b-there.com Aligns with Industry Leaders Their goal relative to the association and trade show world is simple. "We want to own it," says Peggy Lee, CEO and founder of Westport, Conn.-based b-there.com (www.b-there.com), an Internet-based housing, registration, and travel provider. They're off to a good start. At the International Association of Exhibition Management (IAEM) Mid-Year Meeting in Baltimore in June, b-there.com was hard to miss, announcing a partnership with the 3,500-member IAEM backed by a donation of $500,000 cash and stock options to fund joint Internet educational initiatives, on-site displays, and Web tool tutorials at future IAEM events.answer

Dot-com stock options are iffy business these days with reports floating about that many are worthless, but IAEM President Steven Hacker, CAE, says, "We're not concerned about the value of stock options and we don't engage in these kinds of programs simply to make money. We have a mission to help our members understand new opportunities, and b-there.com and others can help us do that."

Cash is the lion's share of the donation, Hacker says, and he estimates the stock options in b-there.com could be worth about $200,000. He discards the notion that b-there.com is "buying equity" in IAEM: "The b-there contribution is just that--a contribution with no obligations on IAEM's part to provide anything more than appropriate recognition."

And the b-there news didn't stop there. Lee announced b-there.com's alliance with Arlington, Va.-based PGI, Inc. (www.pgi.com), a leading exhibition and destination management agency headed by Darryl Hartley-Leonard. He said that PGI had been searching for an Internet housing and registration engine and settled on b-there.com, mainly because "they see the big picture." Lee also announced an agreement with iConvention.com (www.iconvention.com), a Citrus Heights, Calif.-based virtual trade show provider. The alliance puts b-there.com and iConvention.com in a preferred-vendor arrangement for their respective group travel and trade show arenas.

Probably b-there.com's most talked-about news came several days after IAEM's Baltimore meeting: Lee was able to woo Jerry Wayne from his post as senior vice president of marketing for Opryland Hospitality Group in Nashville and put him in charge of b-there.com's association and trade markets division as executive vice president. Wayne will stay in Nashville for the time being, says Lee, who opened an office in Nashville to support Wayne's efforts.

And just when you thought there couldn't be more, b-there.com signed an agreement with Dallas-based Pegasus Solutions Inc., tapping into the Pegasus switching system, which can connect meeting planners to the approximately 32,000 hotels and CVBs worldwide that use the Pegasus engine for processing electronic reservations.

Who's b-there.com? Taking a cue from the industry-wide concern over housing and registration, Lee spun b-there.com off from her other company, Lee Travel Group, which has a large meeting planning department. Lee developed an Internet tool that was able to integrate event registration, housing reservations, and travel that is attendee-centric and can be managed by the planner and, she says, competes directly with Passkey (www.passkey.com), a Quincy, Mass.-based Internet housing and travel provider.

"We know that 70 percent of attendees do something leisure-related such as restaurants, entertainment, and recreational events," she says, "and it's a real pain for the association planner to put these things together. We can do all that and the planner can still use all the data. It just takes the attendee management part off their hands." It also creates a new potential revenue source: b-there.com sets up a revenue sharing model with the association for any retail purchase made by the attendee through b-there's engine. The company makes its money through a transaction-based model: $5 for each housing transaction and $3 for all others per attendee. The cost, says Lee, is paid by the meeting planner or the third-party agent.