Greg Peters is the first to admit he's no daredevil. "I don't have an entrepreneur's bone in my body," says the CEO of Vignette Inc. (VIGN) So it's
doubly surprising that Peters would be wrenching his company from its comfortable position as one of the leading makers of software for managing and organizing Web sites and hurling it into the more competitive realm of Internet commerce applications.
Peters knows he has to do something. Five-year-old Vignette is just now poised to achieve profitability -- the company reported $55.2 million in revenues in the first quarter and expects to be in the black by yearend.
But Peters believes that the real future in Internet software is in helping companies manage their Web sales as much as their Web sites. "We're trying to do something that no else has ever done," Peters says.
It's not going to be easy. Peters will have to develop e-commerce applications unlike anything Vignette has made to date. Top priorities include e-commerce features that would allow companies to track orders
from click to payment to delivery, as well as customer-service elements, such as a program that easily sends personal responses to thousands of e-mail inquiries. And Peters won't be alone. The market for such programs -- estimated by Forrester Research to triple to $18 billion by 2003 -- is attracting industry heavyweights such as Oracle, Siebel, and Microsoft, as well as a slew of smaller players.
Still, analysts handicap Vignette's chances as being as good as anyone's -- partly because of Peters' strong hand. From an early age, Peters demonstrated leadership abilities. Back when he was growing up in Little Rock, Peters was an All-American high school quarterback. But when he tore up his knee during an all-star football game his senior year, any dreams he had of playing professional sports were dashed. After graduating from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., with a degree in business, Peters went to work for Arthur Andersen, cutting his teeth in the auditor's financial group. Peters spent six years there before moving on to a variety of management positions with several companies, including serving as CEO of Logic Works, a database software company in Princeton, N.J., that he sold off to Platinum Technologies for $175 million in March, 1998.
Hardly the typical risk-seeking path of an Internet executive, but Peters' experience and competitiveness will serve Vignette well as it tries to leapfrog to the next level.