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
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
the workers at Onclave hope to market a new kind of enterprise
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
intensive environments as public relations firms, professional
firms, management consultants, and knowledge workers. "With
you set up so that you get information from the Internet, updated
continuously. It pulls information from both the web and your
Alan Weintraub, research director of the Gartner Group, likens the
role of the enterprise information portal to "the Swiss army
useful for application access, content, and knowledge management.
"Corporate portals give users a window into the information,
and processes that must be globally available for a virtual
to operate effectively, and provide an enabling technology for
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
"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
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
will drastically decrease the cost of getting new business. The
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
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
portal is limited by permission levels, ranging from "read
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
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
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
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,"
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
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
groupware but in a familiar portal environment. Plumtree and
says Peloso, "did get into the business side earlier than we,
but they were ahead of the market, and find themselves
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
Onclave gives employees personal portals that can be as deep and wide
as they like. "Personal empowerment is key in this market,"
Both Groove and Intraspect, he says, "require you to install
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
"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
says Peloso. Peloso majored in finance at the University of Colorado,
Class of ’88 and has an MBA from Cornell. He helped start NBC
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
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
Instead of the usual "don’t mix your job with your leisure
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
in this manner is critical to developing a knowledge base."
— Barbara Fox
Princeton 08540. Drew Peloso, CEO. 609-258-5749; fax, 609-252-0966.
Home page: www.onclave.com.
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