Tech Startup: Techpubs Global



INITIAL LIGHT BULB: A group of JetBlue pilots saw an opportunity for a startup to fill the vacuum for electronic documentation for the airline industry and launched the company in 2005. With a new XML-based data standard mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the time was ripe for a content-management provider to digitally centralize electronic versions of flight books and other required documents.
While the founders remain consultants, David Williams, a longtime IBM veteran, joined the company as CEO in 2008. The regulatory scrutiny has ramped up since a 2008 scandal characterized FAA staffers as getting too cozy with the airlines, Williams says.
The company now numbers 25 employees, about half of whom are based in Colorado, and Williams expects to add about 10 more by year’s end. Describing the company’s heady growth as a “balancing act,” he says the company is bucking the market and headed toward tripling its sales for this fiscal year.

IN A NUTSHELL: “Every airline has a whole slew of manuals,” Williams says, detailing procedures for not only pilots but technicians, flight attendants and ground crew. “Those manuals never got automated. By putting more information into the cockpit, the pilot is more empowered to make decisions.”
But in a heavily regulated industry like the airlines, electronic document management is even more important for improving efficiency. “The burden on airlines to engage with regulators is huge,” says Grant Slade, TechPubs VP of marketing. The disorganization that comes with decentralized paper documents “is a problem for everybody. Solving it has a huge impact on efficiency right down to the bottom line, and the regulators love it.”
TechPubs converts existing manuals into XML and other electronic formats and assists airlines in the management of electronic documents. “The more centralized content is, the better,” Slade says. “There’s lots of technology for document management. We add a couple of things on top of that: aviation-specific features and up-front industry expertise to do the consulting.”
TechPubs partnered with Boston-based content-management leader PTC in 2008 and is now its preferred vendor for the aviation industry. Current clients include Southwest Airlines – the country’s largest airline in terms of passengers – Allegiant Air and leading Middle East carrier Etihad Airways. Williams says the Middle East is emerging as a hub, and with many countries investing heavily in state airlines, it is a prime TechPubs target.
Selecting TechPubs Global was a “long process” for Southwest, says Don Tilden, director of centralized publications for the Dallas-based airline. “We didn’t want to staff up and do it ourselves, because it’s non-recurrent.”
Tilden says he expects the conversion and implementation to be completed in the spring and that it’s already made for regulatory efficiencies. “On a daily basis we are enjoying the ability to find any regulatory answers in our documents at a moment’s notice. It’s not a manual process based on somebody’s memory or scouring all of these books.”
Of TechPubs Global, he adds: “They’re a young company, but they’re very experienced. They’re industry experts.”

THE MARKET: Williams says he considers TechPubs’ market to be 90 percent of the world’s 2,000 airlines. He says he expects the company could legitimately hit 75 percent penetration, which would make for more than a billion dollars in annual sales.

FINANCING: The company was launched with the help of an angel investor in 2005. Another investment round closed in summer 2009; details were not disclosed.


– Grant Slade, TechPubs Global vice president of marketing