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  1. Technology
January 29, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

After years of limited success peddling cross-platform interface design and expert systems-based application development tools, Mountain View, California-based Neuron Data Inc finally thinks its got a winner on its hands following its recent conversion to Java. So much so that the same investors that pumped $6m into the company in 1996 – including TL Ventures and Morgan Stanley – have put their hand in their pockets again, this time to the tune of $9m, albeit for spending by a different management. Neuron Data has effectively made over its rules-based Elements application development tool in Java via its January 1997 acquisition of the 160-person Microline Software Inc, claims the software is selling like hot-cakes, and hopes to provide an exit strategy for shareholders in a public offering in 12 to 18 month’s time. The company is now offering version 2.0 of Elements Advisor which enables developers to add, update and modify business rules and procedures to almost any application, without low-level programming. It admits rules designers currently need to be technical but it aims to enable non-tecchie company analysts to write and deploy their own rules within a year or so. Importing rules from word processing and other desktop applications documents into the Java-based rules engine is where the company’s heading, work it expects to do in conjunction with partners or customers. It’s pondering a bunch of questions about the syntax or linguistics of user-based rule construction. Right now the software is geared towards making self-service applications available on the internet or intranets. A customer services application can be finely-tuned or a static web site order form made highly-interactive by applying rules which might tell the user that another option to the one they are trying might be this alternative problem fix or that product configuration may be more appropriate for that application. The software enables companies to change rules on the fly, it can utilize JavaBeans and Corba objects, and DCOM or Corba connectivity to administration logic, database server and engines. It costs $15,000 per server deployment and $10,000 per developer.

Stand up

Neuron Data is also working on a set of pre-defined templates for creating internet-based interactive sales applications. The company says its software is complimentary to second-generation application environments such as Forte or Dynasty, as well as to ERP solutions such as PeopleSoft, SAP and Baan which currently require large spending on business rules engine development. It says it is talking to vendors in all these spaces about partnership arrangements and within a couple of months expects to have a slew of middleware vendors stand up and agree to support Elements Advisor. Neuron Data, which told us back in 1996 – without Microline – that its revenue was $25m – claims to have been profitable in the last two quarters, to have grown by 30% and 20% respectively in both, and expects to record revenue of between $25m and $30m when it’s year ends in April. It aims to grow by 30% in the following year. It says the revenue mix has changed from 70% from its interactive development environment and 30% on its rules software to the exact opposite in around 12 months. It forecasts revenue from partnership deals will exceed revenue from corporate sales within two years. A 1997 restructuring saw it lay off 10% of its staff and it’s recently restructured its European operations, closing down individual country management operations and retrenching to London, Paris and Frankfurt outlets. It claims 3,600 users of its software in all of its forms. It says it meets chief competitor Ilog SA in only around 10% of bids. á

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