Another Start-up Bites the Dust: Elsevier Buys Mendeley

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When TechCrunch reported that there were talks going on between Elsevier and Mendeley this January, I did not want to believe it. Being an ardent user and advocate of the platform, I wanted it to stay out of the clutches of Big Pub. But it is now official, Mendeley has been acqui-hired by Elsevier for an unknown amount, which could be anything from65-100 million US $.

After Posterous being pwned by Twitter last year and then eventually getting shut down this year, my mind immediately bodes ill on hearing this bit of news. Mendeley was not doing too poorly after they had introduced “pro” features and monetized successfully. Their revenues had apparently tripled since they asked people to cough up money for extra storage space and bigger teams and all that.

There never is a good environment about the acqui-hires. When Twitter took over Tweetdeck, and the Posterous, their death knells were predicted months before they were rung. And Elsevier comes with not the best reputation in the business. From surreptitiously removing journals from the free/susbsidized HINARI, to hiking institutional subscription fees by astronomical amounts, to facing academic rage for being a successful money-minting business in an otherwise gloomy financial environment – it does not bode well for the nay-sayers, who believe that Mendeley will ultimately go to enhance Scopus, Elsevier’s own initiative.

However, talking purely from the financial and outcomes point of view, this was not a bad move. If Elsevier continues the free version and keeps Mendeley adequately de-centralized as to be able to make their own innovation without too much hierarchical foot stomping, then this is absolutely the best. The developers can concentrate on delivering the best possible product without having to worry about raising money to keep the business afloat.

The Mendeley Blog has put up a QnA style post which assuages my fear that the free version would be closed. And to keep skeptics like me happy, they have thrown in an additional sop – they are doubling everyone’s storage space, to begin with. So, y free account now has a massive 2 GB box. They also assure me that the take-over does not mean that Mendeley shall stoop to promote content from their parent company. But the veracity of that claim can only be established with time.

Anyways. I am a little bit unhappy that the start up has been phagocytosed (not that I complain; fiscal reasons can be more than compelling); but Richard Horton tells us, “Elsevier is changing”:


And more than a few have guffawed at this claim. I shall, for the time being, prefer to hold my horses.

But, as I said when Posterous was gobbled by Twitter, I congratulate CEO VIctor Henning and the others in the Mendeley team on the success. I just hope that they continue to run the program as they have done, but better, now that they are (probably) unencumbered with financial considerations.

Skeptic Oslerphile, Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!


  1. Well….as much as I dont like it, I sorta expected it. How many years could Mendeley have carried on this way. Over hte last yeas, once could already see their “professionalising” with semi-corporate get-ups and all. I saw them as preparations for a good sell…..well, at least they made a bloody good product while they were building up “value” for their company. And I for one, dont buy one bit of Horton’s tweet. With amazing clarity, he critiques MDGs and such, but call us out on our “surprised”ness (or lack of it!)

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