Semantic Arts exists to help organizations transition to a newly emerging paradigm of information systems based on flexible data structures and deep semantics.
11 Old Town Square Ste. 200
Fort Collins, CO
Phone: (970) 490-2224
Fax: (305) 425-2224

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Why we exist

Semantic Arts exists to help organizations transition to a newly emerging paradigm of information systems based on flexible data structures and deep semantics.

There is now more than enough evidence that these new approaches work, they work at scale, and they are orders of magnitude more flexible than traditional technology. Currently there is no canned package that will convert your organization to semantics, and maybe there never will be. We believe that for most organizations, the semantic journey will require discipline and conviction more than fancy software.

Most of the information systems industry is heavily invested in the status quo. But if you look very closely we think you'll agree that there isn't much "status" in this "quo." In the current state of the art, application software packages take years to install, and make change more difficult rather than easier. Implementation and integration projects consume tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and fail more often than they succeed. Outsourcing, Cloud hosting and Software as a Service have made things cheaper, but not better, as they are not addressing the fundamental problems that arise from an application-centric world view.

We exist for those organizations that are ready to commit to this change. We will commit our best people and their best efforts to helping you make that transition. For over a decade we've applied ourselves to getting better and better at the application of this technology in preparation for the next project.

How we work

Transformation is a joint endeavor. We work with our clients. Depending on the nature of the work, we will spend between 1/4 and 1/2 of our time on site.

We generally try to create what we call the "heartbeat" of a project, which typically involves three or four days on-site every three or four weeks. These visits will include solicitation, discovery, data gathering, education, facilitation, demonstration and review of work completed since the previous visit. Each visit results in things for us to work on and things for you to work on. The period of the heartbeat is long enough to get enough significant work done so that the next session together will be productive and move the project to a higher plane.

Historically, we have contracted for individual projects. It is clear to us now that the most progress will be made by a few companies who make a longer-term commitment.  We will continue to execute in a project-by-project mode, but we will be jointly designing the road in front of us even as we traverse it.

If you are interested either in a specific project, or in what we call the "Strategic Adopter" program, please contact me at or (970) 490-2224.

Who we are

We are a professional services firm committed to the success of our clients. As such, we hire people who can understand and solve business problems and at the same time are technical enough, and flexible enough, to embrace and implement new technology.

Dave McComb

President of Semantic Arts, Dave has been successfully leading software development, planning, and review projects for nearly 30 years. He has worked with dozens of clients and dozens of technical environments, including those during his time with Andersen Consulting, that have led to a much broader understanding of what is needed to grow a productive environment. Dave is our application and project management specialist.

Full Resume

Michael F. Uschold, PhD

Michael Uschold is an internationally recognized expert with over two decades experience in developing and transitioning semantic technology from academia to industry. He pioneered the field of ontology engineering, co-authoring the first paper and giving the first tutorial on the topic in 1995 (in London). This leveraged the work he did in creating the influential "Enterprise Ontology".

From October 2010, he has been working as a senior ontology consultant at Semantic Arts, training and guiding clients to better understand and leverage semantic technology. He has built commercial enterprise ontologies in finance, healthcare, legal research, consumer products, electrical devices, manufacturing and corporation registration for state government. A recent focus has been on how to combine less formal knowledge organization systems such as thesauri and taxonomies with formal ontology to integrate disparate corporate knowledge assets.

During 2008-2009, Uschold worked at Reinvent on a team that developed a semantic advertising platform that substantially increased revenue. As a research scientist at Boeing from 1997-2008 he defined, led and participated in numerous projects applying semantic technology to enterprise challenges. He is a frequent invited speaker and panelist at national and international events, and serves on the editorial board of the Applied Ontology Journal. He has given numerous tutorials and training classes. He received his Ph.D. in AI from Edinburgh University in 1991 and an MSc. from Rutgers University in Computer Science in 1982.

