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Unica: Grow Slow, Aim High

By Colin C. Haley     Feedback

The 10-year-old Lincoln, Mass., marketing software firm has grown conservatively. But with profits, virtually no turnover, and new offices, execs believe they will eventually have a $1 billion company.

A decade after its founding, Unica, a Lincoln, Mass., maker of marketing software, is opening its first overseas offices to serve existing customers and win new ones.

The facilities, located in London and Singapore, are jumping off points for Europe and Asia-Pacific, respectively. The openings also send a shot across the bow of larger competitors Epiphany and Siebel Systems .

"We approached our international expansion with a clear understanding of market requirements and a team of professionals with local experience in several disciplines," said Yuchun Lee, Unica's CEO.

To be sure, the new facilities, like Unica's overall strategy, have been carefully considered, and come after the firm forged partnerships with established companies in the areas.

Lee and two colleagues boot-strapped the company in 1992, which first produced data mining software. Three years later, Unica took elements of its original product and added tools that help analyze and manage customer interactions, be it through direct mail, call centers, or personalized Web site features.

It also raised two rounds of venture capital totaling $12 million, grown to 110 employees. And here's something few software firms can say -- Unica is profitable and has never had a layoff. In addition, voluntary turnover is less than 4 percent.

But this measured approach shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of ambition.

"At some point we do hope to do a public offering," said Carol Meyers, Unica's vice president of marketing. "Primarily to increase our visibility. Our goal is to be a billion software company."

Despite the size difference between Unica and its rivals, Meyers believes Unica's product is more open and easily integrated into its customers' IT systems. She also cites research that the overall market is growing.

"Technology to support the marketing process is becoming a higher priority for many companies," said Garenth Herschel, of Gartner. "Companies throughout Europe, Asia, and North America are demanding greater ROI from smaller marketing budgets, while customers expect more personalized service and data protection laws require carefully planned and targeted campaigns."

And though it has taken 10 years for Unica to open international offices, it will likely move more quickly into its next market, which could be Latin America, Meyers said.

This article was originally published on February 11, 2002
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