It’s hard to imagine Emptoris without Avner Schneur. When I think of Avner, I think of passion, intensity and drive. I have no doubt that Emptoris has been a survivor of the long and winding road of B2B evolution largely as a result of Avner’s work.
There have however been signs of trouble at this pioneering company over the past year. Last year’s disclosure (that came as a result of the Ariba patent infringement lawsuit) that Emptoris’ revenues were much lower than the analyst community had been left to believe were quite unsettling. Even more surprising was the fact that Emptoris was no where near profitable (at least not in 2007), which given its size and age, it should have been. It is not a good sign that Emptoris was not able to get another round of funding from its existing investors last December when it had to pony up $7 million in damages to pay Ariba. It also appears, from my interaction with prospects, that this year Emptoris hasn’t been winning as many new deals as some of its competitors. My guess, and this is my pure speculation here, is that Emptoris’ new owner, Marlin Equity Partners, wasn’t too pleased with the performance of the company this year and as a result . . . the search for a new CEO ensues.
What will Emptoris be like without Avner? Will the next leader help it thrive, grow, and improve profitability? Maybe. Will the vendor continue as a leader in the strategic sourcing space for the next few years? Probably. Will Avner be back, in one form or another, someday? It may take ten years, as it did for Steve Jobs to return after being pushed out by Apple’s board of directors – but my prediction for Emptoris is – definitely. And in meantime, I hope Avner takes some time to contemplate what skills and attitudes he needs to hone to provide leadership for a larger company.
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