Monotype buys web fonts service Typecast

As announced on the Typecast website, the web fonts service that .net reported recently went into public beta has been bought by Monotype Imaging, as part of an acquisition of Typecast developers Design By Front. According to a press release, Typecast will be "offered Monotype's web font solution, combining Monotype's high-quality web fonts with Typecast's easy-to-use typographic design capabilities".

In a press release, Monotype CEO Doug Shaw said Typecast "fits neatly into our strategy of adding IP that complements our solutions and provides meaningful value to customers," and he thought the tool "has the potential to take web fonts to a whole new level of productivity and creative expression". Monotype Imaging Public Relations and Corporate Communications Manager Vikki Quick told .net that Monotype was hugely excited about the acquisition: "With the web being so critical for the future of publishing, with connected devices increasingly infiltrating our lives with content and advertising, we believe that quality, consistency and clarity are becoming even more necessary for brands to represent their unique value across devices and media. We see Typecast as a great tool for helping web designers meet these objectives."

Keeping the band together

Quick also told .net that the buy-out is perhaps atypical by modern web industry standards, since the aim is to keep Typecast going more or less as-is: "[This acquisition] brings to Monotype not only an innovative product but also a talented team with deep experience in design and web publishing. Although we now own Typecast, we expect that it will continue to support other font services. We completely understand that the ability to combine fonts from many services is a core part of the value that Typecast brings, and that this is something people love about the product."

Front Managing Director Paul McKeever confirmed to .net that Typecast remaining more than a marketing tool for a single company was instrumental in the decision to accept Monotype's offer: "That was really important to us and if we weren't confident this would have happened, we wouldn't have sold the company. We think designers should be able to experiment with the best type available on the web and that belief doesn't change now we're part of a bigger company. If anything, we expect to be able to improve the range of fonts available within Typecast."

Risk versus reward

McKeever also told .net that this buy-out was vindication for the big risk his company took in dropping client work to create Typecast and also the belief everyone had in the product: "Dropping client work is a big risk for a small company, and so in some ways it's a big relief to be able to completely focus on Typecast. The feedback we had from beta users was really helpful in knowing that this was the right thing to do."

Despite such sentiments, it does seem increasingly rare for a company's personnel to stick with its creation after a buy-out. We asked McKeever if that happening in this case is in part due to the nature of Front's investment; it seemed very personal, rather than having been backed by a lump of VC money (with the VCs then demanding a rapid return on said investment). "Maybe it's in our DNA—we spent 12 years building Front as an independent company, and we believe in seeing things through. We know we're just getting started in terms of making Typecast the best way to work with type on the web and we feel that our best work is still ahead of us," he said. "In terms of personal investment, spending our own money building a product meant we weren't under pressure to have to exit and deliver a return to investors. So when we did decide to be acquired it was always intended to give us a platform for the future."

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