Quark’s new path
Denver desktop-publishing pioneer reinvents self, attracting buyer
On its way to reinventing itself, the oncemighty Quark Software Inc. emerged Wednesday with a new owner, Parallax Capital Partners, a private-equity firm based in Laguna Hills, Calif.
The software company, one of Denver’s largest privately held firms in the 1990s, said Parallax paid an undisclosed amount to Quark’s most recent owner, Platinum Equity, which also acquired Quark for an undisclosed amount in 2011, so it’s a mystery how that investment went.
But before the Parallax deal closed, Quark began gaining attention for its new focus: content automation. Quark, best known for dominating the desktop publishing industry in the 1980s and ’90s, began picking up awards for technology that helps clients automatically create, for example, investor reports by reusing existing legal text, charts and other data. The report can be automatically formatted and distributed online — to mobile screens and other devices — all while staying secure and in compliance with any legal regulations.
“The Quark Content Automation platform is cool because it provides an objectoriented approach to the creation, discovery and management of business content. The platform automates the standardization of content into machine-readable and reusable objects,” wrote Karen Hobert, a Gartner analyst who in May named Quark a “cool vendor” because of its use of artificial intelligence in content.
Last month, Quark became a finalist for the “Best Multi-Channel Publishing Platform” in the software industry’s SIIA CODiE Awards.
“When we started to get traction, it attracted growth investors,” said Ray Schiavone, Quark’s CEO since 2006. “That’s what attracted Parallax — they’re softwareminded growth investors that are looking to help us scale.”
In a statement, Parallax managing partner James Hale called Quark “transformational (in) redefining how organizations create, manage, publish and deliver business-critical content.”
Quark has a long way to go to recapture its status from the 1990s, when nearly every U.S. newspaper and magazine used Quark’s software to design their pages. It was
founded in 1981 by Tim Gill, who sold the company in 2000 to focus on advancing equality for the LGBTQ community. More recently, Gill cofounded Denver voiceactivated, home-automation startup Josh.ai, which raised an $8 million investment.
But Quark faltered in trying to keep up with competition such as Adobe. Before shifting the majority of engineers to India around 2002, Quark employed 440 people in Denver, according to a Denver Post story from 2002.
Today, Schiavone said, Quark has about 25 to 30 people in Denver and 300 worldwide. It still has a version of QuarkXPress, its desktop publishing software. Most of its engineers are in India, where some employees have been for more than 15 years, Schiavone said. The company also has offices in Dublin and Florida.
While Schiavone declined to share annual revenues, he said its move to focus on enterprise content automation is growing at 24 percent a year and now makes up two-thirds of Quark’s revenue. Clients include major financial and research clients such as IHS Markit and Goldman Sachs. With new owner Parallax, Quark plans to expand aggressively by hiring more sales and marketing staff and by exploring acquisitions, Schiavone said.
“The acquisition is the news, but the real story is the turnaround and the change in the company over the last seven to eight years,” Schiavone said. “We saw a big change coming with digitization, so we invested a fair amount in digital publishing to help publishers publish very quickly. We saw a move to content automation.”