Full Resume

Andrea Engelstad

Andrea is a professional ontologist with recent experience in the finance industry. Her main work includes analyzing enterprise knowledge assets of various forms, developing and maintaining enterprise ontologies, building and maintaining ontology-driven applications operating over a triplestore, and maintaining an in-house upper ontology for enterprises. Previously, she worked with ontologies and natural language processing software to automate categorization and optimize search. From 2011-2013 Andrea obtained a masters in Library and Information Science with a focus on Knowledge Organization from the University of Washington’s Information School.

Melissa Mitchell

Melissa joined Semantic Arts in summer 2015 as the corporate office’s Chaos Mitigator (a.k.a., Office Manager). Before joining the team, Melissa spent the previous 10 years writing creatively for local periodicals and technically (with a creative twist) for corporate entities. She earned her BA in English, Creative Writing from Colorado State University in May of 2005 and continues to write in her free time. For Semantic Arts, Melissa dedicates her skills to keeping projects on track and on budget, fine tuning our communications, and maintaining general order and conformity within the ranks.

Dan Carey

Dan is an ontologist and data architect with 30 years of consulting experience, 25 of it designing databases, data models, and data strategies with major IT service and consulting firms. With Semantic Arts, he develops and implements modular ontologies for large firms, primarily in the financial industry. In his prior work, he supported mostly government clients at the federal, state, and local levels. He holds a bachelor's degree in Applied Physics from Georgia Tech.

Priyank Bambhrolia

Priyank is a software developer who joined Semantic Arts after completing his Masters of Science degree in Computer Science from CSU. He also worked as an intern web developer at the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands in Fort Collins, CO.

Ralph Brainard

Ralph has over 30 years of experience in providing the vision and leadership to drive major business transformation programs for small, mid-cap and Fortune 500 companies in diverse industry sectors including manufacturing, distribution, services and government. He has helped clients launch new businesses, take their organizations to new levels of competitive advantage and effectiveness, and take operational and strategic advantage of new technologies.

He has achieved this by working collaboratively with executive management to create strategic plans; build innovative, strategically-aligned business models; evaluate and redesign core business processes; design and implement enabling organizations and IT infrastructure; identify and proactively address change management challenges; and align, measure, and deliver both tactical and strategic results.

Ralph’s experience includes work with such diverse organizations as Verizon, Oracle, Seagate, PepsiCo, Clear Channel, Philips Healthcare, MillerCoors, Caterpillar, Ford, State of Colorado, and the Department of Defense. Ralph is a Michael Hammer Certified Process Master. He has an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago and a BSEE with honors from Lafayette College.

Nicholas Dorans

Nicholas hails from the great state of New Jersey. With over 10 years experience in the HVAC Service Industry, he learned to be a meticulous problem solver while keeping his customers' satisfaction and costs in-line. He holds several certifications in building automation control systems, which is where his love for computer programming began. After a 6 month journey traveling America, he landed himself in Denver where he attended the Turing School of Software and Design. After one year and 3,000 hours of coding under his belt, he is ready to tackle any challenge large or small. If you got a problem, yo, he’ll solve it. Check out the hook while the DJ revolves it.

Marc Ringel

Ringel is a family physician with over four decades of experience in practice; medical education at all levels, from students to practicing physicians; practice-based research; informatics and telehealth. He has published books on telehealth and on medical informatics and numerous articles and chapters on a variety of medical topics, as well as newspaper and magazine columns and regular radio commentaries. Currently he is writing a book on how to use information technology to humanize healthcare. His work with Semantic Arts focuses on that intersection between people and machines.


The company that is now Semantic Arts, Inc. was originally incorporated as 'First Principles' in Denver, Colorado in 1989. Through the early 90s First Principles specialized in providing enterprise-level application and architectural consulting. In 1996 First Principles, which moved to Fort Collins as part of a joint venture project, was acquired by and operated as a wholly owned subsidiary performing the R&D function for an ASP-based software development environment.

The principals of First Principles re-incorporated in June 2000, also in Colorado, as Semantic Arts, Inc. Semantic Arts is a "S" corporation, wholly owned by the principals. It is incorporated in and registered to do business in Colorado.

Semantic Arts assists clients who have allowed their software systems to deteriorate to the point that improving business systems has become an exercise in frustration. We don't sell hardware or software, and we don't represent vendors. As a result, we are free to start with two inputs: your existing situation and your aspirations.

