E-BusinessReady Gives Away Shares to Attract Customers

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A Toronto-based unit of SEI Group Inc. plans to begin giving away in June a total of 20 percent of the software consulting firm to people who register for a program at its Internet community.

The SEI unit, e-businessReady.com, set aside 50 million so-called E-Shares that people earn by registering with the company, evaluating software made by e-businessReady's clients and referring other people to the program. SEI Group, Atlanta, and its Canadian subsidiary hope the move will help boost loyalty to the community and encourage people to download software.

The E-Shares registrants accumulate will guarantee them a proportional cut of SEI Group's profits at the end of each fiscal year, said Precana Thompson, e-businessReady's vice president of business development.

"It's a points program basically," Thompson said. "We award points, and once you've accumulated a certain number of points, then you can redeem those points for a prize. In our case, the prize is a part of our business."

The company claims that 12,000 people have signed up for the E-Shares program since its announcement this month. In June, e-businessReady plans to begin awarding E-Shares for downloads. The 50 million E-Shares are likely to run out by midsummer, Thompson said.

The company struck a deal with affiliate network technology firm Commission Junction, Santa Barbara, CA, to serve as the E-Shares program's third-party auditing agency and to disburse E-Shares. Program participants who sign up get 10 E-Shares for joining, five for each person they refer to the program and 50 for downloading e-businessReady's own portal software.

Thompson and other e-businessReady executives point out that E-Shares are not publicly traded stock. But they see that as a positive rather than a negative. SEI Group is privately held, and the company said there are no financial risks to participants because the E-Shares aren't equity.

The company is profitable, Thompson said.

The e-businessReady site contains information on various firms' Internet technology. The company makes money from fees it takes from those Net firms when people download the software. For example, Web search technology company flyswat, San Francisco, pays e-businessReady 50 cents for each person who downloads its software to their desktop.

Clients pay varying amounts. Companies that give Internet access, firms that provide Net-based telephone services and others whose technology seeks bids for business services are a few examples of types of companies working with e-businessReady.

"We are an intellectual property company," Thompson said. "We provide [clients] with the tools they need -- really eyeballs -- to have their software downloaded, installed and evaluated or to have their Web site beta-tested."

A product taking advantage of e-businessReady's lead generation service is the company's own browser, named CallMe e-businessReady. The product is designed to let users surf the Web, create free phone calls, send faxes, make online stores, shop or investigate business opportunities.

Before the millennium, SEI Group and e-businessReady were separate companies in the Year 2000 consulting space. Thompson said e-businessReady started as a Y2K firm in 1996 but began to get out of it in late 1998.

"We were in the Year 2000 to make money. And we used that money to develop this [business] model," Thompson said.

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