Accrue CEO Sees Firm In Two-Horse Race

CEO Rick Kreysar of Accrue Software Inc. said the company’s planned acquisition of NeoVista Software Inc. puts his firm into a close race with E.piphany Inc. in the quickly accelerating personalization technology field. But E.piphany, which recently was unequivocally calling itself the new leader at helping companies tailor marketing pitches to individual consumers, firmly disagrees.

Last month E.piphany, San Mateo, CA, sprung news of a planned $400 million purchase of fellow San Mateo firm RightPoint Corp. The merger combines E.piphany technology designed to accumulate and analyze consumer data from multiple sources with the real-time personalization technology of RightPoint.

The move let E.piphany take “a 18- to 24-month technology lead in the marketplace and [extend] it even further,” said Roger Siboni, the firm’s president/CEO.

The next day, Accrue, Fremont, CA, came out with its own merger news – a plan to use about $140 million in stock to pick up Cupertino, CA-based NeoVista. Accrue’s software records what consumers do at Web sites by gathering “clickstream” behavior. NeoVista makes predictive models to forecast consumer behavior, and the firm is slated to launch technology that automatically carries out e-mail marketing campaigns based on buying patterns or consumer visiting behavior.

That much is settled. What’s less clear is where this puts the two newly merged entities in relation to each other.

“Number one, they have no data,” Kreysar said of E.piphany. “They use this collector technology and they collect data from all these different sources. Well, I collect it myself from our network collector [that monitors clickstreams]. I have better knowledge of the data.”

Kreysar said Accrue and NeoVista’s combined abilities will let them gather data, analyze it and make predictions based on it. After the planned first-quarter release of NeoVista’s e-mail technology, they’ll also be able to act on that data with electronic direct marketing campaigns.

But Paul Rodwick, E.piphany vice president of marketing, said accumulating data from several sources is a strength, not a weakness.

“I think it’s actually a disadvantage to just look at a slice of the data as Accrue does,” he said. “And our customers are telling us that they really need to see what’s happening across their organization.”

NeoVista does gather data from multiple sources when it makes consumer-behavior predictions, however. And even without NeoVista, Kreysar said, Accrue technology builds a fuller picture of online behavior than the data gathered by the competition. He cited both E.piphany and net.Genesis Corp. as e-business software firms that examine less-complete server log file data rather than clickstream data.

“The log file analyzers are running reports that say, ‘A thousand people looked at that new data sheet in the first 15 minutes,'” Kreysar said. “I’ll give you the same report that says, ‘Yes, a thousand people requested that page in the first 15 minutes, but half of them hit the stop button [while the page was loading].”

But the fact that E.piphany can bring together data from multiple sources for its clients – including data those clients gather with the help of Accrue technology – dispels Kreysar’s contention, Rodwick said. And according to net.Genesis, Kreysar is wrong about other software companies being dependent on server data. Cambridge, MA-based net.Genesis examines data at the network level rather than just looking at server records, said Eric Richard, co-founder and chief technology officer.

“Yes, net.Genesis can do that, just like Accrue can, just like Andromedia can,” he said.

So why would Accrue say otherwise?

“It’s the pitch they’ve been giving for a couple of years now,” Richard said.

Accrue will start out marketing its new technology capabilities to a much larger existing customer base than E.piphany will. Accrue has about 400 large customers, compared to 50 for E.piphany. However, Rodwick said the average E.piphany customer buys “on the order of half a million dollars worth of software,” which is “quite different than selling a fifty or seventy-five or a hundred thousand dollar package that’s more a point solution.”

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