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SSRN enjoys growth after its acquisition

It has been over a year since Social Science Research Network was acquired by Elsevier B.V., a $3.4 billion Netherlands-based information analytics firm.

In that time SSRN has moved to a new office, increased its staff and grown into a new market segment. In short, the acquisition has been monumental for SSRN—a scholarly research repository firm, CEO Gregory Gordon said.

“We’ve really, truly become an international company,” he said. “It’s been better than I could have hoped for.

“It is a risk. You can do your due diligence all day long but at the end of the day you’ve got to go with your gut, and my gut said this was the right place. Everybody that I’ve talked to (at Elsevier) is about moving research forward faster.”

For Elsevier, SSRN has helped the company find efficiencies.

“Companies looking to be acquired all say they have potential, but you never really know until you bring them on board,” said Olivier Dumon, managing director of research products for Elsevier. “Now we know SSRN really was a company that just needed the right partner to take it to the next level; they’ve made a change for the better.

“SSRN is a great fit for Elsevier as its focus is on early stage research that can be shared across disciplines, which helps academics become more effective and efficient.”

SSRN moved from Monroe Avenue to an office at 1239 University Ave. in March. The new office involved a $200,000 renovation, and the site triples the size of its previous location.

The company employs some 30 people in Rochester, up from 20 before the acquisition. Elsevier has 7,000 staffers worldwide.

This year SSRN has ventured into the world of biology research, creating BioRN—the Biology Research Network—which is a new but natural fit with the firm’s previous offerings.

“SSRN as an acronym stood for Social Science Research Network, but now we believe that SSRN can be the research network of all science and not just social science,” Dumon said. “Biologists are starting to share their early research, and SSRN is in the best position to help them benefit from this. SSRN is showing that we can help researchers promote their work earlier across a wide variety of fields.”

After a few months of this new endeavor, the company has 4,500 papers from 6,000 authors in the biology segment.

E.J. Reedy, director at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago, worked with SSRN in his previous role at the Kauffman Foundation a decade ago.

He has watched SSRN develop and change the industry in the past few years.

“I think SSRN is like a lot of family-owned (and) operated companies,” he said. “I think they had made a lot of progress and had grown in a lot of different ways, but I think a lot of companies face this decision point where you’re trying to decide how do you grow and what kind of impact do you want to have in the next stage.”

SSRN has adapted to the needs of authors and researchers—something that has helped the company continue to thrive, Reedy said.

“One of the things that I always really respected about SSRN’s setup was that they recognized very clearly that they were dealing with lots of different types of researchers that had very different norms,” he said. “And so they would go down this pathway of setting up independent networks. A lot of what SSRN has done is to take that type of open access into nonscientific researchers.”

Shaking up the research industry could mean major breakthroughs for a variety of disciplines, CEO Gordon said.

“What we’re trying to do is reinvent publishing,” he said. “There’s no answer right now, so for somebody to say this is the right way or the wrong way—I respectfully disagree, because there is no answer. It’s an evolving process; that’s what makes it exciting. Think about all the world’s problems being solved 20 percent faster. It’s an incredible possibility. So we’re trying to solve the world’s problems faster by making the research available.”

Rochester continues to be an area of focus for Elsevier. SSRN built a strong repository in over two decades of operation—a history that, now with more resources and breadth, can help change the world of research, Elsevier’s Dumon said.

“I think Rochester has a lot more going for it in the world of research than most people realize,” he said. “That a global leader like Elsevier would come to Rochester to invest in a local business, and give them what they need to move from a U.S. business to an international one, speaks volumes about the ability to hire locally to support this growth. SSRN’s success is a testimony to the Rochester business community—they should be very proud of one of their own.”

Added Gordon: “I’m in Brussels with some of the foremost people thinking about research as it applies to the European Union and telling them about Rochester, N.Y. We’re on that stage and in those conversations.”

The repository of SSRN has been developed for 23 years. That kind of longevity is positioning the company for success today.

“The fact that little SSRN in little old Rochester was there at the very beginning of this is pretty cool,” Gordon said. “We saw it early; we’ve been very successful in Rochester. It’s been an amazing year and all of the things that we see are pointing to even better.”

kfeltner@bridgetowermedia.com / 585-653-4020

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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