Several months ago, a murderer in Kirkland left behind a bloody palm print. It was the only evidence linking him to the crime. Unfortunately, the print was on on fabric, whose strands crisscrossed the impressions, obscuring the telltale prints left by the subtle ridges in the flesh of the slayer’s hand. Yet MoreHits software was able to filter out the weave, producing a clear impression of the ridges and revealing the slayer’s identity.
MoreHits forensic imaging processing is a Tacoma company with only 14 employees, who last week were scattered about the world where 300 police agencies are devouring proposals from the company and 2,000 more agencies are eagerly waiting to hear from MoreHits.
Entrepreneur J.R. Poulsen and a cousin involved in law enforcement developed the MoreHits product, a software system that weeds out texture or color patterns that can obscure fingerprints, shoe prints or blood spatters and enhance details that can help police solve crimes—or, in the language of law enforcement professionals, score “more hits.” The software also can enhance surveillance or security camera footage or forgeries by filtering out the extraneous.
During the three-day training session included in the $40,000 to $50,000 purchase price, an agency typically solves at least one crime for which it previously lacked detailed evidence. The system also includes a video camera and scanner.
After MoreHits filters the image, it is ready for a database matchup provided by equipment provided by companies such as Morpho, another Tacoma-based enterprise. Tacoma Police Department was the first site in the country where fingerprints from MoreHits were directly downloaded into an Automated Fingerprint Identification System for identification through a digital database.
The system received FBI endorsement two months ago and became Interpol’s product of choice a month later.
“We’re the only one they recommend,” says Poulsen of the two police agencies.
MoreHits has also passed a Kelley Frye hearing, which makes evidence it processes admissible in court. One reason for its quick acceptance is that it tracks image enhancement history with date, time, function and user to protect the chain of custody and authenticate the end product.
Poulsen says his system also has applications in medicine, research, education, the military and government.
Version 2 of the software has just found its way onto the market and 2.5 already is in the works.
“We already meet standards the FBI would like to have by 2000,” says Poulsen, adding that version 2.5 will be the first in which all programming is done in-house. Previously, Poulsen relied on contract programmers but has begun turning profits substantial enough to enable MoreHits to hire its own.
MoreHits isn’t Poulsen’s first successful business venture. But it is the first one he has seriously considered making his life’s work. Until now, he says, his pattern has been to build up a company, then sell it, as he did Tac-Matic, his family’s vending company that tripled in size in seven years before being sold to a multinational company.
He says the excitement of MoreHits’ forensic image processing will keep him hooked for the foreseeable future, and the success of the company appears destined to permit him to stay with it as long as it interests him. The business has doubled in size for the past three years, he says, and the growth rate is increasing—more than half of 1997’s sales came in the fourth quarter.
Poulsen concedes that there are obvious growth pains. The company is squished into office space near the interchange of Interstate-5 and Highway 512 that was designed to accommodate the six original employees. There’s not nearly enough room for the 14 now on staff or the six additions he intends to make to the staff in the near future.
As a result, he’s negotiating to purchase a 5,000-square-foot site next month, a site he hopes will see the company through the next couple of years. Although downtown Tacoma was his first choice of locations, he says, the B&O tax convinced him to consider Fife and Lakewood instead.
“We’ll be bringing in clients from all over to see demonstrations of our product and get training,” he says. “It would be nice to have them stay at the Sheraton and see the sites in downtown Tacoma. But other city governments have foresight and are dedicated to business growth, while Tacoma’s makes the cost of doing business prohibitive.”
Poulsen has self funded his company for three years, expensing all the research and development.
“That is good for me,” he says, “but it doesn’t look good to investors.”
Imminent growth will require an influx of capital that he says he expects to generate either through a public offering or partnership.
MoreHits is a division of Poulsen’s PC Pros, which was formed in August 1990 when MicroSolutions and Microtechz merged. PC Pros continues to serve more than 500 business clients with custom personal computer and network systems.
For now, Poulsen says, the two ventures complement each other and allow him the flexibility of moving employees from one to the other as they are needed. PC Pros expects to gross more than $2.4 million in sales during fiscal 1998, he adds.
But MoreHits is where Poulsen foresees exponential growth and may eventually force him to make a choice between the two.