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Business & Real Estate

Broadbase CEO's no-frills approach keeps this software company hot

Chuck Bay won't win any awards for pretentiousness. This down-to-earth, down-to-business Los Altos resident feels just fine in a polo shirt and being addressed as "Chuck." He managed to be friendly and direct at the same time as he explained why his company, Broadbase Software of Menlo Park, occupies a unique niche in e-commerce that may well keep it very profitable for years to come.

Bay, 43, who became CEO of the company in January 2000, has guided Broadbase through incredible growth which has taken the employee base from about 80 two years ago to more than 600 now. He has also presided over four mergers and the company's initial public offering (IPO) in September 1999. Bay had come to Broadbase in 1998 with experience handling mergers and a successful IPO with Pure Atria Software Inc.

Broadbase offers analytic, service and marketing automation applications under one umbrella, allowing Internet users to access varied and detailed information. Businesses can better access consumer information for marketing campaigns and online merchandising. "No other company does all of this," Bay said.

Broadbase, with its slogan, "Get closer to your customers," counts among its more than 500 customers BEA Systems, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Nextel, Eddie Bauer, Kodak and Nike.

As an example of Broadbase's impact, he said, the Eddie Bauer Web site has an "Ask Eddie" function that allows visitors to get a variety of questions answered without having to talk to anybody. "'Eddie' is our software," he said. "We're saving (companies) millions in people manning phones."

It was Broadbase's multifaceted capabilities that led the state of California to come calling. Under Gov. Gray Davis' mandate to provide better "e-government," state officials sought to provide a useful, comprehensive Web portal, but not one that had users flooding state phonelines wondering how to use it.

Under Bay's direction, several companies combined forces last year to work on the governor's portal, including Interwoven, Broadbase, Broadvision, Arcot and Verity. The result is a site, my.ca.gov, announced during Davis' "State of the State" speech in January. The site allows "access to information quickly and easily from virtually every state department," according to Broadbase literature.

Broadbase's software also allows the state to analyze visitor data while respecting privacy, to update and improve content according to residents' interests.

"Think of not having to stay in line at the DMV," Bay said. "Think of (handling) the process of a small business loan." Numerous tasks in dealing with the state, normally requiring travel and paperwork, can now be handled online through the site, saving both the state and its residents a bundle of money and a lot of hassle.

"Broadbase was a critical piece of our portal implementation," said Arun Baheti, director of e-government "They helped us bring the entire concept of customer management to the government sector -- a first."

Baheti cited Bay in particular for making the Web site happen. "He personally took it on - it was him driving it. Without Chuck, we would not have the high quality and high level of support."

Broadbase's success has not gone to its collective head. Headquarters, while spacious, are Spartan and functional. "We're very frugal here," Bay said. "We haven't got ahead of ourselves."

Even in good times, the company kept its spending in check. As a result, it's in good shape with more than $100 million in the bank.

Bay knows the company is hot and will eventually get hotter. "A lot of companies are trying to buy us," he said. "We believe we're significantly undervalued."

Broadbase is located at 181 Constitution Drive, Menlo Park. For more information, call 614-8300 or logon to: www.broadbase.com.

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