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Knowledge Impact's CRM Bet Pays

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Posted March 26, 2001 By Gavin McCormick     Feedback

The 20-year-old Wayland, Mass., company that provides IT training for businesses gambled on a Web transformation in 1999. Now that gamble has landed it $24 million in v.c.

Near the end of the oxygen-deprived dot-com mania days of late 1999, a Wayland, Mass., company called Professional Development Group, which for nearly 20 years had been teaching corporate employees how to use computers and software, changed its name to highlight a big bet on the future of the World Wide Web.

At the same time it became Knowledge Impact, the privately held company also hired James Waldron as its CEO. Waldron had just led Applix Inc.'s expansion into the customer relationship management (CRM) market -- a hot new sector that used the Web to track customers' data and sell to them more effectively.

Waldron set out to move Knowledge Impact into Web training, especially in the CRM space. The revamped company would focus on providing training, software tools and consulting to help corporations train employees to use the Internet for marketing and sales, as well as other business processes.

Since November 1999, of course, the world has turned about 150 degrees, and failed Web transformation stories have become nearly as common as dot-com crashes.

Not so for Knowledge Impact.

The company's Web bet of 18 months ago paid off handsomely today, when it announced completion of a $24 million mezzanine round of venture funding. Led by Tudor Ventures Group, the Boston v.c. arm of Tudor Investment Corp., the round included backing from previous investors Boston Millennia Partners, Arcadia Management Partners and Ironside Ventures.

Under Waldron's leadership, Knowledge Impact has worked hard to partner with large software companies that sell to businesses, including Siebel, PeopleSoft, Nortel Networks and SAP. When those companies sell corporate customers their software, what Knowledge Impact likes to call "e-learning" -- that is, online employee training and job assistance -- is integrated into the package.

So while the information economy has slogged into recession, Waldron isn't coming off his bet that smart corporations will continue to try to save money by moving more of their divisions, from marketing and sales to purchasing and planning, online. The CEO said he expects revenue to double this year.

Rick Williams, a Tudor Ventures Group partner who will join the company's board, said Knowledge Impact is "setting the standard for e-learning in the CRM market," boosted by good customers, good partner relationships and good managers -- as well as a market that's still expanding.

Another board member, Dana Callow of Boston Millennia Partners, cited Tudor's track record in backing large companies as a new reason to be excited about Knowledge Impact's growth plans.

Waldron said the company would use the cash to add licensing deals with software partners, as well as by developing its Web-based training systems such as "KnowledgeMate."

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