Ike Kavas turned his American dream into a multimillion-dollar company.
“I grew up in Turkey in a small town,” the Ephesoft Inc. founder and chief executive told the Business Journal.
Inspired by the work ethic of his father who was a farmer and math teacher, Kavas earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer systems before setting his sights on America with just $100 in his pocket.
“Turkey was too small for me,” Kavas said.
Kavas is now a key name in the automation software industry, having pioneered new ways documents are automated using artificial intelligence (AI).
Starting in 2010, Ephesoft saw year-over-year growth of more than 30%, making it one of industry’s fastest-growing competitors.
Kavas was one of five honored at the Business Journal’s Innovator of the Year Awards on Sept. 8 at the Irvine Marriott.
Ephesoft has made the lives of customers “easier through power and innovation,” said Jarrod Ingle, regional president of PNC Bank, while presenting the award to Kavas.
Coming to America, Kavas knew no one. He tried out different jobs in the tech industry before finding his passion for intelligent document processing while working for Irvine-based Kofax, one of the leading firms in the industry.
After several years, Kavas left the company with the ambitious plan to start a software firm of his own.
With savings and an additional $1,000 borrowed from his father, he founded Ephesoft, which created software that expedited the process of how computers extract and store information from a document.
Last month, everything came full circle.
On Aug. 18, Kofax, backed by new private equity owners TA Associates and Clearlake Capital Group, acquired Ephesoft.
“We believe we can add value and reach to more customers with our technology under Kofax’s umbrella,” said Kavas, who’s now senior vice president of AI and innovation of the combined company.
He plans to remain with the company for the time being, spearheading the integration of the two firm’s technologies.
Ephesoft and Kofax’s soon-to-be combined technologies are expected to work together to eliminate manual, task-oriented processes in the modern workplace.
Most utilized by the IRS, banks, and other financial service companies, the document processing software helps keep track of paper and electronic files such as PDFs.
“Paper went away. It all became digital,” Kavas said.
The cloud-based technology also makes the act of retrieving data and information much more effective and efficient, officials note.
Building a Future
Kavas bootstrapped Ephesoft by using the money earned from selling products to hire new engineers.
“The challenges were all about cash. We had to sell in order to pay the payroll,” Kavas said.
After seven years, investors started backing the company; which prior to the Kofax sale was prepping for a $50 million fundraise.
That solved one problem while bringing on a new set of challenges: scaling the company.
Kavas aimed to surround himself with the best individuals to take Ephesoft to the next level, such as the company’s CFO Naren Goel, and Head of Corporate Strategy Lynn Tanattanawin. The company then expanded internationally, mostly through referrals.
Prior to its sale to Kofax, Ephesoft operated in about 15 offices in the U.S., two in Europe, and a development team in India, servicing around 800 customers in 50 countries.
As part of the new relationship, Kofax will adopt Ephesoft’s AI technology in its intelligent automation software while Ephesoft will extend its reach and become part of a much larger company.
Ephesoft previously counted 130 employees; the expanded firm has approximately 2,300 employees. The terms of acquisition were undisclosed.
In his new role, Kavas aims to ensure “the integration is successful, so both companies can merge well, and the team members can operate at their highest levels.”
Longer-term plans for the entrepreneur have yet to be decided.
“Getting this award is the validation that me and my team did a good job,” Kavas said.