A BRIGHT SPOT ON THE TECH HORIZON

Online attendee management company b-there.com of Westport, Conn., could turn a profit as early as April 2002, according to its chairman and founder Peggy Lee. B-there announced that it closed $6.5 million of a $10 million round of funding in late March.

With a total investment of $35 million in b-there to date, the additional funds include money from the original investors: TL Ventures, Seaport Capital, and BancBoston Ventures.

B-there has processed more than 2,000 meetings and has realized 400 percent growth in the past 12 months, says Lee. “That demonstrates that an integrated online process for event registration, housing, transportation, and e-CRM solutions brings real added value to our clients,” she says.

While b-there's online registration engine was initially targeted to trade show managers and association meeting planners, it has made strides in the corporate meetings arena and now counts Nortel Networks, Penton Media, PGI, Colgate-Palmolive, and Bank of America among its clients.

Some in the industry thought the recent departure of high-profile Jerry Wayne, who had left Opryland to join b-there as executive vice president of sales, meant the dot-com was on shaky ground. But this recent round of funding appears to say otherwise.

“The business model is sound; the product is first-class, and the organization is poised to move confidently to the next level,” says Bill Luby, Seaport Capital Partner.

Adds Lee: “Our commitment to industry associations is the same. There are no changes planned.” B-there made a sizable donation to the International Association of Exhibition Management last June — $500,000 in cash and stock options — to fund educational intiatives, including Web-based tutorials.

B-there is also scheduled to take part in beta testing of Pegasus Solutions Inc.'s new XML (extensible markup language) interface for processing group hotel reservations. The system will allow meeting attendees to make hotel reservations online, in real time, giving them instant availability, reservations, and confirmations for hotel room blocks and shoulder dates.