Sunday, February 11, 2001

New Economy


Synchrony embraces stability

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        Synchrony Communications Inc. is one of the few local high-tech startups talking in dollar figures right now, and so far, it's not bad.

        The company in 2000 had revenues of $3 million and booked contracts worth $9.5 million over two years. Asked if the company hit its targets, chief executive officer Mark Richey hesitated a second, then said, “It was a target we'd set in the middle of the year” — after the April tech wreck. He obviously would have liked to have done better. “2000 was a year of amazing turmoil. Whole markets went away,” he said.

        He said Synchrony expects to quadruple revenue this year. “Even though it's not an up market right now, it's a stable market. You know what it is, and you know how to execute to it. Last year, it was changing every week,” he said.

        Synchrony makes software for running customer service centers, combining phone, fax, e-mail and chat. The company had been selling subscriptions to its software, but is adding licensed sales, which might speed how quickly it recognizes revenue. That change contributed to a layoff of 20 of its 140 employees last month.
       

Net worth tax hope

        Local high-tech firms are cheering about one thing in Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's budget — a proposed three-year moratorium on the net worth tax.

        The tax works this way: If a company has no profits, it pays a tax of one-half percent on its net worth, or essentially what it has in the bank. The tax is capped at $100,000.

        For PlanetFeedback.com, that meant $30,000 last year. “That's a job we didn't create because of that,” chief financial officer Betsy Cohen said. The company opened shop in December 1999 and raised $6 million in venture money. If it had waited just three weeks, until after Jan. 1, Ms. Cohen said, the company wouldn't have had to pay a cent.

        “The law ignores the nature of venture financing,” she said. Startups might have no profits but millions in the bank, and given market conditions, those startups have to stretch that cash.

        The governor, in his State of the State address, proposed high-tech firms be exempt from the tax during their first three years. How fast the proposal becomes law is another question. Ms. Cohen said she's not expecting it soon.
       

New deep-searcher

        Internet search company Intelliseek Inc. of Sharonville finally unveiled the beta site for its improved Profusion search. Intelliseek's strength has always been its directory of “invisible Web” sites — those with information in vast databases that aren't trolled by the big search engines.

        The new version of Profusion makes it easier to search both the seen Web and the invisible Web. It also allows users to quickly turn a search into an “alert”: Profusion will run the search each day and e-mail the results, to alert users of new information. Users can also tell Profusion to keep track of specific pages.

        E-mail John Byczkowski at johnb@enquirer.com, or call 768-8377. Find a list of local New Economy companies at http://enquirer.com/neweconomy/.
       



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