Meetings Technology Giants Join Forces

Industry’s Top Providers of Online Services Combine, Reducing Competition

StarCite’s CEO Michael Boult and chairman John ChangJohn ChangStarCite’s CEO Michael Boult and chairman John Chang

StarCite Inc. and OnVantage Inc., the leading providers of online meetings management tools, on Aug. 9 announced plans to merge.

The new company, to carry the StarCite name, will be headquartered in Philadelphia and will offer a suite of tools and services aimed at managing organizations’ meeting spend. The action was initiated by investors, which include Internet Capital Group, Norwest Venture Partners, Texas Pacific Group and TL Ventures.

“This space is growing up,” said Michael Boult, president and CEO of StarCite, who will retain that position for the new company. “With only about 3 percent of meetings spending currently under management, this business is a virtually untouched front.”

The agreement, which has been called the meetings technology equivalent of Microsoft and Apple merging, severely curtails competition in this arena. “There are really no competitors remaining in the meetings consolidation space,” said industry expert Corbin Ball of Bellingham, Wash.-based Corbin Ball Associates. Only a few other services, he said, such as Arcaneo Metron and eMeetingsOnline, offer some of the same features.

“There will be a void, and I hope to see companies move in to fill that,” added Ball.

Still, he said the merger was a good move: “StarCite has had the client force and OnVantage has had the technology and capital. There’s the potential to combine industry practices in a larger, more efficient package.”

Current clients will be able to use either system through 2007, when StarCite’s Global Meeting Solution will be phased out in favor of OnVantage’s suite.

“You can only have one platform,” said Boult. “If we’d known we would be merging, we wouldn’t have spent millions creating GMS, but it’s not a complete waste of time, money and effort, as some elements will be kept.”

Boult’s OnVantage counterpart, John Chang, will serve as the new company’s chairman, charged with integrating the two systems. The terms of the merger were not disclosed; the deal is expected to close by the end of 2006.

This is the coming together of five companies through mergers and acquisitions: Star-Cite, PlanSoft, B-there, SeeUthere and RegWeb.

“To serve this $300 billion marketplace, to roll out products, you have to have more brainpower and investors,” said Ed Tromczynski, president of OnVantage’s supplier division. “To look at the company’s next step, we had to be bigger and stronger.”