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Startup jumps into crowded analytics space

London - The predictive analytics market just got a little more crowded with the entrance of software startup Sightward, which officially opened for business Wednesday. The 30-person Washington-based outfit, which has spent the past year and a half developing a statistical pattern recognition engine for analyzing customer data, will unveil its first product, for the retail market, in July. Applications focused on financial services and others targeted at telcos and credit collection companies will follow toward the end of the year.

Initially aimed at retailers with the usual multiple channels to market - email, catalogs, call centers, Web storefronts - the software is designed to increase the effectiveness of direct marketing campaigns by analyzing consumer behavior. The NT-based software does this through a patented classification engine that analyzes a typical sample of 200 data points in any data repository, which is stored as a Java applet and updated every time there are changes to the database. Its ability to use a greater number of data models - currently 20 - also gives the product a leg up on rivals Quadstone and SAS, Sightward claims.

Unlike these competitors, however, Sightward is still a nascent company that requires significantly more funding if it is to realize its ambition to be a serious CRM analytic heavyweight. Having raised $7m in funding so far, the company is currently in the process of raising another $10m, which it is confident will happen by early summer.

With 15 customers currently signed up to roll out the software when it goes lives, Sightward's main challenge is attracting OEM partners that facilitate the required integration with an operational software platform - whether it be a marketing platform such as BroadVision, or a call center and sales force automation suite such as Siebel.

"Our competency is in predictive technology, and so we can sell a product at a relatively cheap price [the application costs $125,000 per server]. We didn't want to get into the long and expensive implementation associated with a broader platform infrastructure," Sightward CEO Kevin Klustner told the451.

Currently, all beta customers use SAS's data warehousing platform for the underlying data repository, so there's a good chance that the world's largest private software company will be one of Sightward's first OEM partners. SAS already has predictive analytic capabilities, but they require a statistician to make full use of the functionality. Sightward's offering, naturally, is targeted at the business user.

The company is also in the process of cementing reseller relationships with commerce infrastructure providers, CRM vendors and direct response marketing firms - names are to be released in the coming months.

Sightward is on track to hit $750,000 in revenue this year, and reckons it can hit several million in 2002.

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