The Active Network Inc., maker of the Web-based attendee registration product RegOnline, has acquired StarCite for $57.7 million in cash and stock. The acquisition is a cornerstone of San Diego–based Active Network’s new Business Solutions division, which aims to integrate a company’s entire portfolio of meetings and events, from the smallest internal employee meetings to the largest customer-facing events. Philadelphia-based StarCite provides Web-based tools for corporate meeting management, particularly for companies with strategic meetings management programs.

“StarCite is the perfect complement to the enterprise corporations and small and medium-sized businesses we work with today with both our Conference and RegOnline solutions,” says JR Sherman, senior vice president and senior general manager of Active Network Business Solutions. “StarCite’s expertise in the SMM space, coupled with its expansive supplier database, will help us round out our SaaS [Software as a Service] event management technology platform.”

Sherman cites Cisco as an example of a company that both StarCite and Active Network already work with, but in different areas. “Now we can provide them with a unified solution,” he says. “The combination of the two offerings will bring organizations like Cisco the ability to track all types of events throughout the internal and customer event portfolio.”

Bridging a Chasm
In other words, Active Network Business Solutions will allow companies to bridge the “chasm that exists between strategic meetings management programs and marketing/sales,” as Kevin Iwamoto, StarCite’s senior vice president, enterprise strategy, put it in his January 5 blog announcing the big news.

In a followup interview, Iwamoto expanded on this point, explaining that companies have traditionally hired multiple suppliers to serve the marketing side and the logistics and corporate SMM side, including multiple technology partners, which has required “manual manipulation of meeting and event spend to get to the total picture of corporate spending in both meetings and large-scale events.”

Active Network Business Solutions will work with clients to manage all types of events, giving them “complete visibility into total spend for meeting and event costs, a single technology solution, no manual processes to harmonize or aggregate spend and cost, and a fully scalable solution,” Iwamoto says.

Existing StarCite clients, he says, will find “a bigger menu of technology options to suit their SMMP needs. It will be totally their choice on how they want to scope and manage their SMMPs as well as what types of functionality they need for their immediate, short-term, and long-term program strategies.” Included on that “bigger menu” are functions such as e-mail microsite registration and reporting, speaker and exhibitor management, and online communities and mobile solutions.

StarCite Name Endures
What StarCite brought to table was its SMM expertise and the nearly 90,000 suppliers in its database, which Active Network will use beyond the meeting planning arena. “StarCite’s command of the strategic meetings management space—an area that, candidly, we weren’t tapped into prior to this acquisition—is what attracted us,” Sherman says. “We knew that their solutions would greatly enhance our current product offerings to existing customers.”

Sherman says that the StarCite name will carry on. The Active Network Business Solutions technology suite will include ActiveWorks Conference for large, flagship conferences; RegOnline for attendee registration and management; StarCite SMM for strategic meetings management and event expense management; and the StarCite Supplier Marketplace for sourcing.

The marketplace will be used for more than just meetings. In a phone call with investors January 6, Active Network executives said the database could be used as a hotel sourcing tool for individuals participating in, say, an Iron Man Triathlon or other sporting event.

Active Network was founded in 1998 to provide registration services and drive participation in recreational sporting events, and has since expanded to cover business events, community activities, and outdoor events.

In fact, its experience creating communities is a key part of the new offering. “Active Network Business Solutions is helping the events industry make the crucial shift from solely focusing on meetings logistics and spend management to fostering true community engagement,” Sherman says. “We help the organizations that we work with build lifetime value with their customers and employees. From online communities to mobile applications, we’re making it easier for organizers and attendees to gather strategic insights and learn how best to engage and measure the impact of their experiences. The measurement and analytics give our clients more tangible business results and allow them to deliver more personalized experiences and value for their participants.”

PCMA Partnership
In December, Active Network announced a strategic alliance with the Professional Convention Management Association, as both an event sponsor and PCMA’s official technology provider for its worldwide events. The official press conference about the new Business Solutions offering and the StarCite acquisition will take place January 9 at PCMA’s Convening Leaders conference in San Diego. Active Network is providing online and on-site registration for Convening Leaders, in addition to a customized social networking platform and a mobile event app available for download.