Continuing the series of Computer Business Review’s profiles of European high flyers we take a look at Wincap SA of France.
Wincap: it sounds like a Windows add-on utility for putting text in capitals. But the eponymous product from five-year old Wincap SA, formerly Alur SA, is, in fact, at the other end of the spectrum of software sophistication. ‘An information system of information systems’ is how Wincap’s co-founders Philippe Triem and Christophe Viet, both still in their mid-thirties, grandly characterize Wincap. And judging from the product’s early take-up, that billing is at least partially justified. Wincap is a suite of object-oriented software tools for managing, maintaining and migrating large systems. It provides an enterprise-wide view of a company’s applications – both old and new – and allows the management of critical applications as they evolve. It also provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of poorly documented legacy applications. Generale de Banque de Belgique, Belgium’s largest bank, used Wincap to document its production environment of 25,000 computer jobs, 1million lines of code, and 130,000 files. It was another bank, though, Barclays Bank, that was Wincap’s first customer, and which seeded success for Wincap at other finance houses including Credit du Nord and Credit Agricole. Other customers are France’s Casino supermarket chain and car maker Renault. In total Wincap claims 250 sites have bought its software, either through its direct sales force in France and North America, or through one of its 12 distributors in the UK, Germany, Spain, Benelux, Switzerland, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Canada and the US.
Wide channels to market
Not surprising given the functionality of the Wincap product line, many systems integrators are users/distributors, including Cap Sesa Telecom SA, Electronic Data Systems Corp, Sligos SA, Sopra SA, Integris and Telis. Those wide channels to market have helped Wincap to almost treble its revenues in 1996 to around $7m and to build its headcount to 60 people. With that level of growth and a 20% annual spend on research and development, it is not surprising that Wincap has identified 1997 as its first target year for profitability. But to fund the fast ramp up of recent years (it only entered its first venture capital deal in 1995), chief executive and chairman Triem and managing director Viet did not have to look far afield for the money. Venture capital comes from three sources: Innovacom, France Telecom’s venture arm; Finovelec, owned by EDF; and Partech, a San Francisco-based fund with links to Finovelec. That has meant the two founders have parted with 43% of their equity, leaving them owning 53% and other employees holding 4%. The next financial milestone for the company will be an initial public offering in 1998, the founders recently stated. As with many European software and computer services companies, two major events will spur Wincap’s growth: the European currency unification and also the Year 2000. Both require many companies to manage large changes to their inventories of applications, and in many cases to freshly document their legacy code – two huge tasks that play to Wincap’s strengths. That shows up in the mixed group of companies that Wincap lists as its competition. Systems management software vendor Platinum Technology Inc is there, as are Year 2000 and Cobol specialists Viasoft Inc as well as Micro Focus Group Plc. But so are a growing number of less well known companies.