Siebel: E-biz vendors face tough times

This could be a tough year for makers of electronic-business software, according to Thomas Siebel, chairman and chief executive officer of Siebel Systems Inc., who predicted in a Thursday keynote speech at Internet World 70 percent of the vendors in that market will be out of business by the end of 2001.

“We screw with Mother Nature and now we have to pay for it,” said Siebel, whose company makes e-business software.

However, he is optimistic about Siebel’s chances of being one of the companies that survives the current economic doldrums. The company has annual revenue of US$2.5 billion, with 8,000 employees in 38 countries and 144 offices worldwide, he said.

“We have been developing the capacity to fill our customer’s needs – now they want to be able to make business anyplace, anytime, (in) any language, site and currency, and we have been able to do it,” Siebel said.

Analysts value the e-business software market at $6.6 billion, with a growing compound rate of 54 per cent, Siebel said, adding that his company is taking advantage of the opportunities presented by that market with a range of products, including software for the Web, e-mail, marketing automation, customer relations and sales. Customers include Banc of America Securities LLC, Compaq Computer Corp., Avaya Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Microsoft Corp.

Markets will regain sanity as the global economic turmoil calms, he said. Stability will be achieved as the use of technology continues to spread and “even the grandmother at home takes advantage of it and at that point prices will go back and economic opportunities will be unparalleled,” Siebel said.

Regardless of what happens in the meantime, the Internet is an important vehicle for allowing businesses to interact with customers, and that will remain critical.

“We are living a great event in the present, when the Internet has a huge importance as a channel for interaction” between businesses and customers, Siebel said.

He further offered a tidbit of advice for startup companies: “If you focus on the customer’s needs, you’ll be looking on an investment of a lifetime,” he said.

Internet World at the Los Angeles Convention Center ends Friday. More information on the show can be found at

Siebel Systems, in San Mateo, Calif., can be reached at