Support vs Access: Why Highlighter picked Seattle

A new tech-publishing startup chose Seattle over New York or Silicon Valley.

HighlighterLogo.PNGAnnotation and marginalia issues in digital publishing have been much discussed here on Radar and elsewhere. Solutions are being brought to the table, the latest and perhaps most in-depth of which is Highlighter, an application that allows readers to interact with words, sentences or paragraphs of content on any content management system. (Audrey Watters has a nice breakdown of Highlighter’s capabilities on ReadWriteWeb.)

For more on the company — including its location outside the publishing and tech epicenters of New York and Silicon Valley — I turned to Highlighter co-founder and CEO Josh Mullineaux (@JoshMullineaux). Mullineaux will also be speaking at next week’s miniTOC Portland in Portland, Ore.

Do you consider Highlighter to be a tech company or a publishing company

Josh_Mullineaux.pngJosh Mullineaux: I see Highlighter as more of a tech company. The reason being that we are a very software-heavy company with plans to produce more software. We are a publishing company, too, because our goal is to bring publishers and readers together, via our software.

Why did you choose not to locate in Silicon Valley or New York City?

Josh Mullineaux: We are all from Seattle, our families are here, most of our investors are here, and Seattle is a fantastic place to start a software/technology company. There is a large talent pool here with Amazon and Microsoft, and now Facebook and Zynga as well. Seattle is a close-knit community, so networking and getting to know others in both the technology and publishing industries is fairly easy to do. The people of Seattle also are committed to making this a great place to start a company and to nurturing our community.

miniTOC Portland — Being held on Wednesday, July 27, 2011, miniTOC Portland will bring together art, business, craft and technology leaders for a day of collaboration in Portland, Ore.

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Do you have concerns about not being in one of the tech or publishing epicenters?

Josh Mullineaux: I attended Book Expo America in New York this year for the first time, and I must say that I was immediately impressed with the concentration of people in the publishing industry based in New York City. If there’s a drawback to our location, it would be that. Seattle simply doesn’t have the number of publishing companies and people in the publishing industry that New York has. That said, I’m sure I’ll be spending more time in New York connecting with people and companies.

What are your short- and long-term goals for Highlighter?

Josh Mullineaux: When we launched our first WordPress plugin about eight months ago, we learned a lot about how people wanted to use Highlighter and the sorts of features that were going to be most useful for our customers. Now with the public launch of Highlighter, the product is completely based off of user requests and where we see Highlighter as being most effective. Our short-term goal is to really refine the product to something that authors, bloggers, and educators absolutely love.

Our goal for authors is to make their online content more social, help them drive more traffic to their content, help them write content that their readers love, and in the end, help them sell more books.

For educators, we want to make their online content even better. We have partnered with professors at the University of Colorado, University of Washington, and Northwestern University, and we are making their online content for courses more engaging. This means allowing students and professors to interact over specific sentences, paragraphs, and images and also making it easier for students to save important notes and snippets of texts or images to their Highlighter account. The education market is something we’re excited about.

Long term, we want to be an indispensable part of education and to authors. We want to make sure we’re helping authors sell more books and helping education become more effective.

This interview was edited and condensed.

For more on how Highlighter works, check out the following video:


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