A Founder's Story

Wilto Hofman

PublishOne founder – Wilto Hofman – tends to stay out of the spotlight. He’s a quiet and modest visionary who credits much of PublishOne’s success to the great people around him – both past and present – who make the friendly publishing platform what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow. In a rare interview, we discovered more about his journey as a founder.

It All Started With STAIRS

“In those days, we made end-solutions for publishers on Compact Disc (CD), and online. Publishers liked the way we indexed their content – it was easy to search, and simple for them to make tables of content.”

 Wilto Hofman, Founder & CEO, PublishOne

Wilto’s relationship with information storage and retrieval began early in his career. In one of his first roles, he supported the Netherlands’ Government to set up a ground-breaking digital storage project. In a move towards greater transparency, documents from the Second Chamber of the States General – Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal – were made publicly accessible via terminals in libraries and universities. This was part of the active and passive disclosure of documents under the Public Access to Government Act – Wet Openbaarheid Bestuur. It relied on an early system for storing and searching unstructured text data – IBM STAIRS. This was the late 1980s – pre-Internet, and a decade before Google.

Wilto’s dream was to develop computer games. By the 1990s, he had been involved with a number of interactive games. In fact, he helped create one of the first online games in the Netherlands – an adventure game called ‘Ome Ko / The Student Competition’. However, it was Wilto’s knowledge of retrieval and search that opened doors with publishers and set him on a different path. As the age of the Internet dawned, there were increasing calls for publishers to release content in digital formats, including CD-ROM, and the emerging World Wide Web.

The Secret Behind Search

“The secret to search is simple. You need clean data. The secret to AI sounds simple. You need correct data.”

 Wilto Hofman, Founder & CEO, PublishOne.

Wilto didn’t make his journey alone. In fact, he credits his own success – in part – to the talents of those people around him. Most notably, his late business partner Johan van Oostveen whose life was sadly cut short at a young age. Wilto remembers him as a brilliant guy who – when it came to search technology and cleaning content – had one of the best minds in the world.

Whilst producing end solutions for publishers, Wilto was frequently being asked to provide technology that could help clean up content faster – and more effectively – than ever before. Search technology became increasingly important, especially in a field like law – where documents need consistency in formatting and style – and in large, complex documents where multiple synonyms might be used for key terminologies (and therefore impact search visibility).

Publishers were also starting to realize that to stay relevant and useful, their content needed something extra. It also needed to be more flexible, so it could be published once and used anywhere. Wilto found he was helping more and more customers to convert content from paper to digital – harking back to his early days when he converted paper press releases and distributed them electronically for the Netherlands’ Government.

Unlike some content platforms, the emphasis wasn’t on producing mass volumes of content, but about putting the right content in the right context. That meant creating content distribution platforms for publishers – essentially a tool kit of scripts – that would help them push content to different formats, including, PDF, Word, HTML, and XML – and importantly convert them back again – the full round trip.

At the same time, Wilto’s technical team were able to create fast and powerful indexing systems. And, when clients began asking if a text editor could also be integrated into the system, PublishOne was born.

A ‘One’ Product Software Company

“It was magic – the first time I saw search results from a lot of data. And it’s still magic today.”

– Wilto Hofman, Founder & CEO, PublishOne.

The idea was to create a one-product company. But it didn’t work out like that immediately. Different customers requested different features, so PublishOne existed in several versions. That was until Mark Hunneman and Ellen van Beijsterveldt arrived and put a single, customizable version of PublishOne in the cloud.

It’s been an incredible journey from IBM Stairs right through to today’s PublishOne – one platform that’s able to accommodate the storage, search, and retrieval needs of a broad range of content publishers. For that, Wilto’s grateful for the opportunities he’s been given by the people around him, from his employees to the customers he’s served.

Today, there are lots of systems and solutions that can help organizations manage and publish content. What sets PublishOne apart is that it truly is one customizable system that easily integrates with other popular tools including text editors, and AI translators. So writers, editors, and publishers can still use the tools they know and love to get the job done.

For Wilto, the emergence of evermore powerful AI tools makes today’s technology landscape feel very similar to when search first took off at the end of the previous century. He sees the potential in integrating AI tools into PublishOne to provide customers with increasingly powerful and streamlined tools for creating, updating, and distributing content both internally and externally.

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