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Business Impact

Disaster Relief

Today in alarm:clock. In an information economy, Topio helps its customers protect a core asset: data. And, the online travel market still offers opportunity to start-ups.

Company: Topio

HQ: Santa Clara, CA

Founded: 2001

Management: Yoram Novick is the founder and CEO. Before this, he spent 13 years at IBM Research, where he held various positions in the area of storage research. He is the author and co-author of 24 patents.

Investors: On April 25, the company announced an $8 million Series C round of venture funding led by Star Ventures, with participation from existing investors Sequoia Capital and Sigma Partners. This brings the company’s total funding to $21 million.

Business Model: Topio makes software that helps companies with data replication and data recovery, particularly in scenarios where data is corrupted or lost as the result of a disaster. A key selling point for Topio is that its software is agnostic, working with most existing servers and storage architectures. The software also works over any distance, allowing a customer to back-up and protect a worldwide data network. Along with its recent funding announcement, Topio reported it has over 40 customers.

Competitors:  Mendocino Software, XOSoft, Revivio, EMC

Dirt: Part of the challenge in any enterprise software business is getting in front of big customers, and Topio has forged some solid partnerships to make headway on this front. Last fall, IBM Global Services began offering Topio’s products as a part of its service to enterprise customers. They don’t come much bigger than IBM Global Services.

Another good sign for Topio is the recent resurgence of EMC, the storage sector’s bellwether. EMC recently reported its seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth and saw its shares rise 13 percent. That recent success suggests that corporations are loosening the budgetary restrictions that have dragged so many technology vendors down over the past few years. Because of this upswing, Topio should benefit from the same trend.


Fantastic Voyage

The online travel market still offers opportunity to start-ups — and other alarm:clock news from the land of private venture funding.

When Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz established themselves as the Big Three of online travel, many thought their combined marketing muscle would dominate the sector and shut out would-be competitors. But with a market as large as online travel – JupiterResearch estimates that revenue from online travel bookings will hit $62 billion in 2005 – other innovative companies have figured out how to share in the growth.

One such innovator is Santa Clara, Calif-based SideStep, which operates a travel-specific search engine that aggregates data from Expedia, Travelocity, and others and pulls in data from hotels and airlines that are not working with those companies, such as the refreshingly independent JetBlue. In contrast to the core travel sites, which earn revenues primarily from online booking transactions, SideStep’s revenues are primarily derived from travel advertisers.

The company, which claims more than 3 million unique visitors per month and that it has been profitable since 2003, joins other competitors such as Kayak.com, Mobissimo.com, and Yahoo’s FareChase in bringing the concept of comparison shopping to the travel space. SideStep currently scours over 100 travel sites to generate its side-by-side listings.

In the same way that SideStep hopes to co-exist with the giants of online travel, San Francisco-based StubHub, a matchmaker between buyers and sellers of sports and other entertainment tickets, is finding a way to successfully compete with eBay. The company, which sells tickets either at fixed prices or by auction, provides another example of a narrowly focused e-commerce company that is faring well against eBay’s do everything, but do nothing great business.

StubHub claims its gross revenues in 2004 were $100 million and that net revenues were $25 million. By comparison, eBay’s ticket revenues were around $300 million, so StubHub has clearly carved out a nice business with room to grow. The company has partnered with a number of sports teams and splits revenues generated off ticket sales to their events.

But just like eBay, StubHub will have to learn to strictly monitor its transactions as the service grows. The company was smacked with negative publicity when it was sued for allowing tickets to the Oscar ceremonies to be sold on its service at $30,000 per seat.

Back in the less glamorous world of document management, we came across Mimeo, a company that provides online printing services and document collaboration. If you want to print 20 copies of that boring PowerPoint sales presentation you’ve been toiling over, you can upload and format the document online on Mimeo’s servers and have the finished product sent to 20 different addresses via overnight FedEx.

The price is comparable to what you would pay if you stopped in at the local Kinko’s, which is Mimeo’s chief competition. The company also offers a collaboration service – you could make that same PowerPoint file available to colleagues using a shared server provided by Mimeo.

Mimeo, which has offices in New York and Memphis, strikes us as one of these companies that’s on to a good (not great) idea that takes forever to get off the ground. There’s no shame in that game, but it’s not usually one the venture capitalists intentionally play.  However, the investors aren’t giving up just yet. Mimeo recently raised another $5.8 million – its fifth round of funding – to expand its operations, and erstwhile competitor IKON Office Solutions recently shuttered its business document service unit, leaving Mimeo with a fresh set of customers to pursue.

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