ProQuent Ain't Spent
To date the Marlborough, Mass.-based vendor has unveiled a sole customer win at Portugal Telecom Inovação SA (PT Inovação), announced in December last year (see ProQuent Wins Portugese Deal). This dearth of public announcements, combined with the recent departure of CEO Lou Piazza and CMO Laura Howard, has sparked the latest round of speculation questioning the company’s health. (See ProQuent's Caped Crusader, Ciena Beefs Up Marketing, ProQuent: Alive and Growing, and ProQuent Strikes Back.)
CTO Tom Hamilton denies any notion of trouble, talking up success with its latest ACCESS (Authorized Content Control & Electronic Subject Screening) product. Launched last February, the kit enables carriers to filter content according to the target audience (see ProQuent Polices Content).
“We have sold it to one of the U.K. operators,” Hamilton tells Unstrung. “We can’t name that operator because the launch hasn’t taken place... We are also involved in about another three procurements and hope to close our second account soon.”
ProQuent’s offering ties in with a joint code of practice signed by the U.K.’s six wireless operators -- Hutchison 3G UK Ltd., mmO2 plc, Orange SA (London/Paris: OGE), T-Mobile (UK), Virgin Mobile (UK) Ltd., and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) -- designed to safeguard children from adult content on mobile phones (see UK Carriers Tackle Content).
“We are not the Vodafone UK implementation,” notes Hamilton, refering to rumors that Vodafone has run into problems with its content filtering supplier.
ProQuent’s move into content filtering is a shift from its earlier focus. The vendor initially developed an “IP Mobile Services Switching Point” product, which sits off to the side of the GPRS Gateway Support Node (GGSN) or the Packer Data Serving Node (PDSN) in wireless networks and aims to enable operators to create, rate, and bill for fancy new data services without needing to upgrade their existing transport infrastructures (see ProQuent's Name Game).
“We built a service platform all along, but what we are doing now is introducing new services and application,” comments Hamilton. “We started with billing because we thought it would be the easiest to sell. As it turns out, content filtering is much easier to sell because it is a complete solution, compared to the billing space where there is a lot of integration and mediation issues that make it a more complex sell. We look at ACCESS as an expansion of our product offering. We will continue to do this. Every six to nine months we will introduce a new service.”
The company has also changed its sales gameplan in an effort to drive revenues. “We are moving forward from a direct strategy to a channel strategy. The content filtering deal we will be announcing soon is with one of the channel partners… With this channel strategy we believe ProQuent will reach profitability in the early second half of next year. Our channel strategy will reduce expenses.”
The startup has so far raised $48 million in VC funding (see ProQuent Grabs $14M).
As for the recent staff exits, Hamilton stresses that both positions were not permanent contracts. “Lou and Laura were bought in with a particular purpose last year of getting us through the launch of the ACCESS product and revamping the sales strategy. Their assignments ended and it worked out for everybody.”
Meanwhile board chairman and VC investor Rod Randall has taken temporary charge. “Probably after the holidays we will kick off a CEO search,” adds Hamilton. "As we approach the holidays and have a number of sales campaigns we are trying to conclude, we feel it wouldn't be the right time to make the change."
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung