Corrections or additions?

These articles by Barbara Fox were prepared for the

April 25, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

On-the-Fly Knowledge Sharing

Incubator space can’t get much more downscale than

this, unless you would move to a garage. In actual fact, the home

of a young company named Onclave is what Ed Zschau considers his

"garage

space," which he aims to provide for free to hot young companies

in his investment portfolio. With 18-foot ceilings and a gigantic

skylight, these 3,500 square feet used to be the cafeteria in the

power plant at the Forrestal Center. From these very humble

beginnings,

the workers at Onclave hope to market a new kind of enterprise

software

to Fortune 2000 companies.

Four months after Onclave started in March, 1999, Zschau was referred

to Onclave by both a mutual friend and an additional contact from

Harvard Business School. "I liked them and I liked the idea that

they had. They were breaking new ground," says Zschau. He invited

them to set up shop in his "garage."

Then it was a classic dotcom. "We were going to be a consumer

service, with an extraordinarily scalable architecture and the tools

for a broad range of people to use the service," says Drew Peloso,

CEO of Onclave. "When we recognized that revenue would be harder

to come by, we scaled back and focused on a different application,

an early but burgeoning software market called enterprise information

portals, delivering the right information to the right employees at

the right time."

Onclave’s knowledge management software would be useful in such

information

intensive environments as public relations firms, professional

services

firms, management consultants, and knowledge workers. "With

Onclave,

you set up so that you get information from the Internet, updated

continuously. It pulls information from both the web and your

organization,"

says Peloso.

Alan Weintraub, research director of the Gartner Group, likens the

role of the enterprise information portal to "the Swiss army

knife,"

useful for application access, content, and knowledge management.

"Corporate portals give users a window into the information,

applications,

and processes that must be globally available for a virtual

organization

to operate effectively, and provide an enabling technology for

knowledge

management," says Weintraub.

Onclave has chosen PR firms as its first target. "Public relations

firms have to get really smart about a new industry really fast and

in a team environment," says Peloso. They typically work within

an industry, accumulate lots of detailed information in that industry,

and then draw on that information for press releases, brochures, and

newsletters. "That information becomes part of the knowledge base,

so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel."

"Public relations firms go through a discrete set of tasks to

put their pitch together. We support not only the flow of information

that comes in but also the work flow that they perform," says

Peloso. The flow: get information, organize it, edit it or comment

on it, and share it. Each individual topic can have its own publishing

template.

"Not only can you build a knowledge base within your company,

but you can create an extranet to your client. You can put out white

papers and PowerPoint presentations and begin to share knowledge

information."

If several people are doing research on the same subject, each one

can create new portions on the fly and save it into the same database.

This new type of client relationship management software, Peloso

claims,

will drastically decrease the cost of getting new business. The

product

is in beta testing with large PR firms and the launch is scheduled

for mid summer. The cost? "Affordable," says Peloso. "It

is not only something that PR firms desperately need but it is a way

to market Onclave at a very low price, because their clients can

purchase

the service."

Onclave’s name evokes the term "enclave," defined as "a

distinct territorial, cultural or social unit, enclosed within foreign

territory." Users get personal portals: dynamic gateways to a

centralized collection of their information — E-mails, documents,

published writings, FAQs, project status for instance. The software

enables each user to organize the portal to suit the information they

need to capture.

Then there is the corporate portal. Each user’s access to the

corporate

portal is limited by permission levels, ranging from "read

only"

to "can read, write, and edit the material."

The pesky attribution/footnoting problem has been solved, because

each download has a link to wherever it was originally published on

the web.

To maintain quality, an editor is responsible for maintaining the

quality of the information on each section of the database.

Another key feature is that everyone can be notified when a new entry

is made or a document is revised. "You might have six people

looking

for the same article. As soon as one person finds it, the other people

who need to know that information, get it," Peloso says. "It’s

about getting the right information to the right people at the right

time."