We are well-informed, completely objective, and have our clients' needs absolutely foremost in our minds.

Our objectivity is one of our key values. We do not represent any software or hardware products or companies, nor are we a front for software developers or implementers. What we do is strategic consulting, helping people determine their requirements, planning architectural options, making selections and guiding their execution.

What it is like working with us?

We think you'll like working with us. You'll find us to be highly engaged in your situation and at the same time we will respectfully challenge current thinking. We have a reputation for speaking straight without being offensive.

There are a few things you won't get from us that you might get from others:

No Bait and Switch— We're not recruiting new consultants for this project, nor pitching senior consultants with impressive resumes, then delivering junior staff to do the work.

No Hidden Agendas — While we have in our collective past designed and built ERP systems and many client/server, n-Tier and web-based applications and architectures, we are not angling for an implementation project. What Semantic Arts does is help enterprises define and migrate to their ideal software architecture.

No Ponderous Reports — We don't find long final reports to be terribly productive, if that is defined as helping a client transform their infrastructure. We prefer to have worked toward broad agreement and consensus before the final report is delivered.

Guiding Principles

These are the four guiding principles that we use in our architectural design work:

Human Scale — Monolithic applications are disproportionately hard to change and very hard to replace. Small apps can consume many times their weight in interfaces. One of the cornerstones of our practice is helping clients reallocate functionality appropriately to human-scale applications.

Loose Coupling — A tightly coupled system is one in which changes in one area affect many other areas. Modern technology can help a great deal, but achieving loose coupling is primarily a matter of design discipline that starts at the architectural level.

Reuse Through Shared Services — In most mature organizations, we've found that over 50% of the functionality implemented in the traditional siloed systems consists of capabilities that could be implemented once and then shared, for a great saving in cost and increase in consistency.

Incremental Deployment — We've found that most successful projects migrate to the future through a series of measured steps. Avoiding "big bang" implementations and "bet the farm" conversions is one of the best ways to move forward without undue risk.

What Are We About?

Semantic Arts, Inc. specializes in helping mid-to-large organizations renovate their software systems. The focus is on companies whose existing systems are becoming hard to maintain or are threatened with technical obsolescence. We help these companies craft an architecture that allows new systems to co-exist with their legacy systems in a way that allows the legacy systems to be gradually retired.

We offer a range of complexity reducing services, from consulting workshops and hands-on projects to seminars, where we help you assess your current situation and plan an orderly migration to a rational future.

Our solutions are driven by a core set of guiding principles that have our clients long-range interest in the forefront. We show you how to revitalize your application architecture so that when your strategy changes, you can respond; when the market changes, you can adapt; and when technology changes, you can advance.

Software Architecture

All software has architecture. When you put several systems together in one enterprise, the result is often accidental and expensive. A software architecture is a long-term design of the major building blocks of your systems and how they interrelate.

The role of the architect

The architect is an advocate of the client, not an agent of the software or hardware vendor, and is not myopically focused on the completion of a development project at hand. The architect is committed to ensuring that a long term succession of projects actually adds up to a more livable environment; where new functionality and new technology can be added easily; where change is welcomed, not resisted, and where system maintainers can confidently practice their craft.

How are software architects different from ...

... technologists? Technology experts typically know a lot about a single architecture. They tend to see that one architecture as the solution to all problems. They can be quite helpful once the architectural planning is done.

... requirements analysts? A part of the architectural process looks something like requirements. The difference is that a requirements analyst tends to try to reduce needs to a checklist of features, a simplified approach that can be detrimental to the architecture.

... quality assurance personnel? If you employ an architect to oversee a project and ensure architectural integrity, you may wonder if this isn't somewhat like the QA function. The difference is, QA is about doing things right. Architecture is about doing the right things.

How is Semantic Arts different from other software architects?

We bridge the gap between firms that understand only the high level processes and concepts of Architecture—who therefore implement only in the abstract, and those who have expertise in a particular technology and only implement what they know.

We dig deep into a client's existing situation, as well as their needs and aspirations, and build a detailed, coherent road map of a future, architecturally inspired environment.

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