When Susan Owens, manager, Travel and Meeting Services, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., Ridgefield, Conn., sent her electronic request for proposal to the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers recently, you can imagine a bit of confetti popping out of the computers at Star-Cite. The Philadelphia-based company has a platform of online products and services (including e-RFPs) that help to manage the meeting planning process and control meeting spend. Owen's RFP was the millionth to go through the StarCite system.

It was not only the number that gave the dot-com something to celebrate, but it was also the pace at which it got there. In 2004, after six years in business, StarCite marked its 500,000th e-RFP. Just 18 months later, that figure has doubled. The company is reporting 150,000 RFPs through the system in the first quarter of 2006, or more than 16,000 unique meetings. (On average, clients send out nine e-RFPs per meeting, according to company president and CEO Michael Boult.)

StarCite is not alone in documenting the acceleration of the meeting industry's business-to-business online marketplace. Ed Tromczynski, president of the supplier division at Santa Clara, Calif. — based OnVantage, another player with online tools for strategic meeting management, reports more than 50 percent growth in the number of unique meetings sourced with an OnVantage e-RFP in 2005 compared to 2004. OnVantage clients sent out e-RFPs for 50,000 unique meetings in 2005, versus about 32,000 in 2004.