Trying to save E-mail into a company’s database is often cumbersome,

but Onclave’s software integrates with E-mail. In fact, each of the

publishing templates has its own E-mail address. "If you subscribe

to an E-mail newsletter, it can sit in your knowledge base,"

Peloso

says. "Not only can you search for it, but you can pull it up,

annotate it, and share it."

Lotus Notes, Peloso says, is also not as useful as the Onclave system.

"People have a great deal of frustration with Lotus Notes,"

he says. "We have designed Onclave to be extremely simple and

easy to use. Pop up a button and drop down a window to put it

somewhere

in the database."

Peloso says his product is better than Excel, because different access

rules can apply to each of the documents. The rules can be based on

regions, authors, or organizations. "The users can customize it

to their heart’s content," says Peloso.

More immediate competitors are managers of heavy duty databases (such

as Plumtree and DataChannel) and collaborative groupware companies

(such as groove and Intraspect). Onclave is a hybrid: It has

collaborative

groupware but in a familiar portal environment. Plumtree and

Datachannel,

says Peloso, "did get into the business side earlier than we,

but they were ahead of the market, and find themselves

struggling."

What differentiates Onclave from Groove, he says, is that Onclave

can be molded to support a company’s workflow. "If your company

uses a particular type of form to process invoices, you can build

that form into Onclave and automate the process." Unlike

Intraspect,

Onclave gives employees personal portals that can be as deep and wide

as they like. "Personal empowerment is key in this market,"

says Peloso.

Both Groove and Intraspect, he says, "require you to install

fairly

heavy applications and have an IT staff to maintain them, and can’t

be upgraded until a new release is available. Onclave does not require

your IT department to do any work, and upgrades and new features are

passed on to our customers all the time."

Where Onclave hopes to make its money is in hosting the databases.

Onclave’s hardware is, in turn, hosted by Level III Communications

in Weehawkin.

"We work long hours with few resources, we want to be down and

dirty, not `churn and burn,’ and that’s why Ed has been so

supportive,"

says Peloso. Peloso majored in finance at the University of Colorado,

Class of ’88 and has an MBA from Cornell. He helped start NBC

Interactive,

as the second employee at that website, and went to MarketSource.

Martin Levine, the founder of MarketSource, is an investor in Onclave.

Also in the six-person company: Per Kreipke, a 35-year-old alumnus

of Princeton and Rutgers and former lead engineer at TravRoute (the

mapping and GPS-linked navigation software company on Herrontown

Road);

David Reid, 30, plucked from MarketSource to be creative director

at Terra Lycos; Steve Hatch, a 32-year-old alumnus of Rutgers and

NJIT, the former CIO at MarketSource; and Stephanie Peloso, Drew’s

wife, an alumna of Vanderbilt and Cornell who used to work at OMR

Systems. Princeton alumnus Ben Liu, a world-ranked tennis player,

graduated in 2000 and now telecommutes from his home in Washington

State or from tennis meets.

Their challenge is to combine speed to market with the ability to

scale up. "You need both speed and scale to thrive in the long

run. Small companies have speed, big companies have scale, and the

ones who will successfully compete will find a way to combine

them,"

says Zschau.

Instead of the usual "don’t mix your job with your leisure

interests"

cliches, Onclave can actually encourage that blurring those lines.

An Onclave-using company might hope that, if workers are using the

databases to archive their favorite music or share vacation ideas

with their colleagues, they will be more eager to use the system for

work-related data. Thus Onclave solves the "If we build it, will

they come?" dilemma of knowledge management systems.

But it also runs the risk of transforming the virtual work environment

into one giant watercooler. Peloso is not worried, because getting

workers to use the system some way, any way, is the best place to

start: "If they don’t use it to store information, you obviously

can’t build a knowledge base from that information. Supporting

employees

in this manner is critical to developing a knowledge base."

— Barbara Fox

Onclave, 100 Forrestal Drive, James Forrestal

Campus,

Princeton 08540. Drew Peloso, CEO. 609-258-5749; fax, 609-252-0966.

Home page: www.onclave.com.


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