepted into the BizSpark program.  The tools provided by the BizSpark team have helped us build our solution and develop our product road map. As important is our relationship with other areas of Microsoft, such as the Microsoft Office and Office 365 team.  In particular, Microsoft sees value on FormVerse as a way for their customers to easily expand the use of Outlook and Office 365.  The more relationships a customer has with Microsoft, the “stickier” that customer becomes.  Together, Microsoft and FormVerse represent a very natural partnership.

Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?

We chose to use the Microsoft product stack as the platform for developing FormVerse for two reasons.

    1. Microsoft’s marketing reach and customer base. 
      1. Nearly one billion Outlook users
      1. 75 percent + of companies use Outlook for email
    1. Product Quality
      1. We can always be sure of the quality of the Microsoft stack.
      1. FormVerse and millions of other companies depend on products from Microsoft to manage their mission critical applications.

Microsoft was the obvious choice for us!