April 19, 2018

HighWire Press Acquires Semantico

HighWire Press logoScholarly publishing company HighWire Press on December 12 announced the acquisition of Semantico, a UK-based technology provider for academic publishers. In addition to Semantico’s next-generation integrated content platform Scolaris, and its cloud-based identity and access management system SAMS Sigma, the company collaborates with major publishers on custom, UX-oriented projects, such as McGraw Hill Education’s DataVis data visualization tool, or the recent redesign and relaunch of The Royal Marsden Manual’s latest online edition for Wiley.

These services and capabilities will become part of a portfolio of solutions including HighWire’s BenchPress end-to-end submission, editorial tracking, peer review, and production solution for scholarly manuscripts; the HighWire Open Platform with Drupal JCore, which enables publishers to repurpose, integrate, and monetize content within HighWire hosted publications; the Folio ebooks platform; and Impact Vizor and Usage Vizor analytics tools. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, and post-merger organizational details are still being finalized. HighWire plans to keep open its headquarters in Los Gatos, CA, as well as the new office it opened this spring in Belfast, UK, and Semantico’s office in Brighton, UK.

“What we’ve created here is a combined company that offers the broadest set of solution choices for our customers,” HighWire CEO Dan Filby told LJ. “We’ve also created the largest independent provider [of technology and services] to scholarly publishers, and really with unparalleled scalability and stability.”

With the acquisition, HighWire collectively operates over 4,000 websites for journals, ebooks, reference works, etc., hosting over eight million articles for 12 million registered users, and supporting over 260 million activities on its platform per month.

The acquisition will expand HighWire’s global footprint as well, Filby added. “Not only will we have another office just outside of London, we also currently have continuous operations in our business…. When people end their workday [in the UK offices]—whether they’re developers or QA or support people, they pass the work right back to the people in the Silicon Valley office who then carry it on.”

HighWire’s aim is to have all offices operate as “full stack” facilities, rather than have each office focus on a specific part of the development process or serve regional customers exclusively.

“We set up our business purposefully that way,” Filby said. “When and if we acquire companies, we add to that story. Instead of opening up an office in London, and saying that it’s only going to service our London customers, or it’s only going to be a development facility…[the offices will have] all of the different functions in them. So they’re fully integrated. We’ll actually get a lot more support for all of our customers, no matter where they are located geographically. ”

However, Filby did praise the Semantico team’s “very strong UX design capabilities. It’s something that, as a combined organization, we can leverage across our collective product set…. When you look at the products and solutions that the combined companies offer, they’re actually very complementary. It’s not an integration where we’re having to make choices between competing products.”

HighWire Press was originally founded by Stanford University Libraries in 1995. Through a significant strategic growth–supporting investment in 2014, Menlo Park, CA–based private equity firm Accel-KKR acquired majority ownership of the company. However, libraries and librarians continue to be a key focus for HighWire, Filby said. Stanford retained a significant minority stake in the company, and HighWire founder Michael Keller—who is now vice provost, academic council, Stanford University Libraries—is on the company’s board of directors.

“Librarians are our customers’ customers, so we spend a lot of time with them,” Filby said. “We have formed a library advisory council that we meet with regularly to seek input and discuss strategic ideas.”

In addition, Filby said the company plans to continue enhancing tools used by librarians, such as HighWire’s institutional subscription management system and administrator toolbox. “We’re going to be, very quickly, creating a combined roadmap, and that’s one of the areas where we’ve had strength in the past, and an area we will continue to enhance in the future.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com, @matthewenis on Twitter, matthewenis.com) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.