Cambridge Catalyst Issue 08 Newsletter


John Doherty, founder and CEO at barcode scanner app Orca Scan, gives us his business pitch

What’s your pitch? We help companies track anything, anywhere – instantly, accurately and affordably. Whether it’s medicines, machine parts or medical devices; if it matters to your business, we’ll help keep you on top of howmany you’ve got, where they are, how long they’ve been in store and whether you need to restock. We remove the need for expensive barcode scanners or typing data into spreadsheets: just download the free Orca Scan mobile app and use the camera on your phone. It’s that simple. How old is the company and how did it start? It started with an all-night coding session with my teenage son in 2016. He had a summer job where he would travel the UK scanning barcodes on thousands of solar panels to allow energy companies to understand which panels were in use in which location. He came home one evening with a barcode scanner and asked if there was a way to keep the button pressed so he could walk the field and continuously scan. I was building mobile prototypes for Cambridge University at the time, so we burned the midnight – and early-morning – oil to create a mobile app that would replace the hardware. He took it to work and his team loved it. He came home that night with a few feature requests and we’ve continued to improve the product based on user feedback since that day. What’s your role and background? I confess to being one of the original geeks. I’ve been obsessed with programming since the age of 11, when

I started by typing games from a magazine into a ZX Spectrum. That obsession evolved into a career as a software engineer. I’ve since spent the past 20 years writing enterprise software for companies such as RR Donnelley, ADP and Cambridge University. Today I am the co-founder and CEO of Orca Scan and fortunate enough to be working with a cracking team of techies who really care about the challenges faced by our users. What makes the company unique? Where some companies might obsess about their competitors, we obsess about our users. We try to really understand the problem they’re trying to solve and, where possible, visit them on-site to experience the problem first-hand. There is something strangely powerful about engineers observing a manual/tedious task. Feeling their pain builds customer empathy and that empathy makes it into the product. What makes us unique is that Orca Scan feels very much like an open-source project. We started with a very simple prototype and have evolved it based on user feedback – the net result is a product our customers built. Biggest achievement so far? Orca Scan is used by 25%of the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies, including Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Nasa and GE. But our

proudest moment to date was helping organisations around the world respond to the Covid-19 outbreak by tracking everything from personal protective equipment to medical devices.

ABOVE John Doher ty is the founder and CEO of Orca Scan

Biggest challenges? As Orca evolves and the system

becomes more powerful, it’s important we maintain the simplicity and user experience that has brought us to where we are today. As it turns out, keeping things simple is incredibly complex. Which individuals or companies are your biggest inspirations? I find Apple’s design and user experience phenomenal. It makes products that are brilliantly intuitive, requiring very little user interaction. I remember watching my two- year-old son pick up an iPad for the first time, navigate to a game and launch it – all without been able to read a single word on the screen. That’s incredible usability. Where do you want to be in five years? We want to transform supply chains by eliminating the need for pen and paper, the duplication of data entry and the emailing of spreadsheets. We’re building a system that will make organisations around the world much more efficient by having full visibility of their entire supply chain at a single glance. Find out more about at

We try to really understand the problem our users are trying to solve and, where possible, visit them on-site to experience the problem first-hand"




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