#Asia Bookworms are throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at this scanner startup. Yes, a scanner

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When the team at Czur started their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo last month, they set a modest goal of US$20,000. A faster and more accurate scanner certainly sounds like an interesting device, but probably not one that would attract thousands of ecstatic fans, right?

Wrong. People leapt at it and won’t stop dumping money into Czur. The startup broke through its initial funding target in less than two days, doubled it soon thereafter, tripled it in no time, and has now raised more than 2,500 percent of the original goal, coming in at more than US$510,000.

It’s a scanner, not a jetpack. What has gotten the internet so excited about Czur?

Most scanners are pretty terrible

If you don’t have to use a scanner frequently, consider yourself lucky. The rickety printer-top devices are slow, often lack the resolution of a decent camera, and if you sneeze within ten feet of them, expect to receive nothing but a blurry mess. Professional high-resolution scanners – the kinds used by photographers or archivists – are certainly better, but their prices can be staggeringly high, and most are still slooooow.

Czur was designed specifically with book and document scanning in mind. Previously, if a user wanted to scan the pages of a book, they had two options. The first was to open the book, place it in the scanner, scan it, edit that image to remove page creases and shadows, and then repeat the process hundreds of times. The second option was to invest insane sums of money into the kinds of digitization hardware and software used by the likes of Google.

“Many people complained that scanning is cumbersome and complex,” says Franklin Wang, a partner at CzurTek, the company behind Czur. “Each complaint contains business opportunities.”

The Czur team created a device that is wildly fast and mind-bendingly easy. We haven’t yet had the opportunity to test the Czur scanner for ourselves, but according to materials put out by the company, the scanner operates about as quickly as a camera shutter. Then, using custom-designed software, the scanned images are automatically edited to remove shadows, distortions, and errors. That means scanning the pages of a book is as easy as simply placing the book beneath the device and quickly flipping through the pages. To scan a document, users just pop it under the scanner’s lens for a moment, click a button, and the work is done.

The scanner also features wifi and cloud services, enabling users to scan images without installing drivers or software on their computers.

This demo video shows the device in action (accompanied by a slightly bizarre English narration):

The idea first came to founder Kang Zhou, a 29-year-old entrepreneur based in Shenzhen, back in 2013. After hearing his friends’ complaints about a lack of decent scanners, Zhou began calling everyone he knew who might have insights into how to build a machine that could handle documents, books, and more with ease. Some of those friends ended up being the first employees of CzurTek, which now numbers 37 people.

From the Communist Party to Indiegogo

In September, the Czur team got the kind of publicity that many entrepreneurs in China would kill for – the official endorsement of one of the country’s most recognizable political figures.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has pinpointed tech innovation as a national priority and has made several high-profile visits to makerspaces and startup hubs throughout the country. In September, he visited a tech fair in Dalian, in northeastern China. The CzurTek team was there and Li met with Kang.

Czur founder Kang Zhou (front right) meets Premiere Li Keqiang (left). Image via Xinhua

Czur founder Kang Zhou (front right) meets Premiere Li Keqiang (left). Image via Xinhua

Within China, it’s hard to get better publicity than that. But while the visit from Li may have endeared CzurTek to Chinese investors, western crowdfunding sites are a different story.

For its Indiegogo campaign, the Czur team made a number of English-language videos about the scanner and went on a PR blitz. The campaign allowed the first 150 backers to get one Czur for US$179 – a discount of more than 50 percent off the planned retail price – and even offered bundles of 10 and 30 devices.

“We did not think so many backers would support our Indiegogo campaign,” says Franklin. “Many even ordered the 10-pack, and some ordered the 30-pack.”

When it is officially for sale, the Czur scanner will go for around US$400. That’s cheaper than an industrial book scanner, sure, but it’s expensive enough that cashing in on the Indiegogo offer – now going for US$189 – has been too good for many to pass up.

More than 2,100 backers have contributed on Cruz’s page as of this article’s publication, and the company still has 14 days left to rake in as much cash as it can.

Building a sustainable business

While the flash-in-the-pan success of Premiere Li’s visit and their skyrocketing Indiegogo campaign have certainly boosted the Czur team’s morale, they will have to hunker down and build a long-term business model around their product.

Franklin says that CzurTek is working to develop local partners in various international markets as well as build up its China-based tech support team. In addition to hosting its own webstore when Czur officially launches – and the crowdfunding orders ship – next month, the team plans to sell its device on ecommerce stores like Taobao, JD, AliExpress, Amazon, and Lazada.

The company is also planning a fundraising push. CzurTek has already completed seed, angel, and pre-A rounds, and is now planning the next round of funding for this month. The company hopes to expand from 37 people to around 150 and it is hoping for annual sales – in both China and abroad – to total close to US$40 million.

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