Quark’s new path

Den­ver desk­top-pub­lish­ing pi­o­neer rein­vents self, at­tract­ing buyer

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ta­mara Chuang

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.”

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