The Day Ahead: ICG's Rightworks hopes to take on Ariba

Can RightWorks get the marketing right to push in front of Ariba and Commerce One?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Mary Coleman, the former president of Baan, will be named chief executive of RightWorks, a privately held B2B software company that is majority-owned by Internet Capital Group. RightWorks, which plans to file for an initial public offering in the fourth quarter, intends to take on Ariba and Commerce One.

RightWorks' chief executive announcement, expected on Monday, comes as Internet incubator ICG is looking to deliver a few IPO hits. Back in February, ICG gave RightWorks a $1.2bn valuation, a hefty sum for a privately held company. The line on RightWorks was this: the company had nice technology, but needed the sales and marketing infrastructure to hit the big league.

Coleman said the company is boosting its sales staff and ramping up new products. RightWorks, which provides e-procurement and marketplace software, intends to make business-to-business software a three-horse race between RightWorks, Commerce One and Ariba. In an interview, Coleman said Ariba is the closest competitor because it is a pure software company. Commerce One plans to make transactions a big chunk of sales.

Along with the appointment of Coleman, RightWorks is also launching a new version of its e-business software, said Lou Unkeless, vice president of product marketing. Unkeless was one of the executives behind Oracle's B2B exchange effort.

Unkeless said RightWorks will launch new versions of its e-procurement and e-marketplace software. A suite integrated with best-of-class software is also on deck along with an e-commerce network that could bring transaction revenue.

With the products, RightWorks officials said they think they have a chance to challenge Ariba, which has to meld products from recently acquired companies such as Tradex, an ICG company sold to Ariba.

RightWorks' Coleman is a believer in the technology. Coleman had been in charge of ICG's infrastructure software investments for the last eight months, but said she relished the role to grow RightWorks.

But it's not clear whether RightWorks will be able to challenge Ariba, which is already entrenched, has mind share and has a hefty market capitalisation. It's also unclear whether investors will buy into the "three-horse race" argument. Meanwhile, VerticalNet recently created a software unit to grab a piece of the B2B software buzz. The great software chase may prove to be a bit much -- Wall Street has shown signs of B2B fatigue before.

Coleman said RightWorks' major asset is its platform, which is considered next-generation.

The company has 260 employees and boasts revenue growth of 1,100 percent from a year ago, said Coleman, who didn't dish out any other details, given that RightWorks is a private firm. RightWorks counts Computer Science, Wells Fargo and Network Commerce as customers. Other ICG portfolio companies including eMerge Interactive and Breakaway Solutions also use RightWorks' platform.

The details, however, will be in the filings. Like most startups, RightWorks' S-1 filing is likely to reveal a company with big growth from a small base and some eye-popping losses.

Nevertheless, RightWorks is worth watching. For starters, it'll be interesting to see if ICG recoups its big investment in the company. In addition, RightWorks is likely to be among the second wave of B2B companies to hit the market. If RightWorks' stock price performs only half as well as the first wave of B2B giants, it'll be doing just fine.

Get ready for a heavy dose of CMGI this week. CMGI reports earnings along with its portfolio companies NaviSite and Engage. Here's the breakdown:

19 September: NaviSite reports its fourth quarter earnings. NaviSite, which is a hosting firm, will be able to give a little insight to the dot-com fallout. After all, it has a lot of dot-com customers. Consensus: a loss of 39 cents a share.

20 September: Engage reports its fourth quarter earnings, complete with a status report on the online advertising sector. Engage, a DoubleClick rival, could tone down expectations. Consensus: a loss of 28 cents a share.

21 September: CMGI checks in with its fourth quarter results. CMGI promised investors that it would make its financial results much easier to understand. It's dividing itself into operating segments and collapsing a few categories.

CMGI's financials have been muddled in the past due to stock gains from portfolio companies. Muddled financials were acceptable when CMGI shares jumped 1,000 percent a year. Now investors want a little more clarification. Unfortunately, CMGI's restructuring announcement raised more questions than it answered. Consensus: a loss of $2.34 a share.

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