ASP Part II-Siebel buys Upshot, Motiva

Siebel Buys UpShot, Motiva

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. On an earlier post, I commented on the return of the ASP model. It looks like Siebel is jumpstarting its efforts on the ASP side with its purchase of Upshot for $50mm + $20mm of earnout for 2003 and 2004. For an industry-changing hosted CRM play, that does not seem to be a hefty price. Let’s see what happens with Salesforce.com when and if it goes public next year. Word has it that Salesforce.com is expecting to do $100mm of revenue in 2003 while being profitable for the last 2 quarters.

Speaking of CRM, it is interesting to look at 2 other eCRM players, Kana, an enterprise vendor, and LivePerson, an ASP. At one point in time, Kana was worth $5b to LivePerson’s $300mm market cap. Today Kana is worth $105mm and LivePerson is at $135mm. The consensus analyst estimates have Kana losing ($0.54) this year and ($0.01) next year while LivePerson is forecasted to have EPS of $0.01 this year and $0.10 next year. It looks like profitability and operating leverage finally count. The luster of the ASP model seems to have returned to the public markets.

A big week for VOIP

I have been helping a friend of mine who is moving into town get access to local resources such as carpenters, painters, and restaurants. An email I received from him today had the standard list of questions on utilities but the one that surprised me most was, “Who is your cable provider and do they offer VOIP?” This was a surprise since he is not the most bleeding-edge technical guy. In my mind VOIP really hit the mainstream this week with this email, Thursday’s Wall Street Journal (unfortunately subscription required) article about VOIP’s threat to the Bell companies, and today’s New York Times front page coverage in the Money and Business section.

While programs like Skype offer free P2P telephony over computers, services like Optimum voice offered through Cablevision and Vonage are the true groundbreakers that are bringing VOIP to the mainstream. Mainstream users do not want to be tied to their desks with computer headsets. With these services, customers can simply plug their phone into an adapter which converts analog signals to digital. There is no need to buy new equipment or even change how you use the telephone. Vonage claims to already have 55,000 lines. Since there is no competitive advantage technically in the VOIP service business, it will be interesting to see how cable companies, startups, and Bells compete with each other on marketing services and pricing. The great news is that consumers will only reap more benefits as VOIP continues to gain market share.

Is the ASP Model Back

Siebel and IBM team on hosted CRM service

It feels like 1999 again when the ASP (application service provider) business model was all the rage. Why is Siebel trying this again when their most recent foray was a complete disaster? Bottom line: Salesforce.com is eating their lunch. Siebel’s enterprise license revenue model is coming under real pressure as large enterprises are getting tired of spending millions of dollars upfront with no real ROI.

Could this be the return of the ASP model? In the old days, the promise and hype of many ASPs were as high as their burn rates. A number of these companies poured tens of millions of dollars into infrastructures that only had a handful of customers. The end result for most was disastrous. Despite the many failures, I am conjecturing that the ASP will be back in a BIG WAY for the following reasons: tight budgets, increased comfort level of customers to have data offsite, broadband connections allow for always-on access, and vendors with right-sized business models designed to make a profit. When and if the capital markets return, let’s see how these companies perform.