StarCite New to Auctions The newest of the dot-com companies to enter the meetings arena did so with great fanfare recently at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. StarCite plans to distinguish itself in the meetings e-commerce arena with a site that becomes an integral part of a meeting manager's daily operations, especially corporate meeting planners, according to Chairman and CEO John Pino, who helped spin off StarCite from McGettigan Partners, the Philadelphia-based meeting management company.

StarCite (www.starcite.com) offers functions that the other major meeting planning Web sites do, including a large, searchable supplier database, online RFPs, news, hot dates, and the ability to put a meeting up for bid by hotels. What's different:

* a private, customized site for each company/organization--one that is tailored to its specific needs, travel policies, and vendors.

* access to a management application that allows every meeting planner in a specific organization to consolidate all meeting data. Organizations can view budgets, access negotiated rates for all hotel meetings, as well as publish an event calendar.

* capability for hotels or meeting managers to "re-sell" canceled space to other StarCite users.

* consultations with an expert (40 of whom are on the StarCite staff), including experts who could facilitate site selection.

The customized homepage and management application are free to planners. Clients do pay, however, to publish canceled meeting space or use consulting services.

On the Auction Front StarCite is the second site to host live, online auctions where planners can put meetings up for bid by hotels. EventSource.com jumped on the idea first. (See "Going, Going, Gone: Online Meeting Auction a First," December 1999 issue, page 9.) But StarCite's user-friendly graphical interface takes the process to a higher level.

During the live auction, participants see on their computers a graphically rich representation of the process, including the meeting details and current bids from each supplier. (The planner sees who each supplier is, but the hotels do not know which rates and offerings are being presented by which bidder.) Rather than simply a chat-room setting, the StarCite system uses proprietary software that allows simultaneous interaction on screen.

Planners pay a fee to StarCite equal to 10 percent of the difference between the "winning" hotel's opening bid and its final bid, times the number of room nights. For example, if Winning Resort's opening bid is $150 and the planner ultimately agrees on a $130 rate for 200 rooms for three nights, StarCite's fee is 10 percent of $20, or $2, times 600 room nights, for a total of $1,200.

StarCite also is paid $3.90 per room night by the winning hotel. ("Losing" hotels, on the other hand, pay nothing for their participation in the auction.)