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Meetings technology supplier StarCite Inc. strengthened its foothold in Europe this week as it acquired U.K.-based Travent Limited EMEA, a distributor of StarCite's OnVantage technology. The acquisition comes nine months after StarCite and chief rival OnVantage announced plans to mergeunder the StarCite brand with OnVantage technology as its new platform.
StarCite gains about a dozen enterprise contracts with clients including Pfizer and HRG, as well as numerous contracts for attendee management services for specific meetings. StarCite International president John Pino estimated that about half of the acquired contracts are with clients that StarCite also serves in the United States, such as Pfizer. However, the acquisition allows the companies to "globalize those customers that should have been globalized," he said, and expand the services provided to many others--beyond just attendee management to the full suite of strategic meetings management tools including sourcing, consulting, policy development and "green" initiatives.
StarCite also gains the expertise of Ray Thackeray--seeUthere Technologies and Travent founder and majority owner--and his Travent partners Gary Naylor and Doug Anthony. Thackeray in 1999 launched seeUthere Technologies as an attendee management and event marketing technology provider, headquartered in California. In 2003, Thackeray launched Travent as the Europe, Middle East and Africa distributor for that technology, which would eventually merge with PlanSoft to become OnVantage. At year-end 2006, OnVantage and StarCite completed their merger and executives turned their attention to the OnVantage distribution partners.
Travent has distributed the full suite of OnVantage tools--sourcing, electronic requests for proposals, a supplier database, consulting and attendee management--to suppliers and buyers in Europe, but Pino said Travent "was really focused on attendee management."
While the acquisition terms prevented Pino from divulging Travent's revenues or employee count, he described it as "not a huge company, but one with significant customers." To put the acquisition in perspective, a StarCite spokesperson told Philly.comthat Travent clients spend more than $500 million a year on planning and running corporate meetings, while StarCite clients spend about $6 billion a year. The $6 billion represents the projected value of RFPs that StarCite clients send to hotels through the technology.
Pfizer director of global travel Phil Dunphy welcomed the news and said it "makes life easier." Dunphy looks forward to having to "deal with one contact for invoices" and contracts. Pfizer has been one of Travent's largest customers, with deployment of the OnVantage technology in European 17 countries. Based on Pfizer's success in Europe, the company expanded its OnVantage deployments to six countries in Latin America and recently to the United States, Dunphy said. Travent "supported our educational needs" in the EMEA expansion, he added.
Thackeray said that over the past five years he has "built a team of sales, support and consulting staff in Europe that were operating exclusively on the MeetingView product line," for corporate strategic meetings management. Thackeray has been a vocal proponent of this concept in Europe, served on the board of Meeting Professionals International's U.K. chapter and was honored last year as its "supplier of the year."
For customers in the United States, "we've bolstered the capability and skill we have in Europe," Pino said. "We have expert knowledge of things there and I can't overestimate any of this. For folks in Europe, the good news is that they pick up on 24/7 customer service that they didn't have before, and pick up a whole slew of additional service capabilities that we've optimized."
The acquisition is one of several developments among suppliers seeking to capture the emerging interest in global strategic meetings management initiatives. GetThere DirectMeetings earlier this year introduced new international functionality while BCD Meetings & Incentives acquired Talking Point. Two recent studies indicated that European companies have been slower than U.S. counterparts to embrace strategic meetings management initiatives.
But a number of multinationals are pushing GetThere, StarCite and other meeting service providers to further enhance technologies and support to allow them to expand their programs around the globe.
StarCite has operated an international division since 2002 when it acquired assets of destination management representation firm Networld International. In recent months, it announced headquarters of its new international operations in Dusseldorf with employees in the United Kingdom and Asia. A number of its meeting and travel management company partners, including BCD Meetings & Incentives, also distribute its products globally. Pino said StarCite has severed all ties with RemoteHotel of Germany, which since 2002 has distributed seeUthere Technologies and (later) OnVantage.
With the Travent acquisition, about 20 percent of StarCite's revenues are now generated outside the United States, Pino said. Just over half of StarCite's 375 employees are now located outside the U.S., including its "large development team in Shanghai," Pino explained.
Bolstering that staff, StarCite added four new executives to its team in the United States. New hires include former Click Commerce executive Keith Forshew as COO; 17-year technology veteran Venky Rangachari as vice president of technology; former SAP marketer Kevin Young as vice president of marketing; and former American Express Business Travel advisory services vice president Alison Galik as vice president of adoption management operations. Former OnVantage CEO John Chang, who served as StarCite chairman post-merger, recently left the company.
StarCite also has expanded its customer base with the additions of Liberty Mutual Group, HealthLogiX, RPMC global event marketing, Biogen Idec, Nestle USA and Toyota, among others. In addition to Pfizer, the company has transnational deployments for several customers, including Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Shell.
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