How E.piphany Gets Them to See the Light
CEO Roger Siboni talks about his credibility with customers, edging out big software rivals, and keeping his upstart on the fast track

Roger Siboni's Internet software company, E.piphany Inc., is hotter than Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Just four years after it was founded, it's going head-to-head with software industry giants like Siebel Systems, Oracle, and PeopleSoft, and, on more than a few occasions, coming out a winner. E.piphany has grown more than 60% in each of the last four quarters and is establishing itself at the top of the heap for Internet-based customer management software.

Business Week Silicon Valley correspondent Jim Kerstetter recently spoke with Siboni about competing with the heavyweights, how to manage a fast-growing company, and how to pick a winner among young software companies.

Q: You spent 23 years at consulting firm KPMG and ultimately ended up running the company. Do you miss that sort of stability?
Not really. This is fun.

Q: That said, your background at KPMG has helped you land some big contracts, like a recent win over Siebel Systems at Emerson Electric, hasn't it?
No question. I have a reputation there, I think, as someone who delivers and gets things done.

Q: So besides having a great Rolodex, how do you compete with the big guys? Growing big fast is a necessity, isn't it?
Yes. I think growing businesses at this pace is extremely challenging. But today's reality is, if you are going to be successful, you're going to have to grow at this rate. If you are not that big, you can't compete for big accounts.

Q: Can you keep growing fast and please Wall Street at the same time?
It's not like you can keep growing at 60% per quarter. That has to level out. But what they're looking for [on Wall Street] is continued growth, continued relationships with large customers.

Q: Would you prefer your company to be growing a little bit more slowly?
Maybe so. But I don't have that luxury.

Q: How is Internet software different from what Corporate America is used to?
We only worry about the browser on the desktop. That's all we need. That means anytime, anywhere access through a browser. This is an enormous leap in how hard it is to implement. All you have to do is load it up on the server. Maintenance is all done on the server. You don't have to go out and deal with thousands of PCs in the field

Q: The playing field is more level now, isn't it?
I think that on the one hand this new generation of companies is more willing to embrace and accept standards than the last generation of companies and differentiate themselves on the application side of the marketplace. Which means these companies are more focused on actually solving business problems... There's a standard set of tools in the toolbox that we are all going to work with. I think that companies that continue to strive to differentiate themselves around the business problems, as opposed to the uniqueness of the technologies, will continue to succeed.

Q: Programming standards are important to Internet software companies, aren't they?
I'd like to think...that the world is a better place with a set of standards, and most of the decisions being made today in the marketplace today are about making my company run better. I don't have religion around them. I have pragmatism.

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Cover for Dec. 11, 2000 issue of Contents for Dec. 11, 2000 issue

The New Software Whizzes

TABLE: Software's Brash Upstarts

CHART: The Upstarts Are Growing Fast...Boosting Their Stock Performance...

TABLE: ...And Winning Buy Recommendations

GRAPHIC: i2 Technologies Snapshot

GRAPHIC: Vignette Snapshot

GRAPHIC: BEA Systems Snapshot

GRAPHIC: Ariba Snapshot

GRAPHIC: BroadVision Snapshot

Microsoft's Little Bro'

TABLE: Still King of the Hill

ONLINE ORIGINAL: A Hill of Beans That Could Have Buried BroadVision

ONLINE ORIGINAL: How E.piphany Gets Them to See the Light

ONLINE ORIGINAL: Q&A with BEA's William Coleman

ONLINE ORIGINAL: Q&A with Commerce One's Mark Hoffman

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